The Way of Humility is living as the Image of God, an Ambassador of Zion

As we continue our study on Humility, it is time for us to go back to our definition again: "Occupy a rightful space, neither too much nor too little. Focus neither on your own virtues nor the faults of others (Alan Morinis. Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar p. 45.)."  This brings up the question:

What is our Rightful Place?

I have evoked that we are created in the Image of God, The Tzelem Elohim, so the question is, what does that mean?  To discover the answer we need to look at 2 versions of the same passage:

What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,
— Psalm 8:4-6 (NAS)
But one has testified somewhere, saying, “WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? “YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
— Hebrews 2:6-8 (NAS)

Did you notice the difference? 

Are we made lower than God or the Angels?

The answer is both, sort of.  Let me explain.

In the Psalm, the Hebrew word used is Elohim (God), and in the Letter to the Hebrews, the Greek word used is Aggelos (Angel).  Is this a contradiction or a mistranslation?  The answer is tricky, but kind of neither.

I am not familiar with another word in another language that has a meaning like Elohim.

Elohim means God in Fullness, all the energies of God, and every one and thing that participates within the Divine Nature.  It incorporates Yesh (God as the Ground of Being) and Ayin (The Nothingness of God), as well as the Heavenly Host (The Angels and Saints) and often the Just who are still living in this world who act according with the energies of God (Psalm 82:6; John 10:34).

The author of Hebrews uses the translation of Angels to highlight the argument he is making.  It is not a mistranslation, but it focuses on a part of the meaning rather than the whole.

What does it mean to be made a little lower than Elohim?

First of all, it means that we were made with Free Will.  Our nature is not forced to submit to a will that is not our own.  Since we can choose our actions, we can align ourselves with justice or injustice.

It also means we do not have an exact copy of the Yesh (Being) and Ayin (Emptiness) of God in our nature.  Instead, we have:

  • a Yetzer ha-tov, a shadow of the Ayin (Emptiness) of God.  This is our inclination toward unity, and it is often an inclination toward good.
  • a Yetzer ha-ra, a shadow of the Yesh (Being) of God.  This is our inclination toward individuality and separateness, and it is often an inclination toward evil.

I use the word often because neither of these inclinations are purely good or evil, and that is what makes them hard to navigate in between.

Our spirit is a trinity just like God, we have a Nashamah, a Ruach, and a Nefesh.  I just wanted to mention that now, I will go into more detail about that later.  Sorry about that, but I don't have enough time to go into that in this post.

Humility is the path between our two sides

True Humility is learning to live our lives as the Images of God that we are by walking carefully between these two sides of ourselves.  We have, in fact, been talking about this all along.

The Yetzer ha-tov of Humility is self-effacement.  The Yetzer ha-ra of humility is Arrogance.  Like with everything in the life of the Spirit, we need to learn to walk the middle path.

Armed with this knowledge, we now have the tools to determine our individual level of Humility in each and every circumstance we find ourselves.  Ask yourself:

  • Am I conforming too much? 
  • Have I submitted myself too much to the authority of others?
  • Have I allowed someone or something else to take up more space than it rightfully should?
  • Am I standing out too much?
  • Am I being to obstinate, forcing my will on others in a way that I have no right to do?
  • Am I taking up more space than I have any right to?
  • Am I taking up so much space I have left no space for others?
  • Have I allowed my opinions or comfort to blind myself to the needs of others that I should pay attention to?

These are only some of the questions we could ask.  Once we learn to question our inclinations to unity, conformity, individuality, and separateness, we can properly discern our rightful place, and develop a just and balanced sense of humility in ourselves.

May we all learn to walk this middle path.