Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Antidote to Chutzpah

The Medrash writes that the tzitz rectifies the character defect we call chutzpah. The truth is that all sins are rooted in this defect, because sin means taking the vitality that our Creator invests in us from moment to moment for granted, and abusing it to go against Hashem’s Will. But the tzitz helps us overcome this natural tendency, because the inscription of Hashem’s Name upon it reminds us that everything is really from Him alone, and this serves as a powerful antidote to the force of severe judgment in the world. The Me’or V’Shemesh explains similarly that every righteous person in every generation can also overturn the Divine attribute of Judgment on a smaller scale by contemplating his cosmic smallness and dependence deeply, until it leads him to a feeling of complete nullification of the ego.
Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev zt”l arrived late to morning prayers one day, to the great surprise of his students. When he finally came, they waited until after shacharis to ask what had held him up.
“You know,” he said, “that I cannot pray until I really feel that I am the smallest and least person in the entire world. This morning, a poor Jewish swineherd came to my door, asking me advice about his filthy charges. When he left, I tried and tried, but I couldn’t manage to see how he was on a higher level than me! Finally, I succeeded, and so here I am.”
“But how could that ignorant Jew be greater than you, Rebbe?” they asked.
“Well,” Rav Levi Yitzchak smiled, “I realized that if I were him, I would never have come to ask advice of the local Rav!”

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