Thursday, June 6, 2013

Torah Thought Thursday- Greater than You

I've decided to add another installment to my blog, Torah Thought Thursday (I can't get alliteration out of my head!) to bring some Torah to my blog. I have posts waiting in the wings that are topics in halacha, but there's no straight up Torah, and this blog definitely calls for some of that. So, I hope, hope, to post a thought every Thursday. Some weeks will be on the parsha, some on davening, and some on whatever pops into my head. The only feature of it that will be uniform is that it will be short. (My definition of short is that the gist of it can be said over in less than 2 minutes)


איזה הוא חכם? הלומד מכל אדם. Who is wise? One who learns from every human being. This is an incredible thought- one of my favorites in Pirkei Avos- and it's something I try to keep in mind when meeting new people or just seeing people around. I've learned a lot about myself and discovered qualities that I would like to acquire and hone by thinking about this. 

I was talking to an associate (not the right word, but there isn't really a good one out there to describe our relationship) the other night, and she said "[everyone] deserve(s) to be respected."

At the time, I agreed, recalled and mentioned that the Igeres HaRamban says that, and we moved on shortly thereafter.

What she said stuck in my head though, and it's been sitting in my head processing ever since.

From what I understand of the Igeres HaRamban (a letter that was written by the Ramban to his son), he takes the idea of learning something from everyone a step further. 

The words of the Igeres HaRamban: וכל אדם יהיה גדול ממך בעיניך. Consider everyone as greater than yourself. 

I've read those words dozens of time in my life, and they've sunk in, but never did I have an epiphany like the one I had this time. 

Consider. Everyone. As. Greater. Than. Yourself. 

Pardon me for a moment. WHAAAAAATTTTTT???!!!!!!!!!!!!

I mean, WOW! 

It's amazing for someone to be able to learn something from everyone (what not to do, what to do, negative character traits that can be utilized in a positive way, etc.), but considering everyone greater than yourself? My goodness. 

The Ramban is saying that criminals, lowlifes, people with no midos, etc. etc. etc. should be perceived by us as being greater. The classic example is Esav. There's an entire section of Ishei HaTanach (Encyclopedia of Biblical Personalities) that discusses Esav's wickedness. But, there's also an entire section of how he honored his father, Yitzchak. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said that no man ever honored his father the way he did, but he found that Esav honored his father even more than him. 

In that, we can find a way to regard Esav as being greater than us, even with all of his faults and sins. 

I've written in the past about not judging others because we don't know what they've been through or what they've experienced. But I've learned something. It's not a matter of not judging people. Nor is it about or not respecting them. It's infinitely more than that. We have to think that they're greater than us! 

That's an incredible idea and has forced me over the past few days to really reconsider my friendships, relationships and how I treat others. 

It's hard to be disgusted by someone's actions and still think that they're greater than me, but I remembered something else in the Igeres HaRamban: שׁאם הוא חוטא הוא שוגג ואתה מזיד- If he sins, it is the result of error, while your transgression is deliberate. 

That says it all.

Now, it's not so hard to think someone's greater than me.

PS. There's so much more that can be said on this- that I want to say on this- but I did say I'd keep it short. If you want to hear more on this topic, let me know in the comments or shoot me an email :)


  1. I enjoyed this post. Food for thought :)

    1. Thanks for your comment! I appreciate it. I wasn't sure if it would be as clear to readers reading it as was to me in my head, so thanks for the feedback!

  2. Love the new installment! Great d'var Torah. It really makes you stop and think. It's very humbling. I'd love to hear more on this :-)

    1. Thanks and thanks!

      Ya, it's been on my mind since I first thought of the idea. Powerful.

      Woohoo! I was hoping to hear that. Working on the second installment now. Though by the looks of things, it might need a third one too. Guess we'll have to wait and see :)