Is it possible to climb up while you’re going down?

The Decalogue, referred to as the Ten Commandments, was written on Luchos, two tablets. Wouldn’t it have been appropriate to have all ten listed together? Why were the commandments divided into two groupings?

The first five relate to Mitzvos between man and G-d. The second set refers to Mitzvos between man and man. Faith and dealing with people are two distinct matters. However, mastering one particular trait can lead to success and achievement in both areas.

Prior to Shavuot, the Parsha of Bamidbar is read. As we prepare to relive the experience of receiving the Torah at Sinai, we are reminded that there is a critical component necessary for our spiritual growth. The Torah was given on the lowest mountain in the desert. “Words of Torah are firmly maintained by someone who lowers himself, and places himself like a desert.”[1] That is why in describing the events at Sinai the Torah states,” ‘Vayachanu bamidbar, they dwelled in the desert,’ meaning that they demonstrated humility, placing themselves like desert sand that anyone can tread upon.[2] Realizing one’s lowliness causes a person to look up to Hashem. He realizes the infinite greatness of the Almighty and opens his mind and heart to learn and do Hashem’s bidding.

Humility does more. The main element that leads to strife amongst people is their quest for kavod, honor. When Bnei Yisrael stood at the mountain and saw that Hashem chose it because of its lowliness, they took note and took that lesson to heart. Being honored by others was not their concern. This led to a rare moment in history that is recorded as the time that they stood together as one, as one person with one heart.[3]

In the last paragraph of the Shemoneh Esrei is a plea, “Vanafshi ceafar lakol tihyeh, may my soul be like dust to everyone.” What kind of plea is that? Who wants to feel like dust? The prayer is a request for Divine assistance in strengthening us with humility.

What is the plea that comes afterwards? “Pesach libi beTorasecha, open my heart in Your Torah.” It is placed there deliberately. If a person lowers himself, he can then be in position to grow in Torah. Indeed this is the mode of conduct that is guaranteed to yield great results in the Mitzvos between man and man and those between man and G-d. However, there is even more, “Ubemitzvosecha tirdof nafshi, may my soul run to perform Mitzvos.” Someone might think that a humble person is limited, while the opposite is the reality. That person will have great enthusiasm and excitement every day.

Do we realize that the lower we go, the higher we get?


Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Hershel D. Becker

[1] Eruvin 54a

[2] Ohr Hachaim Yisro 19:2

[3] Loc. cit., Klei Yakar Yisro 19:2