making space for other

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-clayjarsHumility perfects the will, and it thus serves as the best vessel for the reception of every blessing… When humility effects depression it is defective; when it is genuine it inspires joy, courage and inner dignity.

– Abraham Isaac Kook

Positive Psychology is a movement of psychological care that seeks to transcend some of the darker theories of the human psyche that pervaded the work of Freud (Psychoanalysis), Skinner (Behaviorism), and others. Rav Kook promoted what I like to call, “Positive Piety.” His motivation toward piety grew out of an abiding respect for all of creation and faith for a complete tikkun in all existence. Therefore, Rav Kook wouldn’t be too fond of promoting a middah that would insist that one “lower” one’s estimation of oneself. Humility, it would seem, would fit into that category. However, Rav Kook has a special approach toward humility.

For Rav Kook, the image of lowering is far less connected with humility than the image of emptying. When one is carrying around loads of self-worry, the will to act and relate with others is severely diminished. When one can empty him/herself of self-induced inertia, a more positive life can begin to take shape.

It is not that one needs to diminish the ego as much as one needs to make sure ego does not get in the way of being able give and receive. True humility comes from a place where one can so deeply acknowledge and love another that his/her own needs become less of the focus. Low self-esteem has nothing to do with a humble heart. A humble heart is open to receive God and others and love them without any ulterior motive. This is the ultimate source of blessing: to see the good of others as intimately connected to one’s own well-being and to see Avodat HaShem (service of God) as central to one’s life.

May the humility we seek to cultivate lead us to joy and to make room for God and our neighbor.

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