M’odeid anavim Hashem; mashpil r’sha’im adei aretz.

Hashem encourages the humble; He lowers the wicked down to the ground.


Thus far, the theme of this mizmor has been Hashem’s hashgachah pratis (Divine Providence) in our lives. In the last segment, we ended off with “lisvunaso ein mispar (His understanding is beyond calculation)”: Understanding Hashem’s hashgachah has no calculation. The amount of interconnecting pieces is limitless.

Our current pasuk contains two clauses that, on the surface, should present two opposites. Hashem encourages and supports the “anavim” (humble ones), whereas He lowers the “r’sha’im” (wicked) to the ground. However, the opposite of humility would seem to be arrogance and not wickedness. Why doesn’t the latter phrase address the arrogant instead of the wicked?

The Rambam writes that for all character traits except arrogance and anger, one should follow the middle road. When it comes to arrogance and anger, one must go to the extreme and eradicate any trace of arrogance and anger. What makes these two traits so horrendous that we need to be extreme?

If we examine these two traits closely, we find that they really both stem from one source. One generally gets angry because he is arrogant and expects everything to go his way, since he is the center of the Universe and “in control.” Such a person has very low tolerance for others, because he gets upset whenever he doesn’t get his way. The word “anav,” aside from meaning humble, also means tolerant (Rashi). An anav is a tolerant person because he understands that all comes from Hashem. Therefore, he sees Hashem first and foremost in any situation, including ones that negatively impact him, even if that pain or annoyance was caused by a human being. The anav understands that the human being was only a messenger. This outlook enables the anav to calmly work out any relationship issues, because he is not reacting out of anger, since he knows the actual hurt was intended to come his way from Hashem. He would have experienced that hurt regardless of who the messenger was. Now he simply needs to address the messenger calmly to understand why he or she chose to be the messenger and work out any issues in their relationship.

Why are arrogance and anger so evil? They stem from a lack of emunah that Hashem runs the world and every detail and aspect of our lives and our day. The only things we control are our efforts and our choices. This is why the second half of the pasuk uses the term “r’sha’im” (wicked), which on the surface is not the direct opposite of “anavim.” The opposite of humility is arrogance; but if one is arrogant, he is in fact a rasha who does not truly believe in Hashem. He is wicked with respect to his relationship with Hashem and in his relationship with others. That arrogant, wicked person needs to remember that one day when his life here ends, he will be lowered to the ground, and then he will certainly come to understand Who was in control. Conversely, the humble person, understanding that everything is controlled by Hashem, is tolerant in all situations, thereby making him beloved by Hashem and by all human beings. Hashem encourages and supports such a person.


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