Parashat Ekev

The Challenges Of Humility

We should respond to our prosperity with recognition of the factors that lead to our success and with humility before God.

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North American Jews enjoy a level of prosperity and freedom that is unprecedented in the history of the Jewish people. This is good. Or is it? Does living comfortably lead us to take what we have for granted? The "American dream" teaches us that if we work hard, we can climb the ladder of success. But when we do succeed, who deserves the credit? Are our own hard work and intelligence the only reasons for our success?

We are not being truly honest if we don't admit that there are other contributing factors. The family into which we are born, the schools we attend, and the communities in which we are raised all play a major role in who we become and how we succeed.

And then there is God. Does God play a role? For what should we be grateful to God? The answer to this question depends to some degree on one's personal theology. Do we believe that God intervenes in our lives in some way or not? And even if we do not believe that God has an effect on events, we have much for which to be grateful. God as Creator has made a world in which so much is possible. God has created each human being with many gifts--gifts that can help each of us lead a better life.

In this era of advanced technology, scientific knowledge, and material success, it is very easy for us to lose our humility and sense of awe. In a world on the verge of cloning human beings, it is easy for us to become arrogant about what we can accomplish and to forget that God is the Source of all.

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Paula L. Feldstein is a rabbi at Temple Emanuel, Worcester, MA.