In high school I approached a well-known rabbi and told him that I had read one of his books and liked it very much. “Ah, have you read my other book?” he asked. No, I had not. “You should,” he told me, “it’s a classic.”
He said this with a straight face. At the time I just thought it was funny, in a disturbing way, but the story has stayed with me for many years. Humility is an essential but increasingly elusive quality. I think about this each time I post on Facebook or Twitter something about what I have written, or said, or done. I am eager to do it, but also feel as though it is not really appropriate, and even something self-deprecating can feel like a “humblebrag.”
C.S. Lewis said that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. In an age of social media, that worthy goal is remote. We display ourselves, talk of our vacations, dogs, friends, dreams and opinions. Our sages teach that the Torah is compared to water for just as water only runs downhill, the word of God can only be heard in a humble heart. The statement is in Ta’anit (7a) in the Talmud. Read it. It’s a classic.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book, “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press), has recently been published.