A Word (or Two) of Wisdom This Inauguration Day

Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto (known by his initials RaMHaL) was an eighteenth-century mystic, whose most famous work is Mesillat Yesharim, The Path of the Upright. In his discussion of humility, Luzzatto notes, “You will observe that the more ignorant a man is, the more conceited he is.” In support of this contention, he goes on to cite several classical Jewish sources in rapid-fire succession. He begins with the Zohar, the quintessential work of Jewish mysticism. “When a man boasts, it is a sign that he knows nothing.” This is followed by a Talmudic aphorism from the tractate of Baba Metzia, “When there is only one penny in the pitcher, it makes much noise.” He concludes with a folkloristic text taken from Genesis Rabbah, “The trees that bear no fruit were once asked, ‘Why can one hear you rustling?’ ‘So that we might be heard and noticed,’ was their reply.”

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Hal Lewis