Jealousy and Humility© Parashat Behukotai - 5775/2015

Jealousy and Humility©
Parashat Behukotai - 5775/2015
Rabbi David Baum, Congregation Shaarei Kodesh

I want to share a story with you all, honestly, it's kind of personal, and it's not one of my finest moments. I received an email from my brother, an article quoting him in the Sun Sentinel. My brother, a congregant here at CSK, has been the Director of Testing for Broward County Schools, an important but behind the scenes kind of job. It was the first time he had ever been quoted in the paper.

I heard all of this, and I heard my yetzer harah speaking to me, “how many articles in this paper have I been quoted in? Where was that praise from my family then?” That yetzer harah actually has a name – kinah, jealousy.

It was interesting, but at that moment, I became competitive with my brother, whom I consider my best friend.

I know I'm not alone. We all have our stories of sibling rivalries, in fact, it's timeless. We see a great example of this in our parashah this week.

Numbers 12:1 – 2

(א) וַתְּדַבֵּר מִרְיָם וְאַהֲרֹן בְּמֹשֶׁה עַל־אֹדוֹת הָאִשָּׁה הַכֻּשִׁית אֲשֶׁר לָקָח כִּי־אִשָּׁה כֻשִׁית לָקָח:
(ב) וַיֹּאמְרוּ הֲרַק אַךְ־בְּמֹשֶׁה דִּבֶּר יְקֹוָק הֲלֹא גַּם־בָּנוּ דִבֵּר וַיִּשְׁמַע יְקֹוָק:
(ג) וְהָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה ענו עָנָיו מְאֹד מִכֹּל הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר עַל־פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה: ס

1. And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. 2. They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” The Lord heard it. 3 Now Moses was a very humble man, more so than any other man on earth.

We see here something interesting: that yetzer harah creeps up on them. Here we see two different issues that their siblings have problems with:
  1. Moses and his choice of spouse
  2. The fact that Moses literally talks FOR God.

The two issues seem to be unrelated, and you wonder, what's going on here?!? Now, think back to your own attacks against a sibling, a relative or close friend. Sometimes, you will begin your attack with something that might be scandalous, but it's not really what you most resent. I think this might be the case here.

In order to fully understand their resentment, we have to look at what just transpired in the previous chapter:

The people start complaining, which is a theme of BaMidbar/Numbers, and Moshe cannot take it anymore. He tells God, “14 I cannot carry all this people by myself, for it is too much for me. 15 If You would deal thus with me, kill me rather, I beg You, and let me see no more of my wretchedness!””
So God has Moshe gather 70 elders who will help him lead.

17I will come down and speak with you there, and I will draw upon the spirit that is on you and put it upon them; they shall share the burden of the people with you, and you shall not bear it alone. 

Moshe does as he is commanded:

25 Then the Lord came down in a cloud and spoke to him; He drew upon the spirit that was on him and put it upon the seventy elders. And when the spirit rested upon them, they spoke in ecstasy, but did not continue.
26 Two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, had remained in camp; yet the spirit rested upon them—they were among those recorded, but they had not gone out to the Tent—and they spoke in ecstasy in the camp. 27 A youth ran out and told Moses, saying, “Eldad and Medad are acting the prophet in the camp!”28 And Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ attendant from his youth, spoke up and said, “My lord Moses, restrain them!” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you wrought up on my account? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord put His spirit upon them!” 

(כט) וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ מֹשֶׁה הַמְקַנֵּא אַתָּה לִי וּמִי יִתֵּן כָּל־עַם יְקֹוָק נְבִיאִים כִּי־יִתֵּן יְקֹוָק אֶת־רוּחוֹ עֲלֵיהֶם:
Ramban translates Joshua's words in a very interesting way.
וַיֹּאמַר אֲדֹנִי מֹשֶׁה כְּלָאֵם - in the Etz Chaim Chumash, it is translated as 'restrain them', but Ramban, Nachmonides, uses the Talmud's translation - “keep the Holy Spirit away from them!” Moshe's answer is even more powerful with this translation:

I want to read verse 29 in Hebrew:

HaMekaneh Attah Li? הַמְקַנֵּא אַתָּה לִי Are you jealous for me?

His answer is beautiful! Would it be all that everyone could have God's spirit in them! I don't want to hoard God's spirit, I want to share it! Don't be jealous, celebrate it!
Ramban highlights one of Moshe's great qualities here. He writes, “Moshe, in his great humility, gave this response.

And so we return to the attack from Moses's brother and sister - what is the response to this attack? Actually, Moses doesn't say anything, but the text does state this:

ג) וְהָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה ענו עָנָיו מְאֹד מִכֹּל הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר עַל־פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה: ס

In Hebrew, the term for humble is Anavut, and Moshe was an 'Anav'.

3 Now Moses was a very humble man, more so than any other man on earth.

It wasn't that Moshe was just humble, not even very humble, but the most humble person on the face of the earth.

It reminds of a story that Rabbi Jack Riemer told me, when two rabbis were arguing over who was most humble. One rabbi said, I have more humility in my pinky finger than you have in your entire body!

What's interesting here is that no other leader in the Torah is called humble, and Moshe had so many other qualities, but this is what is highlighted.

How is Moshe, the man who stands up to Pharaoh, who breaks the Ten Commandments, who is continually the intermediary between God and the people, called humble?

If we look at the way Moses began his career as leader of Israel, we see that he was in fact, very humble. In Chapter 3 of Exodus, Moses declines leadership several times to God. Think about this – God thought he was a capable leader, but he didn't, what other vote of confidence does one need?

Anavut, the word we translate as humility, doesn't mean that we only look at ourselves as dust and ashes; that we are insignificant. Rather, anavut can help us understand that despite the fact that we are dust and ashes, we have been given tremendous gifts by our Creator in the form of our talents and the light we show to the world. An Anav knows that these gifts were given for the betterment and honor of others.

Ben Zoma, in Pirkei Avot, states,
Who is wise? One who learns from every person.
Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations, yetzer.
Who is rich? One who is happy with his portion.
Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows.

This is the ultimate definition of the Anav – someone who knows that wisdom is not found within, but from others, and therefore, we must seek others out to become better. Who is strong? Someone who can overcome the yetzer – especially jealousy. Who is rich? Well, once you can overcome jealousy, then you can be happy with your share and realize the gifts you've received. And finally, who is honorable? One who bestows honor on others.

I believe Anavut, humility, is the antidote to the yetzer harah of kinah, jealousy.

Everyone has something to be jealous of, but is this how we want to live our lives? Rather, let's be humble enough to learn from every person, because let's face it, we don't know it all. Let's be humble enough to realize that we've got something special when we have it. Let's be humble enough to realize that the way to honor is to honor others and be happy with them.

Let's be humble enough to say, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord put His spirit upon them!” 

In the next week, I want you to do one thing: when you see a relative or friend, especially a person who doesn't receive it much, receive praise, fight the yeterz harah in you, and be happy for them. Realize that God has gifts God bestows on us all.

And let's take it a step further: instead of praising yourself this week, praise someone else, especially someone who never does any bragging, who may not think that they are important, but what they do changes the world.


Popular posts from this blog

The ‘Glasses’ of Blessing© - Parashat Re’eh and a Response to #Charlottesville

The Dove and the Raven© - Shabbat Noach 5778/2017

How Is Your Family? Speaking About Our Challenging Children©