Humbled and Honored

In his plea to Hashem before confronting Esav, Yaakov says “I have become small by all of the kindness and truth You have bestowed upon [me]” (32:11). The commentaries try to explain the meaning of of Yaakov’s “smallness”. Rashi says it means the lessening of his merit, after all of the kindness Hashem already granted him (he therefore pleads for Hashem’s extra protection with Esav). The Ramban, echoing the Midrash, explains that it refers to his humility, that he is undeserving of all of the kindness bestowed upon him.

 

The Sfas Emes, however, quotes a novel approach from his grand-Rebbe, the Chozeh of Lublin. Instead of explaining that the “smallness” is a product of the good things he received, The Chozeh explains that Yaakov is explaining that his humility is one of the kindnesses Hashem granted him. Meaning, that through all of the tremendous blessings granted to Yaakov, he could have easily grown entitled and egoistic about Hashem’s favoritism towards him. But it wasn’t only that Yaakov was humbled by Gd’s gifts, but that even his humility he saw as a gift. 

 

It’s easier to feel appreciation for the external blessings we’ve been given- our homes, our education, our families. But sometimes it’s difficult to admit that who we are as people is also due to others. Our intelligence has been groomed by our parents and teachers. Our kindness has been cultivated by the friends and family that have modeled those behaviors. Even our own humility is due to others. While these character traits are products of our decision process, and it seems like we make them out of our own free will, they are still influenced by others. For Yaakov, and us, we appreciate how everything we have -even our own personalities- are gifts from Hashem. On this Thanksgiving weekend, we appreciate others; not only for the gifts we’ve received, but for the people we’ve become.