Malchut she’b’Hod – Nobility of Humility
When asked, “Which is greater – study or action?,” Rabbi Akiva answered, “Study is greater, for it leads to action” (Bab.Tal. The first part of the traditional wedding service in which the groom acquires the bride by giving her a small token, usually a ring, and declaring that she is betrothed to him according to Mosaic law. Today, most non-Orthodox couples have made this ceremony egalitarian, exchanging rings and empowering the bride to speak too. Some, disliking the property aspects of the ceremony, have dispensed with it altogether, substituting a brit shutafut – a partnership covenant. 40b). So, for Day 35 of counting 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. – Nobility of Humility – here is a series of notes and comparisons for meditation and reflection, ending with a suggestion for action.
1. Humility and Nobility – what’s the connection?
Hod – humility
Malchut – nobility, kingdom, and kingship
2. On the one hand … and on the other …
Hod – “I am but dust and ashes.” Anokhi afar va’eifer. (Gen. 18:27)
Malchut – “For my sake was the world created.” Bish’vili niv’ra ha’olam. (San. 37b)
3. “Mightily humble” – “The man The quintessential Jewish leader who spoke face to face with God, unlike any other prophet, and who freed the people from Egypt, led them through the desert for forty years, and received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. His Hebrew name is Moshe. was mightily humble [anav m’od], more than any earthling on the face of the earth.” (Num. 12:3)
Hod – The quintessential Jewish leader who spoke face to face with God, unlike any other prophet, and who freed the people from Egypt, led them through the desert for forty years, and received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. His Hebrew name is Moshe. was “humble”
Malchut – The quintessential Jewish leader who spoke face to face with God, unlike any other prophet, and who freed the people from Egypt, led them through the desert for forty years, and received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. His Hebrew name is Moshe. was “more than anyone else”
Hod – aleph-dalet-mem (Adam is the first human being created by God. Symbolizes: Creation, humankind.) “earthling”
Malchut – mem-aleph-dalet (m’od) “mighty”
Hod – “earthling” Adam is the first human being created by God. Symbolizes: Creation, humankind. made from “earth,” adamah; a “humble human” (Lat. homo) from the humus (all the same etymological root)
Malchut – “noble” (etymological link to “known”); “high-born” (The quintessential Jewish leader who spoke face to face with God, unlike any other prophet, and who freed the people from Egypt, led them through the desert for forty years, and received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. His Hebrew name is Moshe. was brought up as a prince)
4. Two pieces of paper
“Rabbi Simcha Bunam of Pzhysha once said to his students: Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into the one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words: ‘For my sake was the world created.’ But when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: ‘I am but dust and ashes.’”
Hod – “I am but dust and ashes.” Anokhi afar [ayin-peh-reish] va’eifer [aleph-peh-reish]. (Abarham in Gen. 18:27)
Malchut – “… the greatness of the Holy One (Blessed Be He) [is that while] a man mints many coins with one stamp, all of them the same as one another, the King of Kings the Holy One (Blessed Be He) minted every person with the stamp of Adam is the first human being created by God. Symbolizes: Creation, humankind., and not one of them is the same as his fellow. For this reason, every single person must say, ‘The world was created for me’. Bish’vili niv’ra ha’olam.” (Sanhedrin 37b)
Hod – “The sceptre [i.e. the ‘king’], learning, physic, must / All follow this, and come to dust.” (Shakespeare, Cymbeline, Act IV, Scene 2)
Malchut – “You are gods [elohim], and all children of the Most High.” (Ps. 82:6) “When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, that You have set in place, what is man, that You have been mindful of him, mortal man, that You have taken note of him, that You have made him little less than divine [mei’elohim], and crowned him with glory [k’vod] and splendour [hadar].” (Psalm 8:4–7)
5. Who we are, what we do …
Hod – “Judaism stands and falls with the idea of the absolute relevance of human deeds.” – i.e., what we do “on the ground”
Malchut – “man’s dignity consists in his having been created in the likeness of God.” i.e., we are children of the “king.”
6. Leading with humility
Hod – “Seeing yourself in terms of your relationships and being as concerned about the welfare of others as you are about your own welfare.” i.e., the idea of the servant-leader – “the king [leader] shall consider as good, not what pleases himself but what pleases his subjects”
Malchut – “Understanding yourself – Developing self-awareness of your strengths as well as your weaknesses.”
7. Nobility in Humility – humility as confident, honest self-awareness
“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.”
8. Make study lead to action – make two cards, and make them make a difference
For many years, I have known Rabbi Bunam’s story of the two pieces of paper. Then, it finally dawned on me this didn’t have to be just an inspiring idea that I could read about, but fail to call to mind when it might really matter. I could actually write on two pieces of paper, and make the idea a reality.
So, here’s a suggestion. A writ of divorce. Traditionally, only a man can grant his wife a get. Liberal Jews have amended this tradition, making divorce more egalitarian. two small pieces of card, business card size (card is more hard-wearing than paper). Write one of the statements on each. Keep one in each pocket of your trousers, jacket or coat, or find a way to display them both on your desk.
And use them.
Image by D’vorah Horn from her set of Omer Practice Cards (2016).
 Martin Buber (1961) Tales of the Hasidim: Later Masters, Schocken Books, pp. 249-250
 Heschel, Abraham is the first patriarch and the father of the Jewish people. He is the husband of Sarah and the father of Isaac and Ishmael. God's covenant - that we will be a great people and inherit the land of Israel - begins with Abraham and is marked by his circumcision, the first in Jewish history. His Hebrew name is Avraham. Joshua (1954) Man’s Quest for God, copyright Susannah Heschel 1996, p. 109
 Ibid. p. 95
 Nielsen, Rob, Marrone, Jennifer A., Ferraro, Holly S. (2014) Leading with Humility, Routledge, p. 24
 Greenleaf, Robert K. (1970) ‘The Servant as Leader’; Spears, Larry (1998) ‘Ten Characteristics of the Servant-Leader’
 Chanakya (4th century BCE) Arthashastra
 Williamson, Marianne (1992) A Return to Love: reflections on the principles of ‘A Course in Miracles’, HarperCollins