middot humility stories what do you exalt

what do you exalt

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-honorinsandRabbi Yisrael was once stranded in Kovno for Shabbat. Everyone wanted to host him, but he chose to spend the Shabbat at the home of a baker who had no children to feed, so he would not take away anyone's portion of food.

The baker was an observant Jew but hardly a man of intelligence. As he ushered his esteemed guest into his house, he shouted at his wife, "Why are the challahs not covered? How many times must I remind you to cover the challahs?" The poor woman, recognizing her distinguished guest, hurried to cover the challahs with tears in her eyes. When the baker asked Rabbi Yisroel to do the honors by reciting the Kiddush, the Rabbi first asked him, "Can you tell me why we cover the challahs?"

"Of course," replied the baker. "Every child knows the answer. When there are many different foods on the table, the first blessing is always made over the bread, after which no other blessing need be made. On Friday night, however, the first blessing has to be made over the wine. In order not to shame the challah, who expects the blessing to be made over her, we must cover her over until after the sanctification of the wine."

Rabbi Yisrael looked at the baker incredulously. "Why do your ears not hear what your mouth is saying?" he asked. "Do you think that our Jewish tradition does not understand that a piece of dough has no feelings and would never become embarrassed? Understand that our laws are trying to sensitize us to the feelings of human beings, our friends, our neighbors, and especially our wives!

This story highlights what should have been obvious to the baker: our tradition serves to inform us and uplift us, not uplift itself.  The care and honor that the baker showed to the challot should have been bestowed upon his wife. 

loving and uplifting, not condemning

We see a similar story when we turn ahead to the story of Yeshua and the adultress. 

But Yeshua went to Har HaZeitim.  In the morning, entered the Temple again.  All of the people came to him, and he sat and taught them.  The scholars and the Prushim brought a woman before him who was caught committing adultery, and they stood her in the middle.  They said to him, "Rabbi this woman was captured because of an act of adultery.  Moshes commanded us in the Torah to stone women like these.  But what do you say?"  They said this to test him, to find an accusation against him.  Yeshua bent down and made marks on the floor with his finger.  When they asked him once more, he lifted his eyes and said to them, "Who among you is innocent of transgression?  Let him cast the first stone at her."  He bent down once more and made marks on the floor. They heard, and their heart struck them.  They went out one by one, beginning with the older ones, down to the last.  Yeshua alone remained, and the woman was standing in the middle.  Yeshua lifted his eyes and saw that there was no one but the woman alone.  He said to her, "Woman, where are your accusers? Does anyone condemn you?" She said, "No one, my master."  He said,"Then I will not condemn you either.  Go on your way, and do not sin anymore." --Yochanan 8:1-11, DHE

As we see how Yeshua responds to the accusers, it is evident that while the adultress' behavior is improper, he finds the accusers' behavior equally distasteful.  Their callous speech and their heckling not only bring her embarassment, but show their inability to have compassion and consider the feelings of a fellow human being.  Truly, adultery is wrong, but lowering another human being in shame is also wrong.  Yeshua tries to show them this by calling them on the carpet with their possible litany of sins.

As we strive to serve the Creator, let us do so in such a way that we do not disregard the ability of another to repent and be restored.  Let us regard each other with kindness and encourage each other in the better way to be without condemnation.

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