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A HUMBLE RESPONSE TO DIVINE FAVOR

At first glance, the idea of becoming more humble in response to Divine favors might seem counterintuitive. After all, shouldn’t blessings make us feel more deserving or important? * On Tanya for 6 Menachem Av.

by ChatGPT and Bing AI

It is often observed that receiving acts of kindness or blessings can lead to a sense of entitlement or pride. However, the Chabad Chasidic teaching from the Tanya offers a thought-provoking perspective that challenges this conventional understanding.


At first glance, the idea of becoming more humble in response to Divine favors might seem counterintuitive. After all, shouldn’t blessings make us feel more deserving or important?


The Tanya, authored by the revered Alter Rebbe, unravels this paradox with profound wisdom. In the teaching, it is explained that every single favor bestowed by God should prompt us to become increasingly humble. As stated in the Tanya, “With every single favor that God bestows upon a man, he ought to become very humble. For [the supernal sefirah of] ‘chesed is the right arm,’ and, as Scripture states, ‘His right arm embraces me,’ which refers to the state of God actually bringing him close [to Himself], far more intensely than before. Every Divine act of chesed brings a man closer to God.”


True Kindness: To comprehend the Tanya’s perspective better, we must delve into the essence of chesed - Divine kindness. According to the Tanya, there are two modes of Divine kindness. The first is finite chesed, akin to the limited life-force present in the human arm. The second is infinite chesed, transcending all limitations and encompassing everything. The Tanya urges us to embrace the latter, as it reveals that the more one receives from God’s infinite kindness, the more they should humbly recognize their dependence on the Divine.


The Virtue of Abrahamic Humility: To substantiate this approach, let us consider the example of Abraham, known as the embodiment of chesed. Despite being the recipient of great Divine kindness and blessings, Abraham remained deeply humble, as he says, “Am I not dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). As stated in the Tanya, “The kindness that God showed Abraham motivated him to attain the ultimate degree of humility that this statement expresses.”


The Flipside of Holy Chesed: To further illustrate this concept, the Tanya draws from Kabbalistic principles and presents a sharp contrast. In the realm of the unholy, Ishmael represents the attribute of chesed that belongs to the kelipah - the forces of impurity. Unlike Abraham, the more kindness Ishmael receives, the more prideful and arrogant he becomes.


Jacob’s Fear and Humility: Another biblical figure exemplifying the response of humility to Divine favors is Jacob. In Genesis 32:11, Jacob acknowledges his unworthiness despite God’s numerous favors bestowed upon him, saying, “I have become small from all the favors and from all [the truth].” His fear of facing Esau is rooted in his humility, recognizing that he is undeserving in the face of God’s great kindness.


In conclusion, the Tanya's teaching presents a compelling case for a humble response to Divine favors. Instead of leading to feelings of entitlement or pride, true spiritual growth emerges when we respond to God's kindness with increased humility. Let us, therefore, internalize these lessons and approach God's kindness with sincere gratitude and a profound sense of dependence, recognizing our place as humble servants before the Infinite One. In doing so, we can strengthen our connection with the Divine and experience genuine spiritual elevation on our journey of faith.

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