| Second Thoughts |

The Pinnacle of Humility: a Purim Treatise

Year after year, I wait expectantly for the announcement, and year after year, my name never appears


Once again it has happened. The Nobel Prize for literature has been awarded, and once again it was not yours truly who won the prize, but someone else entirely. Year after year, I wait expectantly for the announcement, and year after year, my name never appears.

It is obvious that the Nobel committee does not read Mishpacha magazine. If they did, one of us would certainly have captured the prize. If not I, then surely one of our other regulars — Eisenman or Kobre or Rosenblum — surely qualifies.

I must confess: Maybe I am just not good enough. I keep hoping, but chances are that I will never get that prize for literature. It is very possible that the quality of my writing is not up to the standards of the Nobel people. This is hard for me to admit, but in my humility, I must admit it.

But now an idea strikes me. If I cannot win the prize for literature, surely I could win it for humility. The Nobel committee does not have a prize for humility? Well, it is time they created one, and I am available to be the first recipient. To be perfectly frank, I know of no one who is more humble than I.

I can just see it now. I am announced worldwide as the first winner of the Nobel for Humility. My picture is in all the newspapers, am flown to Stockholm, feted and celebrated. At the king of Sweden’s gala dinner attended by Scandinavian royalty, I am invited to deliver my acceptance speech.

Which I do with a flourish, relating how my beginnings were of aristocracy and privilege, with liveried chauffeurs, personal trainers, private tutors, fast cars and  horses, trips to exotic islands, deep-sea fishing, gorgeous yachts, every earthly pleasure at my beck and call, until arrogance,  haughtiness, and condescension toward everyone were my hallmarks. And how, despite all this, through iron will and determination, I worked my way down to penury and poverty, until I reached the depths of humility that I represent today.

I conclude my peroration by encouraging everyone not to give up the struggle to reach the bottom, but to keep working at it. The slide down the greasy pole is not an easy one; it is filled with temptations to give up the quest. There will be seductive distractions that try to convince you that you are a worthwhile individual , that you have merit, that your life has meaning and purpose, that people who know you care for you and truly value you. Pay them no attention. Stay focused on the ultimate goal: to recognize that you are inferior and inconsequential. By so doing you will achieve genuine, unadulterated humility,

In my speech I make one practical suggestion:  list all your weaknesses, failures, mistakes, faults, deficiencies, shortcomings, and inferiorities. Study this list, and absorb it into your consciousness, and soon you will be overcome by a sense of complete worthlessness — which is a vital first step on your journey.

The royal audience listens in rapt attention, completely mesmerized by my story, and then explodes with a ten- minute standing ovation. Again and again, I am called back to the podium to take a bow, after which I am escorted back to my hotel in the king’s personal limousine.

Plaudits and honors follow swiftly. Before I leave Stockholm, a major book publisher offers me a contract to write a how-to-become-humble book. A lecture tour is next, and then a triumphant book-signing in major world capitals. The New York Times runs a feature entitled, “Humility: The Next Big Thing,” and I am interviewed on international TV. To climax it all, I am offered a contract to make a movie, but in all humility, I turn it down.

Is it easy to become humble? No. It takes grit, determination, and the backbone to resist those occasional flashes of self-worth. But as you approach that  rock-bottom nadir, keep in mind that the road to Stockholm is not far away.

I was just wondering: Can one win a Nobel two times in a row?


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 902)

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