middot adaptability daily living humility as solidarity

humility as solidarity

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-tulipsRejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. -- Romans 12:15, 16

I remember one Shabbat morning being in a particularly bad mood. I may have not had a reason to be (I don’t exactly remember that part of it) but I was determined to let everyone around me know how unhappy I was. I didn’t consciously decide to do so, but the little things I did made my unhappiness clear. My mood caught the attention of a good friend of mine who promptly reminded me that “no one here is responsible for your bad mood…snap out of it!”  My gut feeling was a spike of anger. “I’m not trying to take my bad mood out on anyone,” I thought to myself. But my friend’s words had exposed me to something I think many of us often forget. Our own emotional baggage has no place trampling on the experience of others. To think that my individual mood should be allowed to creep into my community on a day of shalom (rest/wholeness/peace) was terribly selfish.

It is not always a good thing to pretend to feel a certain way when you really don’t, but it is good to bypass the need to “self-express” for the sake of binding oneself to another. Shaul teaches this in the passage above. Humility is, in part, demonstrated by a willingness to set aside individual feelings to connect with people where they are.

A few years ago I found myself leading a shiva minyan for a family in our community who had lost a loved one and one hour later going back to my apartment where a New Years Eve party was beginning. This was difficult for me. I had a hard time feeling truly emotionally invested in either event. Nevertheless, the decision to put aside my own internal world in favor of being in solidarity with the people I was with meant that I was able to be a good friend for both those mourning and rejoicing. If we look closely enough I think we will find many opportunities in life to be in such solidarity with others. May we all grow in our humility to see those opportunities when they are presented to us.

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