"Like the sun in its might"
In our haftorah we read the Song of Devorah, which Devorah the Prophetess sang to Hashem on the occasion of the downfall of Sisera, general of the mighty armies of Canaan. Devorah sings of the hardships that the Jews experienced during those difficult times, of their feeling defenseless and dispirited. Then she extols the heroism of those who bravely took up arms to fight against Sisera. Finally, she describes the heroic deed of Yael the wife of Heber the Keni, who took up a hammer and spike and drove the spike right through Sisera's head while he slept. Devorah closes with the words, "So may all of your enemies fall, Hashem! But those who love Him shall be as the sun rising in its might."
The Sages of the Talmud offer the following comment in connection with that last phrase: "Those who are insulted but do not return the insult, who suffer embarrassment and do not respond ... concerning them it is written, 'But those who love Him shall be as the sun rising in its might.'"
Daas Zekeinim (Bereishis 1:16) explains the comparison. The midrash teaches that when Hashem created the world, He originally made the sun and the moon equal in size and brightness. But then the moon complained, "How can two kings reign with one crown?" The sun, hearing this, remained silent. Because of those words of the moon, Hashem diminished the moon's own stature and left the sun as the sole ruler of the heavens. [Note: The commentators understand this to be an allegory laden with mystical meaning. A full discussion of this would go beyond the scope of this essay.]
Explains Daas Zekainim: Since the sun remained silent in the face of this verbal assault, he received sole dominion over the skies. This is what the Talmud means when it says that those who are insulted but do not return the insult--about them it is written, "Those who love Him shall be as the sun rising in its might."
How does one find the strength of heart to be able to listen to insults without responding in kind? The answer may lie in the opening words of the verse: "Those who love Him." We must not judge ourselves on the basis of what others say, or we will spend our whole lives trying to be accepted by everyone. We can be impervious to insults if they really don't matter--because there's Someone out there whose opinion is the only one that counts for us.
As Rema writes in his opening glosses to the Shulchan Aruch: "When one takes to heart that the great King, Hashem Almighty ... stands over him and sees his actions ... he will not be embarrassed before others who mock him."
Copyright (c) 1997 by Rabbi Levi Langer
Courtesy of JewishAmerica (www.JewishAmerica.com)
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