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Sunday, 1 November 2015

Does the world revolve around you?

Daf Yomi Sotah 5

The Children of Israel were nearing the Promised Land.  Balak, King of Moav, was determined to stop them in their tracks.  He enlisted the services of Bilam, the wicked sorcerer, to cast a spell upon them.   Much to the king’s chagrin, Bilam initially refused his invitations, purporting to be unable to come because G-d would not allow him to.  But eventually he appears before Balak, demonstrating that his original hesitation was not Divinely-motivated but due to his own machinations.

Why didn’t Bilam go to Balak as soon as he invited him?  In his mind, he couldn’t accept the fact that he should have to go to Balak.  ‘If Balak wants to see me, let him come here!’  He was so full of himself that to go to Balak might have appeared that he was lowering himself, which he couldn’t bring himself to do.  We find the same story with Dasan and Aviram who challenged Moshe’s leadership.  When Moshe asked them to appear before him, they refused, reasoning, ‘Who is he to tell us where to be?  If he wants to talk to us, let him come to our tent!’

What is the scriptural source for the prohibition against haughtiness? Rava quoted Zeiri, “Hear and listen, do not be proud.”  Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak taught: One verse states, “And your heart will be raised up and you will forget Hashem your G-d,” and another verse states, “Guard yourself lest you forget Hashem your G-d.”
Rav Yosef taught: A person should always learn from his Creator, for the Almighty ignored all the high and mighty mountains and chose Mt. Sinai and ignored all the beautiful trees and appeared from a bush.
Rabbi Alexandri taught: Any person who has a haughty spirit will be disturbed by even the mildest wind, as it says, “For the wicked will be driven out like the sea.”  If the sea, which contains so many quarter measures of water (a quarter measure is approximately 86mL), is moved by a mild wind, how much more so man who only contains one quarter measure [of blood]!

In Pirkei Avot, we learn that humility is one of the hallmarks of Avraham while haughtiness is representative of the disciples of Bilam.  What was Bilam’s problem?  He imagined that the world revolved around him.  Why should he go to Balak?  Let Balak come to him!

If you are haughty, says the Torah, you have forgotten G-d.  If the Almighty is everywhere, how can there be any room for you?  If you are full of yourself, you are expelling G-d from His Omnipresence.  G-d doesn’t like tall mountains, he prefers to keep company with simple, humble Sinais.

Haughty people will be disturbed by a mild wind.  If you believe the world revolves around you then everything must go your way.  If something doesn’t go according to the way you imagined, your nose gets bent out of shape.  In contrast, if you believe that G-d is in control of everything and it all operates according to His will and His plan, nothing in life will ever bother you.  It will be like water off a duck’s back as you let things go without ever getting upset.

Let’s say you’re travelling and your bags get lost.  Getting upset and all stressed out is a sign that you don’t believe G-d is in control and He knows what He’s doing.  Or maybe you’ve set out for an important business meeting with loads of time to spare and suddenly there’s a massive traffic jam.  The humble person will recognize that G-d knows exactly what He is doing and He will get you to the right place at the right time.  Everything will work out. 

And guess what?  No matter how much you stress out, the outcome is going to be the same.  So you might as well take it in stride and accept the will of Heaven!

The world doesn’t revolve around you.  There is a great Divine plan.  The more humble you are, the more you realize that you need to go with the flow and fit into the Almighty’s meticulously-calculated system.  The plan has been determined since the beginning of creation and nobody ever said that it would work out the way you wanted it to happen.  No, it works the way G-d wants it to happen.

It’s your choice whether to go with the flow or to be disturbed when things don’t go your way.  Only people who are full of themselves and think the world revolves around them get upset when life doesn’t happen the way they had expected.  May you humbly accept G-d’s decisions and do your very best to align your will with His, with the knowledge that ultimately everything in His plan is for your best!