A lack of self-awareness can be a dangerous pitfall. * Anti-Semitism, clothed in political rhetoric, challenges our vigilance. * On the Hayom Yom entry for 20 Elul.
Think about this: When does ignorance become a moral failing? When it blinds us to the suffering of others, especially when that ignorance is steeped in hatred and prejudice.
The Hayom Yom for 20 Elul teaches us that "One who is lowly and crass does not sense his own crassness and lowliness." Here, the focus is on the perils of a lack of self-awareness. The Talmud (Sotah 3a) supports this, saying, "An ignoramus cannot be pious." It is the lack of self-awareness that breeds negligence and, at times, even hate. This idea becomes our focal point: How does this lack of self-awareness contribute to the resurgence of anti-Semitic sentiment?
Chassidic thought, which emphasizes the internal dimensions of Torah, encourages self-examination as a spiritual practice. According to Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad, self-reflection is a prerequisite for spiritual growth (Tanya, Chapter 29). Without a clear understanding of our own weaknesses, we cannot hope to improve or become more sensitive to others.
This principle is alarmingly relevant today. As anti-Semitic fervor mingles with political platforms, we are reminded of the dangers of ignorance. Similar to pre-war Germany, ignorance is becoming weaponized. People consume hateful rhetoric without questioning its veracity, blindly amplifying destructive ideologies. This is where a lack of self-awareness leads: to the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes and, eventually, to the endangerment of lives.
To counteract this, we need to cultivate self-awareness, not just for personal growth but as a societal imperative. The book of Proverbs teaches, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline" (Proverbs 1:7). This is not just an individual obligation but a collective one.
As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we are invited to examine our own shortcomings. We must be vigilant not just in our self-examination but also in the way we scrutinize our society and its attitudes, especially when they border on hate.
In conclusion, the wisdom in the Hayom Yom's teaching on 20 Elul is timeless. The "lowliness and crassness" that we are warned about could manifest in our ignorance or our prejudices. While this ancient wisdom addresses the personal need for self-awareness, it also serves as a societal cautionary tale. As we move forward in our lives, let us carry this lesson with us: To be aware of our ignorance is the first step in becoming not just wise, but also just.