Lessons In Humility
The other week a woman calling herself “Reliable, yet not infallible” (Chronicles, 2-28) wrote to you about how she once undertook to say a parcel of Tehillim every day for an ill acquaintance and inadvertently ended up not completing her quota one day when she was interrupted in the process.
Her letter struck a chord with me, as I too was agonizing about messing up – also inadvertently and due to a disruption, though under vastly different circumstances. Please allow me to explain.
For several months now I’ve been writing a monthly article in the magazine section of The Jewish Press entitled “By The Light of the Moon,” alerting readers to the oncoming Shabbos Mevorchim and ensuing day or days of Rosh Chodesh.
To my distress, it wasn’t until the paper was out in print that I discovered I had erred with the date and the number of days Rosh Chodesh (Adar 2) would fall on.
Moreover perplexing was how this could have possibly occurred, since the first thing I do in advance of preparing the article is look up the exact timing on both our Hebrew and English calendars and literally note the date and days on my desktop Stickies for immediate and ready access.
Reliable‘s letter jogged my memory and I suddenly recalled being interrupted while immersed in accurately listing the relevant days in my article. As the fog lifted, I also clearly remembered making a mental note not to forget to finish the incomplete sentence.
But of course when I next found some quiet time to write, the unfinished part totally escaped me and I got right down to the rest of the piece since the deadline for submission had almost passed.
Yes, we are all rushed and constantly preoccupied with one task or another, while at the same time filing mental notes to do this, remember that, not to forget, etc., etc. And, as you put it in your response to Reliable, sometimes we are meant to mess up.
Since I am known to be fastidious to the point of driving others batty, I will take this as a divine message to tone it down and to accept that as humans we are a fallible lot. Thank you for relieving some of my anxiety (by jogging my memory) and for the lesson in humility. I hope readers will forgive my faux pas.
Trust me when I say I know exactly how you feel and where you are coming from. The irony is that perfectionists are hardest on themselves. Hey, look at the bright side – at least you picked the month of Adar to play the drunkard in.
Just kidding. To err is human, but it takes true grit to admit it, say you’re sorry and move on. And if you think it is you who can use a lesson in humility, read on…
Please do not be offended when I say it feels kind of strange to be asking you for advice. The only other woman I have ever felt comfortable sharing my space with, if you will, is the one who takes pride in my appearance and busies herself creating the nurturing and orderly environment I reside in.
That said, I must also confess that I am usually on top of things and ahead of the game. So why am I bothering with a “Dear Rachel” letter, you might ask. It is the mere thought of Purim… At other holidays and joyful events I hold up quite admirably, but Purim makes me quiver. With all the hullabaloo and hoopla, I inevitably find myself jostled, thrown about, and crudely thrust upon people I dread connecting with.
Year round I keep my cool and dignified stance; even soaring summer temperatures don’t frizz or frazzle me. If I do say so myself, with my regal bearing I cut quite an impressive figure. But on Purim… ugh! I can already feel the beads of perspiration staining my pricey silk lining. For someone like me, accustomed to being neatly groomed, Purim can turn into a hair-raising experience.
Dear Rachel, I turn to you for counsel and chizuk at the recommendation of my good friend, Yayin Lechayim, who wrote to you a year ago (under the guise of Blushing in Cabernet County).
In his letter, Yayin spilled his woes and really let go of his inner bottled up frustrations. Your gushing praise and encouragement went a long way in restoring his effervescence and high spirits, and he once again looks forward to gladdening the hearts of Purim revelers with his sparkling vigor.
I would be forever grateful for any advice you can offer me that will keep me from losing my head.
Dear Berel’s Shtreimel,
Who would have guessed? Why, you always appear to be head and shoulders above everyone else, with nary a hair out of place. But not to fret – introspection is good for the soul. Let’s put our heads together and try to get to the root of your problem.
Speaking of roots, you may want to begin by taking the words of our Sages to heart: “Know from where you have come [from a putrid drop], to where you are heading [to the dust of the earth]…” Though this counsel is meant to humble us humans, you, Berel’s Shtreimel, might do well to consider your own source of emergence – the fox’s tail.
Please forgive my condescending tone, but you seem to be suffering from what we mortals tend to refer to as a swelled head. What better remedy for overcoming such ga’avah (arrogance, pride) than conjuring up your humble beginnings.
To be fair-minded, the shtreimel also recalls the headgear worn by Polish and Russian aristocracy in the eighteenth century. Much like a bejeweled crown signifies royalty, the shtreimel evolved as part of the malchus’dik apparel of choice by Chassidic masters of yore – worn in honor of the royal Shabbos, in reverence of G-d.
Should the gist of my words be going over your head, you can simply take a cue from Mordechai HaTzaddik. After being paraded about in the king’s royal attire atop the king’s horse, Mordechai wasted no time disrobing and donning his sack cloth – so as not to allow pride to overtake him.
Similarly, Shlomo HaMelech writes in Mishlei, “Do not glorify yourself in the presence of the King.” In short, humble yourself and you will surely emerge none the worse for the wear.
Have a Simchas Purim and do yourself a favor: keep your distance from Yayin LeChayim who will be all over the place with his beguiling tendency to cause others to lose their heads.
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