Lag B’Omer – Humility of Humility
An old Jewish joke goes something like this:
During Shabbat is the Sabbath day, the Day of Rest, and is observed from Friday night through Saturday night. Is set aside from the rest of the week both in honor of the fact that God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. On Shabbat, many Jews observe prohibitions from various activities designated as work. Shabbat is traditionally observed with festive meals, wine, challah, prayers, the reading and studying of Torah, conjugal relations, family time, and time with friends. services the Rabbi kneels and puts his forehead to the floor and says,
“Before you oh Lord, I am nothing.”
The Cantor looks at him, thinks it couldn’t hurt, and kneels, puts his forehead to the floor, and says, “Before you oh Lord, I am nothing.”
Ben Shapiro in the fifth row is watching this and thinking that it was a pretty good idea, so he goes in the middle of the isle, kneels and puts his forehead to the floor and says,
“Before you oh Lord, I am nothing.”
The Rabbi nudges the Cantor. “Look who thinks he’s nothing!”
Oh the vanity of our humility! Humility is a tricky thing. We know that humility is the key to learning, to being open to new ideas and inspiration. We know that thinking we “know it all” is a direct path to sin. And yet, how hard it is to maintain our humility in a world where we are often asked to sell ourselves, to brag about our successes in order to be noticed, to make sure we have a “brand” and collect as many likes on social media as possible?
And then we recover by professing our humility for all who will listen. “Before you, oh Lord, I am nothing!” we proclaim so proudly of ourselves.
Today, on this day of the From the second day of Passover until Shavuot, Jews count seven weeks – seven times seven days – to commemorate the period between the Exodus from Egypt and the Revelation at Sinai. When the Temple stood, a certain measure (omer) of barley was offered on the altar each day; today, we merely count out the days., we are asked to focus on humility within humility – to be humble with our humility. What could that possibly mean?
The core of humility is honesty. Humility is not about focusing on the limits of our abilities – what we cannot do or do not have – but about a clear assessment of who we are. It is about honestly valuing our skills, talents, and abilities, recognizing them as gifts from God, and constantly checking that we are using them, deploying them, toward God’s will.
It is a false humility that claims we aren’t good at what we do or do not have the talents we have. Like responding to a compliment on our clothing with “oh, this old thing!” or to someone enjoying our food, “oh, I just threw that together!,” it rings hollow – it just isn’t real.
Humble humility requires that we recognize our God-given strengths and talents for what they are and use them accordingly, always grateful to the Source of our existence for using us in such a way.
On this 33rd day of the Omer, we can offer the following prayer:
To the Source of Life itself, may I be made aware of my talents, hone them and use them for your will.
May I be granted the ability to continue to learn, grow, and improve so that I can be of service and use in the work of Lit. Repair of the world According to Jewish mysticism, the world is in a broken state. Humanity's job is to join God, as God's partners, in its repair., repairing your world.
May I never forget that Your life breath motivates and enlivens me to do this work and may I remember that my successes do, indeed, truly belong to you.
May the pride I feel in a job well done or work well accomplished inspire me to greater heights and a passionate desire to teach, lead, and collaborate with others along my path.
And may I never lose sight of the goal to serve you in Truth and make manifest your holiness in the world.
Image by D’vorah Horn from her set of Omer Practice Cards (2016).