Vayishlach: When Success Breeds Humility

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This week’s lesson is dedicated in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of Gavriel Noach Druk, by his parents Rabbi Mendel and Rochel Druk, Cancun, Mexico

What causes people to be magnanimous? What’s the right way to handle success? When the first Chabad Rebbe bested his opponents and achieved legitimacy for the new Chassidic movement, he wrote a letter to his followers which set their priorities straight.

Lesson Contents:

A. Goodness for the Guilty

It is customary to recite the Hagomel blessing upon surviving a dangerous situation (source 1). The Rebbe draws attention to the perplexing working of the blessing — “who bestows goodness upon the guilty.” Why are we drawing attention to our guilt?

B. Jacob’s Humble Prayer

When the Alter Rebbe left prison, he wrote a letter titled “Katonti,” in which he encouraged the Chassidim not to seek revenge. It was based on this week’s Torah portion; when Jacob asks G-d to deliver him from Esau’s hand, he says, “Katonti—I am unworthy.” Rashi explains the literal meaning — that he though the ‘used up’ all his merits (Source 2). But the Alter Rebbe illuminated it with a deeper explanation.

C. The Closeness Effect

As the Rebbe explains, the Alter Rebbe says that when a person experiences a closeness with G-d, he becomes elevated to a higher plane and sees things differently. Suddenly, was seemed acceptable earlier now seems unseeming. He therefore finds himself unworthy.

The same explanation is brought for the blessing regarding for forgiveness in the Amidah. If we already reached the Amidah, shouldn’t we have already achieved forgiveness? Rather, we discover new deficiencies in ourselves as we become more refined.

D. Resolving the Blessing

This resolves our initial question: It is specifically when we experience significant miracles that we become more aware of G-d and therefore more aware of our own deficiencies.

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