Friday, February 15, 2008

Protection Through Humility

On Yuma 89, we find that a petitioner asked Rava if he is permitted to commit murder to save his own life, and Rava told him to allow himself to be killed. No one can know if his life is more precious, if his “blood is redder,” than his friend’s.

Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa zt”l would bring this gemara as a proof that every person is duty-bound to feel that he is not any more important in Hashem’s eyes than any other Jew. And this feeling has very broad ramifications, because every sin is really rooted in false pride.

Human nature is such that feeling unique and set apart from others seems to constitute a license to indulge sinful desires. And this feeling of uniqueness can persist and prevent a sinner from repenting too. He might think, “Look how terrible I am—Hashem won’t even want me!” With humility, however, even someone who has already sinned can feel inspired to repent. Whether we are speaking about the time before or after the sin, subduing one’s natural tendency to arrogance is what allows a person to stay close to Hashem in a balanced and healthy way.

When a massive earthquake struck the Galilee in the winter of 5597, Tzfas was leveled. Over 5,000 Jews died or were injured in a single moment of heavenly wrath. One of the leading Rabbonim of Tzfas, Rav Avrohom Dov of Avritch zt”l, the author of the Bas Ayin, was in shul with his congregation when it struck. As soon as he felt the first tremors of the earthquake, he threw himself down to the floor near the bimah and commanded his congregation, “Come to me!” As they lay prostrate, crying out in prayer, half of the shul to the other side of the bimah collapsed into rubble. Their side remained untouched.

Afterward, the Rav explained his actions. “I saw that the entire structure was going to fall, for the sitra achra had permission to destroy us. Absolute humility was the only thing that could save us. So we had to submit completely—and we were saved!”

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