Rav Avigdor Miller on Parshat Bamidbar: Walking Secretly with Hashem.
(It also contains the inspiring and illuminating story of Rav Yosef Zundel, the rebbe of Rav Yisroel Salanter, the firstborn & the Kohanim, insights into the Biblical nazir, gratitude, how to walk with Hashem, how to eat breakfast in the most spiritually effective way, how to become one of the greatest personalities of your generation in your own kitchen, and the real - and realistic - way to become your spiritual best.)
What are the 3 Things Hashem Wants from You?
- (1) "The first is עשות משפט [asot mishpat/do the law] – 'Keep the Torah.' That’s the basics, the minimum. You have to keep all the dinim of the Torah."
- (2) "The second is אהבת חסד [ahavat chessed/love of kindness] – 'You have to be willing to do favors for others Jews. You have to like to help other Jews, to do chesed'."
- (3) "And the third thing, the best of all things, the avodah that will make you truly great is הצנע לכת עם השם אלוקיך [hatzne'ah lechet im Hashem Elokecha] – 'You should walk with Hashem in a way that nobody could see it'.”
What was the Real Greatness of Our First Jews?
Rav Miller explains:
In order to better understand how important this career, the career of walking secretly with Hashem really is, we’ll listen to a statement from the Mesillas Yesharim [Pathways of the Just by Rav Moshe Chaim Luzatto].
He says: והנה זהו המבחן האמיתי – “This was the real test in which our forefathers were tested”.
And he explains as follows:
The greatness of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov was not in the great acts they did.
Now, we have to understand this properly because absolutely, these were men who performed great acts and wonderful deeds. No question about it.
But if we would measure them by their deeds alone as most people are wont to do, we would be underestimating their greatness.
The true greatness of the forefathers was in that whatever they did, they did it with thoughts of Hashem in their minds.
Their spiritual greatness exists within each of us too.
And their spiritual greatness was their humility and their focus.
In other words, it was the silent service of their heart.
Here's more from Rav Avigdor Miller [emphasis mine-MR]:
That’s the true greatness of our Avos.
The acts that they did, the simple acts, the things we also do, were what made them great.
They weren’t heroic acts in the sense that we think of today. Because we think about chitzoniyus [externality] and nothing else.
But that’s not what Hashem is looking at. השם יראה ללבב.
And because our Avos walked secretly with Hashem, it was these simple acts that made them our heroes.
That’s the true measure of a person’s greatness.
What Comes before Spiritual Greatness? Lowliness.
This blog has already written about the greatness of quieter heroines like Leah Imeinu and Chana, plus a very quiet hero that came out of nowhere...Gidon.
Or we see astounding leaps from lowly anonymity to supreme status.
For example, up until Shmuel Hanavi made his famous visit to the house of Yishai, David Hamelech was just an unwanted shepherd boy. He was the redheaded youngest of a bunch of handsome & charismatic boys and everyone thought he was of halachically illegitimate birth (which he wasn't).
He spent much of his life alone, with only smelly sheep for company.
He fought with wild animals, suffered through endless summer days, and quietly communed with Hashem while taking exceptionally good care of the sheep.
But Hashem had already crowned him king.
At the very moment he was a despised illegitimate (or so everyone falsely assumed) outside in his shepherd's clothes with all the smelly sheep, he'd already been designated King of Yisrael by the King of the Universe.
(Please see Shmuel I:16 for that episode.)
Davka BECAUSE David Hamelech made the most of his status as quiet, alone, and despised, he was chosen for eternal greatness and to be the progenitor of Mashiach.
The Key to Spiritual Greatness
NEVER GIVE UP!
And so, you frustrated people; you who feel like your lives are mundane lives, and that your dreams of greatness have been dashed on the sharp rocks of reality.
Had you been a Rosh Yeshiva, you would have founded big Torah schools, and you could have said big shiurim and pilpulim. And you could’ve raised up talmidim. Ahh! The sweet taste of greatness. That would have made you great.
Or people have other ideas how to be a success in life. Whatever it is, people are frustrated. I speak to people and they feel they missed out on the great opportunity in life of being great in the eyes of Hashem.
But if you came here just to hear what I’m going to tell you know, it was worth it.
So those of you who are dozing off, perk up for a few minutes.
Because there is still open a great career for every man, for every woman and for every child who dreams of success in this world. There is a career that is available to you that would make you more successful than you could have ever imagined in your wildest dreams.
And that’s the career of walking secretly with Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
And it should be such a secret that nobody should know about it.
Even your wife doesn’t have to know about it. Now if your wife comes to these lectures, what could you do already, but as much as you can, you walk in secret with Hashem. Your friends shouldn’t know and your children shouldn’t know.
When you walk secretly with Hashem, the key to success is to keep it a secret from everybody.
* * *
And so, any man who trains himself, or a woman who trains herself, anyone who adopts this as a career in life is bound to succeed.
Because that’s the true greatness, that’s the greatness of the Avos and that’s the potential success of any person.
"It’s not the spectacular deeds that will make you spectacular; it’s the ordinary deeds, the ones you do, that when accompanied with the devotion of the mind that truly makes a man great!"