Parashat Pinhas

Heroic or Sinful?

Zealous acts are not always heroic.

Print this page Print this page

Humility & Introspection

Rabbi Leiner suggests two qualities that can bring us closer to a place of certainty as we make choices about how to act in the world. The first is humility. We should develop a wise, balanced humility that recognizes our own human frailty rather than a crushing "repulsive humility," as Rabbi Leiner terms it, which makes us see ourselves as worthless or incapable of action.
Humility helps us recognize our fallible human nature and keeps us aware of the fact that there is always the possibility, in some way or element, that we have misjudged our circumstances. Humility leaves us no less committed, but rather bolstered with the ever present possibility of re-examining our commitments to both ideals and action.

The second precursor to ethical action is a deep process of introspection, by which one attempts to make sure that no misplaced ego-driven motives--anger, revenge, self-righteousness, image, fame, fear, desire, etc.--are in fact motivating one's actions. Appropriate action, Rabbi Leiner teaches, can only be discovered by courageously going within and investigating the place from which our struggle for justice emerges.

Such introspection and humility can prevent us from acting rashly based on our anger and misguided self-certainty. When we do decide to act, we must act with the purity, compassion, and clarity that bring healing rather than division. When we approach activism with humility and deep introspection, we have done our best to ensure that our choices will be right.

The true political activist, then, must also be a spiritual activist. Only thus, our parashah teaches, can we avoid the pitfall of zealotry and wisely dance through the different modes of political action in order to bring justice to our world.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels

Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels teaches Jewish thought and mysticism at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.