Parshas Va’eschanan: When NOT to be pious

Don’t let your growth hurt those around you!

Moshe Rabbeinu was desperate to get into the Land of Israel. So much so, that we are taught that Moshe uttered 515 prayers, begging Hashem to allow him entry, despite being banned from entering the land after hitting the rock for water instead of speaking to it. Yet the Torah quotes Moshe as saying “I implored Hashem”. Rashi says that imploration is a form of prayer one uses to request something he doesn’t deserve. He goes on to say that Righteous people, Tzaddikim, never feel that they are entitled to anything Hashem grants them.
But, asks the Maharal, when Moshe later reminded the people of the shameful incident of the spies, he said that he “prayed to Hashem” to have Him forgive them. Here he did used his own merits to make an argument! Why the change in approach?
The Maharal’s answer gives us incredible insight into the thought process of a Tzaddik. Moshe Rabbeinu wasn’t blowing his own trumpet in his interest, but was doing so on behalf of the people. Humility was Moshe’s trademark. To paraphrase a certain man of power (who, sadly, seems to lack this trait), no one ‘did’ humility better than Moshe. He did not feel worthy of Hashem’s kindness, despite having a lifetime of merits under his belt. But when it came to others, Moshe used every merit he had to advocate before G-D. All humility went out the window.
In Judaism, there is a concept of not being a ‘pious fool’. One has to know when to put his own growth out of the picture. One rabbi (I forget who) was known to rile against people who would hear others cry about their financial problems and tell them to have faith because “Hashem will help”. Those rich people are expected, at that moment, to keep their self-righteous faith talk to reach into their pockets and help their friend. Not lecture them!
Because true growth never comes at the expense of others!

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