Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi wrote a sefer called The Kuzari in the form of a dialogue between the Kuzari, the king of the Khazars, and a rabbi. Following is one such conversation (2: 50-54):
The rabbi tells the king that Hashem states, “…Yisrael, in whom I take pride.”
To which the king responds, “How can that be? How can Gd be proud of human beings? That doesn’t sound right.”
The rabbi replies with a question of his own. “If someone said, ‘Gd is proud of the sun,’ would that bother you?”
The king answers, “No, that makes sense. Look what the sun does, look how powerful it is. The whole world is living off of its strength… Every facet of nature needs the sun. Of course, Gd should take pride in the sun!”
This is the answer the rabbi is waiting for, as he points out, “Human beings who are spreading the word of Gd, who are performing acts of greatness, are greater than the sun. And if Gd can be proud, so to speak, of the sun, He can surely be proud of human beings!”
And when is it that Hashem takes pride in us?
When we are quiet in the face of insult (see Rambam, Hilchot De’ot 5: 13). As the Gemara (Shabbat 88b) conveys, “Those who suffer insult and do not insult back, hear their shame and do not respond, act out of love and rejoice with affliction, about them the pasuk (Shoftim 5:31) says, ‘And let those who love Him be like the powerfully shining sun.’”
Why is the one who is quiet in the face of insult compared to the sun? When was the sun insulted and kept quiet?
Rabbeinu Bachye enlightens us. The sun and the moon were created equal in size. Dissatisfied with this arrangement, the moon came along and complained to Hashem, “How can two kings make use of one crown? We cannot have two rulers of equal stature!”
“How right you are!” Hashem said to him. “Now you will be diminished, while the sun will remain at its full size.”
When the moon came with its protest, proposing to reduce the sun, the sun did not respond. Because of its silence in the face of disgrace, Rabbeinu Bachye tells us, the sun was rewarded by becoming a dazzling orb, which gives light and warmth to all. As such, anyone who remains silent like the sun when insulted is also rewarded with the ability to be a “shining light.”
Much of this is directly related to our self-esteem, the knowledge and internalization of our worthiness – for no other reason than the fact that if Gd created us, we bring inherent value to the world.
Unfortunately, many of us in contemporary society lack a sense of our value and innate worthiness. Society today – and we see this within our communities, as well – places money and status above all else. This is evident by the question, “How much is So-and-So worth?” in which we are asking about a dollar amount, not about So-and-So’s value as a human being.
Someone once approached a rosh yeshivah of a renowned institution and complained about a number of his talmidim, calling them baalei gaavah.
His response? “Halevai all of my talmidim should feel so great about themselves!”
At the core of a silent reaction to insult is authentic self-esteem, the notion that another human being cannot diminish who I am as a person, as after all, Gd, the King of Kings, created me. That the value and worthiness I bring to this world cannot be mitigated by the words of another, no matter how hurtful they are.
My silence reflects my knowledge of my inherent greatness, a knowledge that is enduring and unmalleable.
Think of a state of affairs that you generally complain about.
Now resolve, as much as possible, to keep silent regarding the situation. Know that your silence is evidence of your strength, evidence of your self-worth.
Make Hashem proud!