Naso 5777

May 28, 2017

7 min read


Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89 )

GOOD MORNING!  The story is told of a group of students working diligently on the trait of humility. A new student entered the study hall and saw the students repeatedly pounding their chests and proclaiming, "I'm a nothing; I'm a nothing." So ... he puts down his things, starts pounding his chest and repeats, "I'm a nothing; I'm a nothing." One of the older student turns to his friend and says, "Look who just got here and already he thinks he's a nothing!"

It's probably universal that we all hate arrogance and arrogant people. Yet, to some degree we all have arrogance within us.


The Torah tells us that, "... Moses was very humble, more than any person on the face of the earth." The classic question is: Moses wrote down the words of the Torah; how is it possible for him to be humble after the Almighty tells him that he is the most humble man in the world?

The answer lies in the definition of humility. Humility is not being a nebbish -- meek, unassertive, pitiful, downcast loser. Humility is knowing exactly what your talents and capabilities are -- and recognizing that they and everything else is a gift from the Almighty. Moses understood that he was the only prophet to ever speak "face to face" with the Almighty; he also understood that this level of prophesy was a gift from God. Humility is an inward attitude.

Humility is a requisite for learning Torah. Torah is compared to water -- life-giving wisdom which flows to "low places." If one is humble, there is room for Torah to enter; if one is too full of himself, there is little room for anything else!

Why does a person need humility? A person with true humility will learn from others, will ask questions when he has doubts, and will be open to criticism. When one has humility, he does not feel a need to gain power over others or to feel above them by focusing on their faults. He will not act upon slights and escalate quarrels; he will ask for forgiveness and not blame others. He can see the good in others and therefore, love them. (Love is the emotion of pleasure one feels when focusing on the good in others.)

Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm taught that "Arrogance is a reprehensible trait that is the father of all other negative traits." An arrogant person demands that everything should be exactly as he wishes. He lacks patience and this causes him much frustration and suffering. A person with humility finds it easy to accept things not being the way he would have wished them to be. He focuses on the positive in each situation and circumstance. He has more joy in living.

How can one work on developing humility? Focus on the following, especially if you're feeling arrogant:

  1. You are small in comparison with the entire universe and the power of the Almighty.
  2. You know little compared to what there is to know and have accomplished little compared to your potential.
  3. Life is short, the body is frail and even the strongest person eventually becomes weak and dies.
  4. Life is full of turnabouts -- the rich become poor, rulers become servants, the honored become disgraced.
  5. Everything is a gift from the Almighty. We make our efforts, but success is from Above.
  6. We are all created by the Almighty and have intrinsic worth. Who is to say who has greater worth?

The only way to have arrogance is to lack awareness of the total picture of reality. Moses had the highest level of awareness of reality and therefore was the most humble man. The humble man stands up for truth and righteousness, unaffected by the opinion of others. He understands the reality of what is important -- God, Torah, truth -- and not his ego.

If you wish to learn more, read chapters 22 and 23 in The Path of the Just by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto and the "Gate of Humility" in The Ways of the Tzaddikim (Righteous).


More Ways to Work on Humility

  1. Read eulogies. They're a good dose of humility. They help us understand the meaning of life. Try to write your own obituary. For what do you want to be remembered? This will help connect you to the Eternal.
  2. Realize you're a soul, not a body. Friendships and relationships will not last if they're only physical. Endeavors are not lasting if they're rooted solely in the material world. Human beings are never satisfied with materialism alone. Materialism should be a means, not an end. Fulfilling the soul's needs must be a real part of our striving. Tuning into the soul brings humility.
  3. Be too proud to be petty. Use humility to rise above arguments. Don't answer every insult.
  4. Use humility to open yourself up to wisdom. Without humility we can't hear wisdom because we are too stuck in our own subjective reality.
  5. One way to attain more objectivity is to give someone else advice. Dealing with another's issues will enable you to see your own situation more clearly.


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Torah Portion of the week

Naso, Numbers 4:21 - 7:89

This week's portion includes further job instructions to the Levites, Moshe is instructed to purify the camp in preparation for the dedication of the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary.

Then four laws relating to the Cohanim (priests) are given: 1) Restitution for stolen property where the owner is deceased and has no next of kin -- goes to the Cohanim. 2) If a man suspects his wife of being unfaithful, he brings her to the Cohanim for the Sotah clarification ceremony. 3) If a person chooses to withdraw from the material world and consecrate himself exclusively to the service of the Almighty by becoming a Nazir (vowing not to drink wine or eat grape products, come in contact with dead bodies or cut his hair), he must come to the Cohen at the completion of the vow. 4) The Cohanim were instructed to bless the people with this blessing: "May the Lord bless you and guard over you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His Countenance upon you and give you peace."

The Mishkan is erected and dedicated on the first of Nissan in the second year after the Exodus. The leaders of each tribe jointly give wagons and oxen to transport the Mishkan. During each of the twelve days of dedication, successively each tribal prince gives gifts of gold and silver vessels, sacrificial animals and meal offerings. Every prince gives exactly the same gifts as every other prince.

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

During the twelve days of the dedication of the Tabernacle the heads of the twelve tribes each brought an offering. Although the offerings of the leaders were the same, the Torah repeats each gift with all of its details. The Torah never uses an extra word or letter unless it is coming to teach us a lesson about life. What lesson can we learn here?

The Ralbag, a 14th century French Biblical commentator, informs us that the lesson for us to learn is that we should not try to outdo another person in order to boast or feel superior to him. We should keep our focus on the accomplishment, not on our egos.

The goal in spiritual matters is to serve the Almighty, to grow as a person and not to seek honor or to compete with anyone else. Competition has its motivating factor, but one-upmanship has no place in fulfilling Torah principles. One should fulfill mitzvos with pure intentions.


Candle Lighting Times

June 2
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Jerusalem 7:05
Guatemala 6:11 - Hong Kong 6:46 - Honolulu 6:52
J'Burg 5:06 - London 8:51 - Los Angeles 7:43
Melbourne 4:51 - Mexico City 7:54 - Miami 7:51
New York 8:04 - Singapore 6:50 - Toronto 8:35

Quote of the Week

The thin line between
confidence and arrogance ...
is humility



With Special Thanks to
Jeremy & Lisette
With Deep Appreciation to
Stephen & Elly

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