Friday, August 5, 2011

The Ashes of Humility

One time a group of young men were traveling with Rav Gershon of Yadnik, Hy”d, when they met with a man who obviously suffered terribly. They stopped to speak to him and he described his excruciating pain. As he finished explaining what he experienced, he commented, “In all six thousand years of creation there has never been a person who suffered as much as I do.”
Rav Gershon comforted him for a long time to the amazement of the bochurim. When he finally went on his way Rav Gershon commented, “Look at the power of arrogance. As if it was not bad enough that he suffers, he is also a ba’al gavah who believes he is unique in all of history!”
The Alter of Kelm, zt”l, explains, “The verse in Mishlei states, 'גאות אדם תשפילנו'—‘A man’s arrogance lowers him.’ Why? Because when we find that a person has arrogance this is a sign that he is on a low spiritual level. Clearly he lacks a desire to better himself spiritually, since if he was longing to attain the next level he would not be filled with arrogance. One who understands that he must advance cannot entertain pride since he knows that he is not complete. This is why one who indulges in this disgusting character trait is lowered. Hashem diminishes him so he should be ashamed of his low level.”
The Maharal, zt”l, explains that this is the lesson of Terumas Hadeshen. “One should never feel that if he removes his arrogance and makes himself as דשן, ash, by humbling himself he is lowered. Quite the contrary, he is uplifted. As the verse states, 'והרים את הדשן'.
“The rule is that one who humbles himself is uplifted while one who is arrogant is lowered. If one nullifies his arrogance and is nothing in his eyes like ash, he ascends on high and is one with Hashem.”

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