Daf Yomi Yevamos 121
Many years ago, I asked a senior rabbi who had served his shul for many decades what the secret of success in the rabbinate was. You see rabbis come and go and very few make it for the long haul.
He responded, “Honestly, I’m no smarter than any of my colleagues. I’m not a better speaker per se. My edge is merely that I’ve never been afraid to be the first to apologize. My secret to success is that I’ve said sorry more times than most of my friends in the rabbinate.”
Chief Rabbi Gamliel taught: I was once travelling by ship when I saw another boat that had capsized and I immediately feared for the life of the Torah scholar on board. Who was that? Rabbi Akiva. But when I arrived to shore, he appeared in court to judge a halachic matter.
“My son, how did you get out?” I asked.
He replied, “I got hold of a plank from the boat and with each passing wave, I simply bowed my head.”
From here the Sages derived: When bad people come against a person, he should simply bow his head.
When bad people start up with you in life, your immediate reaction is to confront them and put up a good fight. But most of the time you will accomplish nothing. They will persist in their belligerence until they bring you down by dragging you into the mud with them. The best way to deal with troublemakers is to bow your head – apologize for whatever they feel you have done to them and move on to the important people in your life.
The Maharsha explains the allegory of the waves that Rabbi Akiva continually bowed his head to. The Jewish people is compared to the sand of the seashore. Our enemies are like waves that come against us but no sooner do they strike us than they come crashing down and disappear. And the sand remains intact.
Your enemies may seem like a tidal wave when they come against you. But any surfer knows that if you raise your head and confront each wave you encounter, you will be slapped in the face. If instead you dip your head through the little waves, you will be able to pass through them until you can find the most awesome wave that you can ride atop of!
Don’t let your enemies get the better of you. They may enjoy expending all their energy on cutting people down. But that only means that you are important enough in their eyes to spend their time and effort on. May you merit always being the first to bow your head and apologize and being able to focus on only positivity in your life!