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Tuesday, Iyar 9, 5779 / May 14, 2019 (24th day of the Omer)


In the fourth chapter of Pirkei Avot, which will be recited this Shabbat in Israel, the Talmudic sage, Rabbi Meir teaches us, “Be humble before every person.”


This past Shabbat, in the Diaspora, we read the second chapter of Pirkei Avot.  One of the many lessons in the chapter is the teaching of the Talmudic sage, Rabbi Eliezer. It reads as follows: "Rabbi Eliezer says: “Let the honor of your fellow be as dear to you as your own.”


Rabbi Eliezer teaches us that one should respect and honor others just as they would want to have others honor him.


Rabbi Shmelke of Nikelsburg, one of the Chassidic masters, had a unique interpretation of the above teaching of Rabbi Eliezer, as seen in the following story.  


When Rabbi Shmelke came to the city of Nikelsburg to assume the position of rabbi, all the Jews of the city came out to greet their new rabbi. Then he was shown to his residence, where the leaders of the community showered him with great honor.


In the middle of the ceremonies, Rabbi Shmelke excused himself and went into another room. Everyone was sure that he was tired and wanted to rest. However, one person went and peeked into the Rabbi's room.


To his amazement, he saw Rabbi Shmelke talking to himself and singing his own praise; "Shalom Rabbi Shmelke; What a great honor to have you as Rabbi of our city…” He went on singing his own praises. Eventually, Rabbi Shmelke rejoined everyone.


Later, this person came over to Rabbi Shmelke and said, "Rabbi, I must confess that I listened to you while you were yourself in the room and I am very puzzled by what I heard. Why would you be giving yourself compliments?"


Rabbi Shmelke explained, "When I heard everyone praising me, I feared that all the praise might go to my head and make me h

aughty. So I went into the other room and began praising myself.  Realizing how ridiculous it sounded to hear my own praise, I decided that when others praise me it will affect me exactly the same way!"


"This is how I explain the advice of our sages, 'Let the honor of your fellow be as dear to you as your own'," concluded Rabbi Shmelke, "Let the praise and honor which your fellow praises you be as meaningless to you as when you honor and praise yourself!"