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The Duties of the Heart, by Rabbi Bachye, tr. by Edwin Collins, [1909], at

p. 33

Humility, True and False

Humility is lowliness of the soul; and it is a quality of the soul that, when established there, allows its signs to be evident in the bodily members. The voice, for instance, is softened, and so is the language it utters; and one is subdued in times of anger, and vengeance is withheld when one has the power to avenge.

But there are three kinds of humility. One kind of humility is shared by man and by very many species of dumb animals; this is poverty of spirit and the sufferance of injuries that one has the power to avert. And this kind of humility is found in fools among the sons of men, and in low and ignorant people, on account of their want of knowledge and the weakness of their understanding. We are accustomed to call this humility, but it is, in truth, merely poverty of the soul and blind stupidity. But real humility is that which follows the exaltation of the soul after it has raised itself above sharing with the cattle their more shameful attributes. Then only, when humility and lowliness of soul are joined to such elevation, are they praiseworthy qualities.

The second variety of humility is humility towards men; either on account of their having dominion over us, or on account of our being in need of their services. This is submission in the right direction. But although it is proper, it is not a lasting quality;

p. 34

for it does not comprehend all reasonable beings, nor is such humility proper at all times and in all places.

But the third kind of humility is humility before the Creator, blessed be He, and its obligation embraces all reasonable beings, * and it is incumbent upon them at every time and in every place. This is the special kind of humility that I have in view. And all the Scriptural passages that speak of "the humble," "the meek," "the modest," "the brokenhearted," "the contrite," etc., etc., are written with reference to this third kind of humility—which is the most exalted degree of humility. Moreover, he that has acquired it is not far from the way that leads him near to God; and he will be favourably accepted by the Creator.


34:* Kol hammedaberim, a phrase often used by our author, means, literally, all who speak or arrange words in order, or are capable of logic.

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