| When you walked into shul this morning and picked up your Shabbos
you may have noticed the conspicuous absence of the phrase 'Go Cards.'
And to those few of you who still might be in denial, I'm saddened
to tell you that the St. Louis Cardinals are not playing in the World Series
begins today, but rather -- it's a 'Subway Series' between the New York
and the New York Mets.
While we at NHBZ are focused on Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, it
that many New Yorkers are abuzz with the excitement of the first all-NY World
1956, and amongst the serious topics being discussed in the New York papers
what is the difference between a Mets fan, and a Yankees fan? The Thursday
edition of the NY Times interviewed one Allen Sherman, a 69 year old retiree
the Bronx, who stated that
"Yankee fans are much more highly educated. We have to be. It's harder to
spell Yankees than Mets. And we can curse in so many different languages. We
earn more, so when we throw a beer can it's those high-priced beer cans."
The best quote I saw concerning the 'Subway Series', and one that I'd
like to use
in introducing out topic today, came from none other than
the Mayor of New York City, himself -- Rudolph Guiliani, an avid Yankees fan.
asked if he thought people around the country would be fascinated with a
Series," Guiliani said, "who cares? We are the rest of the country."
I'm not sure whether Mayor Guiliani's remarks were offered
however, one of the themes of the Yom Tov davening is the importance of
humility before God, and how an arrogant inflated ego can actually preclude
developing trust in God. "Adon HaMoshiah, beel'techa ain l'hoshia" -- "You
Master of Salvation, and but for You, there is no salvation" -- our tefillos
on Sukkos emphasize that if we humble ourselves, and realize that our wisdom
is so limited and our resources so meager, then we can truly rejoice in this
that's referred to as 'Zman Simchasaynu' -- 'Our time of Joy' -- And have a
relationship with the Almighty.
A person who walks with true humility, is an awe-inspiring sight to see.
Talmud (Nedarim 66b) relates the story of a man who lived in Babylon who
to Israel, and took a wife. It seems, however, that their differences in
threatened the prospects of a happy home. One morning, the man asked
his wife to prepare him two 'talfi' for breakfast. 'Talfi' in Aramaic means
'animal legs' --
the man had a taste for a couple of leftover polkes from Shabbos for
His wife, however, missed the mark by a mile, when she made him a delicious
breakfast of -- two beans -- since the word 'talfi' in Hebrew means 'beans.'
this short-tempered husband ordered his wife to take two candles and break
over the 'bava' -- the Aramaic word for 'door,' or 'gate.' Once again
her husband, however, the confused woman approached one of the leading rabbis
of the generation who's named happened to be 'Bava ben Buta.' Fearing the
her husband, she complied by breaking the candles over 'the Bava' -- over the
of Bava ben Buta!
The Talmud relates that the response of the great sage was to ask the
perfectly reasonable question: "Why did you do that?" She responded by
"I'm doing what my husband told me to do!" The humble response of Bava ben
was, "You've fulfilled the will of your husband. May the Almighty bless you
who grow to be great Torah scholars."
Defining humility may be a bit elusive, but first lets clarify what
humility is not.
Humility does not mean making yourself into a shmatta (rag), and allowing
to walk over you right and left. Such a person -- and we all know such
are individuals suffering from a lack of self-esteem, and confuse humility
passivity. To be humble, from the Torah perspective, can be summed up in the
following succinct sentence: The person who is truly humble, is the one who
recognizes that "everything I have is a gift."
The humble person takes pleasure in their talents and skills, but not
person who walks with humility appreciates the material blessings that
given by God, but doesn't see themselves as fully deserving or worthy of
person who is truly humble gets along wonderfully with others, because their
doesn't prevent them from developing close friendships and relationships.
It's of interest to note that Torah is
likened to water. Why the comparison? Just as water always flows to the
point possible, so too, Torah gravitates most to the one least arrogant.
and Shmini Atzeres is a time to request that the Almighty bless us with
rain, in that it's the time that the world is judged concerning water. We
ourselves vessels for 'spiritual water' -- for Torah -- in the coming year,
by seeking to
integrate the character trait of humility.
I'd like to close with a story that highlights the topic we've been
today. Rabbi Jacob Cohen of Los Angeles told of an incident that occurred
he was in the midst of pursuing a doctorate at Fordham University - a Jesuit
in New York City. Required by the Sociology department to demonstrate mastery
in two foreign languages, Rabbi Cohen contacted the department office to see
could use 'Hebrew' as one his foreign languages. The receptionist responded
saying that no one at the Fordham Dept. of Sociology had ever attempted to use
Hebrew to meet their foreign language requirement, and to have that question
answered, Rabbi Cohen would have to speak to the department head -- an
individual named 'Father Fitzmeyer.'
Rabbi Cohen called Father Fitzmeyer, and asked the question. The jovial
Father Fitzmeyer said that his request was a bit unusual, but that the
would allow Hebrew to be used to meet his language requirement. Father
asked Rabbi Cohen when he'd like to take the exam -- would he need 6 months,
9 months, or a year to prepare? Rabbi Cohen said, "Oh no, I won't need
near that time. In fact, I was hoping to take the exam this coming Monday,
if it could
be arranged." "Fine," Father Fitzmeyer responded, "I'll see you in my office
morning at 9:00 am.
Nine o'clock the following Monday morning arrived, and Rabbi Cohen found
himself face to face with Father Fitzmeyer, dressed in full Dominican Monk
Rabbi Cohen said that he was quivering with delight when he found out that
Fitzmeyer himself would be administering the Hebrew exam, and that per Rabbi
Cohen's request, the exam would be oral. "How much can a 'Father Fitzmeyer'
know about Hebrew, Rabbi Cohen joyfully told himself?
Rabbi Cohen's self-assurance quickly faded, however, when Father
walked to his book shelf, took down a Tenach in Hebrew, and began grilling
Cohen on translations from the book of Job -- a book of Tenach that has
teeth-breaking Hebrew that even the most learned of rabbis find difficult.
After an hour and
a half of a grueling oral exam, Father Fitzmeyer closed the Tenach, looked at
perspiring, nervous Jack Cohen, and said, "Cohen -- your Hebrew isn't bad,
your English stinks! I've mastered 5 different translations of the Book of
you can barely come up with 'pshat' -- a barebones, basic translation!'
At this point, Rabbi Cohen was incredulous, and asked Father Fitzmeyer how
knew Hebrew so well. Father Fitzmeyer said, "Well, the truth is, Hebrew
best language. You see, Rabbi Cohen, my real area of expertise is Aramaic,
I was one of the translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls."
As a postscript to this story, Rabbi Cohen said that he thanked Father
for the test, and for the lesson in humility. With a twinkle in his eye,
Fitzmeyer said, "Well, Cohen, you did look a bit cocky."
One who is humble is pleasant, and gives pleasure to his fellow man. The
humble person isn't easily aroused to anger, and does things quietly and
One who walks humbly with God, isn't moved to envy by the vanities of the
Sukkos and Shmini Atzeres are referred to as 'Zman Simchasaynoo' -- 'Our time
happiness'. Happy is the one who improves their character traits, and
closer, more meaningful relationship with God.
Good Shabbos, and Good Yom Tov