Andy Blumenthal
Leadership With Heart

Don’t Be So Humble; You’re Not That Great

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Golda Meir famously took the arrogant down a notch with these wise words:

Don’t be so humble; you’re not that great.

And something that happened made me think about it anew.

Recently, in sharing a heartfelt sentiment with a Rabbi that I ran into, I noticed that he just didn’t seem to pay attention to or care about what was being said at all. It was weird because it was a timely and important topic, but as soon as I brought up how current events were connected to the ageless wisdom of the Torah, he was “off and running.” This has happened a few times, where people who are supposed to be immersed with their constituents and the subject matter only want to hear their own thoughts.

Reflecting on this, I connected it to what I read recently in the book Letters to a Buddhist Jew by Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz. As he described to someone who found meaning outside of Judaism, it’s actually the case that our faith prizes humility above all things (e.g., Moses was truly humble, more than any other man, Numbers 12:3). Unfortunately, many people mistakenly think that having a big degree, career, house, vacations, and bank account makes them someone. Similarly, in the Jewish world, some people erroneously think that being the biggest “macher” in town elevates them above others, and so some community rabbis may, regretfully, cater to this errant mentality.

Rabbi Tatz rightfully explains to the young Jewish Buddhist that all the ego just gets in the way of what’s really important. In short, Judaism teaches that our mission in life is to connect to Hashem, the source of all. In connecting to the source, we are supposed to empty ourselves of vanity and materialism so that we can be filled with the Divine holiness.

Critically, in the final redemption, the Messianic king will bring consciousness of G-d to the whole world, and so he must be empty of himself, completely humble, and able to fully connect with Hashem and facilitate that for others as well. 

Profoundly, the Mashiach is the descendant of King David (דוד), and the actual letters of his name represent his emptiness and connectedness to the source of all. The first letter, Daled (ד), is open, being simply two straight lines; it represents emptiness and humility. The second letter, Vav (ו), is a tall straight letter and symbolizes the connectedness of the upper (the source) to the lower (us). The third letter, Daled (ד), is again open and empty. The meaning of David is therefore that he starts humble, connects to Hashem, but remains the open and humble servant of the Almighty, always.

In contrast, the Messiah’s arch enemy is also three letters and is Gog (גוג); the letters represent fullness, materialism, and arrogance. The first letter, Gimel (ג), has an extra leg, and it stands for self-sufficiency and haughtiness. The second letter, Vav (ו), is tall and straight and connects man to G-d. The third letter, Gimel (ג), is again self-inflated and arrogant. Thus, Gog represents those who are full of themselves, and even as there is the opportunity to connect to the source, they nevertheless remain as they were, full of ego, narcissism, and sin.

G-d is the source of everything, and the greatest opportunity for human beings is to connect to the source and fulfill G-d’s commandments to make the mundane into the holy and the worldly into the heavenly. Just as G-d is the creator, He created humans so that we have the ability to reach out to the source and perfect ourselves in His image. This is the ultimate good that G-d gives to humanity: the capacity to connect with and be close to the creator through our own choices and actions.

It’s a shame that a Jew needs to go to Buddhism when our own religion has the things that he is looking for. As we see the events in the world unfolding in the battle of good over evil, we all play an important role in emptying ourselves from the rot of ego and materialism, and instead we need mindfulness to connect to Hashem and humbly perform acts of kindness and good with others. Soon, the final showdown between good and evil, Mashiach the son of David and Gog, will be upon us, and we need to be prepared for the worldwide revelation of G-d’s Oneness and true dominion over all.

About the Author
Andy Blumenthal is a dynamic, award-winning leader who writes frequently about Jewish life, culture, and security. All opinions are his own.
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