humility

Chayei Sarah: Anonymous

Man has an innate desire to make a name for himself. The fear of being forgotten is a fear that grips us all. For many, this serves as a key stimulus to have children (and in many cultures, specifically male children) who will carry on the family legacy. This desire not to be forgotten motivates some to write books, some to build monuments and even some to enter public life, hoping to attain some measure of immortality.

Shavuot: Why Were We Chosen?

"It was taught in the name of Rabbi Meir: Why was the Torah given to the Jewish people?" (Beitzah 25a). The simple answer—made famous by a Midrash that is taught at a very young age in all Jewish schools—is that we wanted to. "The Lord came from Sinai and rose from Seir unto them, He shined forth from Mount Paran (Devarim 33:2)...Rav Yochanan says: This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, offered the Torah to every nation and every tongue, but none accepted it, until He came to Israel who received it" (Avodah Zara 2b).

Pesachim 66a: A Humble Lesson for Hillel

While Korbanot tzibbur, public offerings, were sacrificed on Shabbat and Yom Tov--and serve as the basis for our davening mussaf on these days--private sacrifices were not. 

Similar to a public offering, the korban pesach was brought at a fixed time. On the other hand, the obligation to bring such rests on the individual, leading to uncertainty as to whether it may be brought on Shabbat. 

Shabbat 3: Timely Questions

I had the privilege of learning in Rav Herschel Schachter’s shiur at Yeshiva University for four years, in the days before he was universally recognized as one of the outstanding Torah sages. His impact on my learning is immeasurable. One of the most striking things I learned in his shiur is how to say, “I don’t know”. We learned that there is no embarrassment in not knowing – even for great scholars. This humility is a most important, yet often lacking, trait in many a Torah (or any other) scholar.

The Unsinkable Ship: 100 Years After the Titanic Disaster

Despite the passage of 100 years, the sinking of the Titanic holds a special fascination. In fact, the only time I’ve gone out to the theatres to see a movie in the last fifteen years was to see the original release of James Cameron’s Titanic. The “centenary” of this terrible tragedy has generated numerous articles, books, and a very much-hyped 3D re-release of that movie.

Tetzaveh: Nameless, But Not Forgotten

What's in a name? Clearly, names played an important role to our Biblical ancestors. The names of Chava, Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov and his children, and Moshe--to name just a few--reflect the circumstances of their birth, or a vision for their role in the future. We all know that people love hearing their name called, as it makes them feel important. Hence, common courtesy is to address people by their names instead of referring to "them".  

Shemot: No Names

Sefer Shemot, literally, “book of names”, seems to be a misnomer for our Parsha.  (Rabbinic writings often refer to it as “book of redemption".) While the Torah lists the names of the 12 sons of Jacob who came to Egypt with their families, the Jewish people quickly became a nameless and faceless people; something that, in all likelihood, contributed to their eventual slavery. While numerous, there were apparently no outstanding leaders worthy of mention.

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