Find Humility in Success

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Shmini

I’d like to share a Medrash. Nadav and Avihu stood out amongst the millions of Jews that wandered in the desert. They were handsome, talented, born leaders and the children of Aharon.

These two sons of Aharon used to say, “Our father’s brother is a king, (Moshe). Our mother’s brother is a Nasi (Nachshon). Our father is the Kohein Gadol. We are future Kohanim Gedolim! There are no women good enough for us. We have it all!” (Vayikra Rabba 20;4)

They had it all - and in the blink of an eye, they lost it all. In two quick verses they were cut down. The Torah doesn’t comment. Their father Aharon didn’t comment. Moshe hardly said a word.

The story is an eternal one. It takes place over and over again. As a nation or as an individual, we successfully climb to the greatest heights. It is at that apex that we must find humility. It is there that we must say Hallel and acknowledge that but for Hashem's help we would be nowhere. We must recognize our esteem. At the same time we must know from where it comes, and that we are not immune to falling. Dovid HaMelech cautioned, “I have said smugly ‘I will never fall.’ Yet if Hashem hides His face from me I will be petrified.”

It seems to me that G-d is happy to make us great. He makes just one proviso, that we recognize that the greatness is a gift. Jewish greatness is found in humility. The greater we become – the more humble we must be. The moment of complacency is the moment that we lose our greatness.

The holy Ari once taught his students a guaranteed segula or formula for success. In the morning when we pray we bow our heads to say Modim. If while bowing we acknowledge in out hearts that all is from Hashem and we feel humbled before Him, we open the heavenly pipes of bracha. Hashem will grant us a day of success and blessing. It’s counterintuitive but it works. We can climb so high by bowing so low.

© Copyright 2005