created at: 2011-03-20

Rabbi Yitzi Weiner: “How to Eliminate Negative Feelings From Your Self or Others”  

The Talmud emphasizes the importance of developing the quality of Anava- loosely translated as humility. What Anava means is to internalize that you are not an Adon- a Lord or Superior.  Therefore, when humble, we realize that we aren’t gods and things don’t have to work the way we want. When we expect things to work out and they don’t, it can cause a lot of stress. For example, when caught in a traffic jam, we get upset because all the other cars on the road couldn’t have left at a time that would make things convenient for us. We really say to ourselves, “What are all these cars doing on the road when I need to go somewhere?”. In a sense we expect the universe to revolve around us as its axis. When you look at it that way it is really quite humorous.  When we are not the world’s Master, we can be more flexible to accept the challenges, pressures, and stresses of daily life. We will have more patience and understanding with others.

When internalizing Anava, we do not feel superior to others. If I am blessed with talent, intelligence, beauty, or wealth, that does not make me superior to others who don’t have those gifts. Anava teaches us to have a healthy self assessment of our talents, but to realize that our gifts, are simply gifts given to us by God. We aren’t superior to others because of these gifts. This attitude allows us to become appreciative of these gifts, but more importantly it prevents us from walking around feeling superior to others. When we don’t feel that we are superior to others, we enter a wonderful portal to a world where we can let petty arguments slide, and where we don’t take offence when we feel that we should have been treated with more respect. (I am obviously not referring to letting oneself be mistreated or abused.)  Very often we take offence at things that are not offensive per se, but because we expect people to treat us with more honor. We don’t have to stand on ceremony every time we aren’t treated as lords.  

If a person can internalize the mindset of Anava, it can help develop a plethora of important character refinements. Here is a brief list:  

  1. You won’t treat others in a disdainful way because you feel that you are superior.
  2. You will treat all people with respect regardless of whether they are in the “in crowd”.
  3. You won’t get upset when things don’t go the way you wanted.
  4.  You will be more equipped to forgive insults, and let go of resentment.
  5. When you don’t think you are superior you are able to learn from other people.
  6. You won’t think your opinion is always correct and will be open to other’s ideas. This will lead to better cooperation and teamwork.
  7. You will become a better listener because you will be able to listen instead of waiting to talk and say your opinion.
  8. You will be equipped to have an honest debate, and admit when you are wrong.
  9. You will not be embarrassed to ask questions.
  10. You will able to accept constructive criticism.
  11. You will be more self confident because you will be less concerned with what people think and less worried about failure.
  12.  You will not be embarrassed to do important things even if they are beneath your dignity.
  13. You will not be crushed by failure because you are not preoccupied what people think about you.
  14. You will not spend money on purchasing extravagant homes and cars simply for the status and recognition that they offer.

In conclusion, Anava leads one to being less self-absorbed, less selfish, leads to fewer arguments, greater serenity, and most of all, leads to greater happiness.

Rabbi Weiner is co-founder of The Community Kollel of Sharon, an educational resource for all of Sharon’s synagogues and Jewish institutions which helps to engage families in Jewish learning through strong personal relationships and engaging programming.