The Path of the Just
Chapter 22 (Part 4)
Ramchal underscored the fact that our sages went out of their way to praise
the unpretentious and self-effacing. “A humble person” they said, “is
considered as having offered all of the sacrifices” in their lifetime (Sotah
5b), presumably because he or she would have already learned the lesson that
the sacrifices were to teach us: that both we and everything we own are in
G-d’s hands alone. And our sages often went to great pains to depict G-d's
“longing” and love for the humble (see Chullin 89a).
His point once again here, though, is that we only come to be humble when we
purposefully and assiduously set out to be; and that part of the effort
involves our being honest with ourselves about our makeup and efforts, and
by our refusing to be seduced by our conniving heart that wants to dissuade
us from humility.
But understand that being humble doesn’t only have to do with being
unpretentious about one’s gifts, wealth, or social standing -- it also
touches on the many mitzvahs one might have fulfilled. Because while we’re
certainly to be praised for all our efforts along those lines, the truth of
the matter is that we’d need to be humble about those, too. For we couldn’t
have fulfilled those mitzvahs in the end had G-d not granted us the wherewithal.
For, as Ramchal words it, it’s important to realize that “whatever
(spiritual) advantages you might have have still and all granted to you by
G-d” Himself rather than by your own efforts alone. And realizing that
itself should humble you.
Now, he presents an interesting parable for that, likening the recipient of
G-d's input in this instance to “a pauper who receives a gift out of the
goodness of his benefactor's heart, which the recipient can't help but but
embarrassed when accepting”. In fact, he goes on to say, “the more generous
his benefactor would be to him, the more embarrassed would the recipient be".
What he’s implying is that there's nothing that will draw us to closer to
true humility as the stark realization of just how good and generous G-d is
to each one of us. Not only does He grant us life outright and the means to
go on, He also grants us the means to draw closer to Him through His
mitzvah-system, which is His very most precious gift. The simple realization
of that alone should strike you as extraordinary, and should humble you.
For, Ramchal tells us in another of his works, true humility and
shamefacedness are rooted in the soul's suddenly "realizing that it has come
upon something it apparently doesn't deserve" (Adir Bamarom 1, p. 250-252),
as well as from "realizing that it doesn't deserve to stand in G-d's
presence" (Adir Bamarom 2, p. 155), let alone to be granted a gift by him.
So the sensitive soul should take that to heart.