In EmunahSpeak: The Real Test, we said that the real test of humility is how one handles the good fortune of others, which is an aspect of gaiva that borders on kina (jealousy). And we concluded that if the joy of one’s fellow fails to resonate within him to such an extent that he cannot relate to it in any form, then we’re talking five star gaiva here.
And then there’s the more classic form of gaiva that challenges the very core of our menchlekeit.
Rabbi Avraham Brussel tells us that the reason that it is hard not to look down on someone who hasn’t done what you have done is because we tend to invest value into what we have accomplished. But once we fall into that trap, we circumscribe any possibility of spiritual growth on our part by taking the mistake to its logical conclusion: value is something and the lack thereof is nothing. So if accomplishing something makes one feel high enough to get a nose bleed, it’s no wonder that it’s difficult not to look down upon those who have made a lesser splash in this world.
The truth is that the whole concept of gaiva is built on a fallacy because there is no such thing as a person without value.
We’re all worth something.
And we are even allowed to take simcha in what we are and what we have done. But in order not to get snared in the aforementioned gaiva trap, you have to be careful when you take pride in your accomplishments that you don’t take too much pride in them.
For when the I, in look what I have done, Boruch Hashem, becomes bigger than the Boruch Hashem, then you’re heading for trouble.
Gaiva is much more than just a bad midda. It’s tantamount to suicide because to look down on another Jew, as if he is of less value, is a severe crime that destroys the soul of a human being.
And Rabbi Brussel points out that this applies to everyone because it’s even assur for a Jewish king to even think that he is more valuable than an ordinary Jew. He is obligated to say that they are equal. And if a king is forbidden to entertain such a mindset where do we come to such an attitude?
So how does one get a handle on gaiva anyway?
It’s not by taking ourselves down a couple of notches in an egalitarian attempt to level the playing field so to speak.
The only way to counter the inflated value that we have ascribed to ourselves is to work to see the value of others.