middot humility daily living avoiding flat tires

avoiding flat tires

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-flattire Now we will discuss humility in relation to one's deeds.  This [subject] has four parts to it:  conducting oneself in a lowly manner; bearing disparagement; being averse to [positions of] authority and fleeing from honor; and respecting others.  --Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, The Path of the Just, page 156

It was Friday and as any Jewish woman can tell you, don't mess with Friday.  For myself, preparing for Shabbat in the Northwest is sometimes a marathon as we have very early candlelighting in December and January. As I walked out to my car, ready to leap forth in my Friday frenzy, the horror of horrors awaited me:  the back right side of my car was lowered to the ground with a flat tire.  Normally when this has happened, my husband wouldn't have left home for work yet, we would play car tag and get the tire would get fixed.  But there was no such luck today.  And worse yet, because he was under a hefty load at work with encroaching deadlines, I wasn't going to have my knight in shining armor pull up in the driveway and come to my rescue today. 

fix it yourself, maybe?

Now, I know what most of you are thinking....change the tire yourself, already.  Well, I thought of that except I have never changed my own tire.  So, endeavoring to fix my own situation rather than sit in the driveway, I tore apart the boot of my car and hauled out the tire changing kit.  The kit was so precious because it even included cloth gloves to put on so I wouldn't get my hands soiled.  This was handy considering I was in my nice wool coat and a skirt. It seemed only proper to have the gloves on while changing the tire. This was going to give the neighbors some entertainment.

But as I got everything out and tried to figure out where to put the jack, I was stuck.  I could really damage the car as well as get crushed if I did something foolish.  Worse than that, I couldn't even get the jack to open let alone know where to put it.  All the knowledge I had about many things in life wasn't going to get me anywhere with this.  I was doomed.  I was going to have to ask for help.

get by with a little help from my friends

As a principle, it is not that I don't want to ask people for help.  What it is more than anything is I hate troubling peopleI don't want to inconvenience people when I know their time is valuable.  And yes, at the core of this was some level of damage to my pride — the fact that in my whole life I had not even changed one tire.  I felt pathetic and humbled.  So I waltzed over to my neighbor's house, hoping they could help and that finally today I would indeed learn a valuable skill.

As I walked over to my neighbor's house, I knocked and waited hopefully for someone to answer.  When she did, I asked if there was anyone who could help me change my tire.  Thankfully, her son was home.  And like a small miracle, he could help and was accustomed to this kind of work.  He works on semis for a living.

As I walked to my car with him, I told him I just needed help and that he didn't have to do it all.  Besides, in my attire and with the rain coming down, I didn't want to stand there like some princess while he became soaked and dirty.

As we both figured out what was to be a unique car jack, he finally got the car up, the wheel off, and the spare put on.  Though it wasn't harder than I imagined, I know one thing for sure: whoever had put those lug nuts on the original tire put them on so well that only the persistence of this young man was able to get them off.  It would have challenged me and brought me to tears to even have gotten them off.  I needed the help, like it or not, and this young man walked away afterward thankful to have helped, and I thankful to have been helped.

flat tires for a reason

I truly believe that life has a way of throwing us flat tires for a very good reason.  We all become rather self-sufficient and self-confident in many areas of our lives.  True, we know our limitations.  But there is nothing like a monkey wrench in our lives to show us that there are other people in the world, and that there are other souls and moments we need to encounter to make us grow.  Our own self-worth and dependency on ourselves has the awful side effect of making us worship ourselves.  When we encounter our weaknesses and a situation that requires us to look outside of ourselves for solutions, then we are encountering God.  These situations of helplessness cause us to come in contact with the other divine sparks that He has placed in the world and to lower us to our rightful place.

As we return to Rabbi Luzzatto's expansion on what humility is, having humility helps us to handle these flat tires.  No doubt there will be moments of "flat tires" in our lives. In all honesty, we need them.  But if we master the manner in which we conduct oneself, handle obstacles and disparagement with grace, recognize our right place in society as well as our limitations,  control our desire to see ourselves in places of honor and authority, and respect others, then we will find that we will come to a place of peace within ourselves.  And with this peace, we will generate peace in others and in a greater way, within the world.  

Rejoice in your flat tires — don't avoid them.  View them as opportunities to encounter the Eternal in a beautiful way and to find out where those moments will lead you in humility.  No doubt you will experience more of a fullness of His creation and less of your own.


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