This week’s learning has been dedicated in loving memory of Chayim ben Yosef a”h, Herbert Schnider, and in honor of his wife, ylctv”a (may she live and be well) Miriam bas Moshe, Muriel Schnider, by Stuart, Elizabeth and their girls.

In this week’s reading, the Torah warns us that after the people enter Israel, they may be prone to think only about their own accomplishments, and forget the source of all blessings: “and you become haughty, and forget HaShem your G-d who brought you out from Egypt, from the house of slavery… and you say in your heart, my own might and the strength of my hand have made me all of this wealth.” [Dev. 8:14, 17]

This is something that can affect all of us. Maimonides says that we should look for the middle ground, that even bad traits have their place (meaning, sometimes it is right to appear angry, for example), but that haughtiness is the exception. There is never a time to be “full of ourselves.”

This does not mean we should fail to appreciate our gifts. Moshe was the leader and teacher of the Jewish people, he spoke directly with G-d, and received the Torah and taught it to us. But the Torah also testifies that he was more humble than anyone — and the Torah doesn’t exaggerate!

Rav Shamshon Rephael Hirsch writes that arrogance is the first step towards forgetting G-d. Moshe never ignored his gifts, but he also recognized where they came from. What prevents us from becoming arrogant or haughty is the appreciation that everything we have is a gift.

There is a popular radio host who likes to identify himself as possessing “talent on loan from G-d.” Although he uses it as mock puffery, the truth is just the opposite — that if we recognize our talents as being “on loan from G-d,” there’s no room for becoming full of ourselves or lording it over someone else. We must appreciate and use all our talents — not to puff ourselves up, but to recognize that our “gifts” are exactly that.

3 Comments

  1. I am not Jewish. I don’t consider myself anything, really. I was raised with a religion, but I don’t believe in religion. I enjoy learning about religions, and I really enjoy learning about Judaism – from Orthodox and Chassidism to Reform. I am enjoying your website and all the articles, stories and questions – challenging, thought-provoking, different perspectives, etc. Stuff that makes me think and question my beliefs and assumptions. I’m learning from it, and not stereotypes or forcing me to believe any certain way – but about the human condition, where we come from, and G-d’s relationship with humanity, and how we relate to each other. Great stuff. Looking forward to learning more. I also appreciate the concept of Tikkun Olam, something I have always felt a part of. Beautiful stuff – thank you!

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  2. Every experience felt or thought is a gift. Happiness, sadness, and everything in between is a gift from the one who has given us our all.

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  3. Thank you for reminding us of Moshe the most humble man in his generation. The message is compelling and alarming that it requires us to check our motives towards our talents. I must agree that our approach towards everything that we do must always be grounded with humility and should always remind ourselves that it is not ours but it is to the One who created us who should be seen in all that our talents can do. I love your comments. Hope to hear more from your website.

    Shalom

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