Humility allows us to see reality free from the haze of self-absorption; to be connected to and of help to others; to devote ourselves to good, undeterred by self-doubt or public opinion; to be with G-d, the source of all, in this moment.
It’s worth taking a moment to contemplate Rashi’s definition of humility (in reference to Moshe, Numbers 12:3): shafel v’savlan – “low in spirit and long-enduring.” I’d like to focus specifically on savlan – “long-enduring.”
Savlan is related to savlanut – in modern Hebrew “patience.” But our Sages point out that the root of savlan means “to bear,” as in to carry a load. The image is of one carrying a precious package on a journey. At some point he wearies. The package is heavy.
“Is it really necessary to schlep this thing?” he says to himself. “It hurts. I resent it. I’ll chuck it away.”
This is the test of a savlan. In any relationship – with G-d, with a spouse, with a child, with one’s self – there are aspects of our experience that feel burdensome.
“Why is G-d, my spouse, my child, myself doing this? I don’t like it, I want it to change, it won’t, I’m done.”
Being done bearing the burden means chucking the relationship: giving up, blowing up, withdrawing, escaping, acting out. It’s so human and normal to want to relieve one’s self of what seems like unnecessary burden. How do we keep carrying the load?
To me, the first step is understanding that “burdens” can’t weigh on us directly. The heat, the kids’ fighting, the spouse’s disagreeableness, my own shortcomings – they cannot cause burdensomeness by themselves. They can’t source our experience.
It’s only G-d who sources our experience through the gift of thought in this moment. And He tells us in advance that He sources the gift of thought and renews it moment to moment – both expansive and constricted. Yes, there are inappropriate behaviors. But those behaviors feel burdensome solely and only inside the flow of Divine thought that He endows us with moment to moment to moment. To me, this is hopeful.
Not hopeful in that I will be able to now “change” my experience. Hopeful in that I don’t need to.
In truth, no “amount of” or “skill with” this understanding can directly change our experience. Not even our talking about, reading about, or listening to this description of how our experience is shaped can alter how the gift of thought shows up from G-d. I can know about how the experience of “burdens” work and yet still desire to chuck them. This understanding, to the best I grasp it, is not a technique or tool.
To me, it’s simply the truth that all there is is me and G-d.
A person might ask, “Well, I’ve been learning about this understanding for months or years, and though I’ve seen some very nice things, I still regularly feel like chucking the burden of me, my child, etc. [author’s note: my hand goes up here]. So how is this helpful?”
Truth is always helpful.
And when one considers that G-d likens our growth to giving birth (“a righteous person’s primary children are his good deeds” Breishis Rabah, 30:6), we can take comfort. The “burdens” of our life are temporary, divinely induced contractions. There is nowhere else to be in the burden of a contraction than in the contraction: knowing it’s from G-d, knowing I can’t nor need change it; knowing it’s human; knowing it’s worth it; knowing it’s nothing more nor less than my unique mission of bringing new life to this world.
And no amount of understanding, skill, or prior births enable one to prevent contractions in bringing forth new babies. But we know: people give birth all the time. There’s pain, there’s a new baby, and we move forward with gratitude for the awesome experience, without need to revisit or solve the “trauma.”
One more thought: if this doesn’t feel helpful or hopeful, tune it out. G-d has so many ways to bring us help and encouragement. I have no authoritative claim that this message is necessary or right for you. As King David says, “G-d is close to all those who call Him, to all those who call Him with sincerity.” Not my teachings, nor my ideas. Sincere turning to Him because after all, it’s just me and Him.