middot humility mesorah praise as humility

praise as humility

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld


“What are we? What are our lives? What is our loving-kindness? What is our righteousness… What shall we say before you, Lord our God?… Are not all the mighty like nothing before you?… Yet we are your people, the children of your covenant… Therefore it is our duty to thank you…” (The Koren Siddur, pg. 36)

This selection from the morning blessings section of shacharit serves to demonstrate three important points:

  1. The strength and righteousness of humanity are not worth our boasting; we are imperfect.
  2. The covenant God has made with his people is everlasting and firm in spite of our imperfection.
  3. Our responsibility is to praise and thank God for this wonderful gift.

These three points are crucial for balancing the middah of humility. On the one hand, we must be aware of our short-comings and willing to acknowledge our lowliness. On the other hand, we must be aware of the identity we have in the God who chose us, sustains us, teaches us how to be better, and loves us regardless of our failings. This awareness makes praising God a key piece of our response to a life fixed between two seemingly opposing poles. In praising God, we simultaneously acknowledge our insufficiency and proclaim his unconditional love. In this way praising God becomes one of the most humble things a person can do. Thankfully we are given many opportunities to do so!

The morning blessings are a preparation for the main portions of the shacharit service. Indeed, this section points to a proper way of understanding our relationship to personal holiness: it is through God’s great love and support that we can even approach holiness. Let us take time every morning to settle into these words, especially during a week centered on humility. May we face our limitations. May we face our God’s love. May we praise him at every moment with humble hearts for growing us into his image.

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