Anavah (Redux)

In responding to my first attempt to define “anavah” (on “Der Alter“) RYGB wrote, “According to RSRH, anavah is derived from anah, to respond. Perhaps an anav is one who feels an acharayus to answer for everything he does.”In preparing a devar Torah for my son’s bar mitzvah, I thought of a different spin on the idea.When we’re conversing with someone, what are we doing while they are talking? Do we spend the whole time searching for launching points for what we want to say? Or, do we actually listen to appreciate to what they are trying to relate? The former stance is that of ga’avah, of the hubris of believing that what we have to say and contribute is primary; certainly my insight is brighter, my chiddush (novellum) more inspiring, and my perspective more valuable. When when the anav speaks, he responds.

Dr. Alan Morinis, when defining anavah, points to the gemara (Berachos 6b) which states, “Anyone who sets a particular place for himself to daven, the G-d of Avraham stands in his aid, and when he dies, people say of him, ‘this was an anav, this was a chasid, this is a student of Avraham our father'”.

Perhaps the idea is that the ba’al ga’avah believes that the best world is one with the most him in it. Whereas anav knows he fits in a larger scheme of things. Therefore, rather than trying to impose his view, he perfects the world by seeing how he is supposed to fit, what his place is.

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