Hypocritical Humility

Kli Yakar Deuteronomy: Devarim

Hypocritical Humility

“And the Devil did grin, for his darling sin is pride that apes humility.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

At the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, Rashi informs us that the younger men deferred and were humble in front of the older learned men. They respectfully let the elders approach the mountain first and be ‘first’ on line to receive the word of God and the Commandments.

However, in the request of the children of Israel to send the spies into Canaan, it was a less orderly group that approached Moses. The younger ones pushed their way past their elders demanding that Moses send a reconnaissance mission to check out their future possessions in the Promised Land.

The Kli Yakar (Deuteronomy 1:22) explains that in their eagerness to promote their material prospects and wealth, the younger men forgot about the respect due their elders. Furthermore, the Kli Yakar accuses these impatient youngsters that their former obsequiousness at the giving of the Torah was merely a sham, a false humility, and was actually indicative of their disdain for the Torah. Whatever meekness they demonstrated in regards to acquiring the word of God and approaching Him were ruinously misplaced. It showed instead the priority they gave to wealth by the sudden brazenness they exhibited at just the hint of earthly gain.

It follows that this precedence of wealth over the word of God was the motivation of the ill-considered mission of the spies that concluded with the tragic curse of the 9th of Av. That was the day the spies returned and gave their evil, damning and dooming report. Besides the punishment of wandering the desert for forty years, God promised that on that day we would mourn for generations, most notably for the destruction of the Temples.

The false humility and the faulty priorities proved to be our downfall and the source of anguish and failure that has lasted millennia.

May we be less deferential in seeking the word of God and keep our priorities straight.

Shabbat Shalom and a Meaningful Fast,



In memory of Rabbi Elazar Abuchatzera of Beer Sheva, the grandson of the revered kabalistic sage, the Baba Sali. His murder by a deranged follower is yet another tragedy in a long list of tragedies that seem to occur in this period. May his memory be a blessing and protect us during tumultuous times.

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