“Take a bunch of hyssop” (Shemos 12:22)
“Through the hyssop, which is the lowliest of trees, Yisrael was redeemed.” (Midrash Rabbah, Bo 14)
The true measure of the greatness of a person is his lowliness and humility, because only a person who “sleeps in the dust” (feels his own lowliness) will rise at the resurrection of the dead and merit eternal life. As we say in Shmone Esrei, “He maintains His faith to those who sleep in the dust.” The more humble and self-effacing a person is, the more he merits to the resurrection of the dead, eternal life. According to the humility a person achieves each day, so will he merit eternal life and the enjoyment of the World to Come, as it is written, “Awake and shout for joy, you who rest in the dirt” (Yeshayahu, 26:19).
Every time a person is denigrated, he becomes more humble. The more a person is disgraced, the more he is shamed, the happier he should be. If you know that someone is about to embarrass you in public, then you should first run and toivel in the mikveh. By being humiliated, you will receive such a great light that it is worth your while to prepare vessels for this great light by toiveling in the mikveh. By being shamed a person receives such a light—he could never receive such light through the fulfillment of any of the mitzvos. The humiliation turns the person into “ayin”—nothing, and he merits to such a G-dly light, to such a great light, the light of Ain Sof, the light that is higher than all the worlds and surrounds all the worlds. The more humble a person is, so will he receive more G-dly light, more light of Ain Sof.
King David said in Tehillim, “Purge me of sin with hyssop and I shall be pure, cleanse me and I shall be whiter than snow” (51:9). Purge me with hyssop! I want to be hyssop. I want to be degraded—that everyone should step on me. Everyone should laugh at me and humiliate me. This is the only true form of teshuva. I need to believe that I am worse than anyone else. I did more sins—more than anyone else. I destroyed more than anyone. My only request is, “Purge me of sin with hyssop and I shall be pure, cleanse me and I shall be whiter than snow.” I want to be like hyssop, “like hyssop on the wall,” (insignificant), like hyssop which everyone walks all over and denigrates. I want that my whole life I will be this way.
There are two levels of teshuva. There is the level on which a person is degraded and he doesn’t answer back, which is called “not returning insult with insult, hearing their shame and not responding.” He is insulted and keeps silent—he doesn’t respond. “And Aharon was silent.” But there is the level of “acting from a place of love, and rejoicing with one’s sorrows” which is a higher level. This is when a person is insulted and degraded and he remains happy the whole time, singing and dancing. Every single humiliation is like putting healing ointment on a wound. Every time someone demeans such a person, he feels as if he is having ointment smeared onto his wounds—a person’s whole body is like a giant sore, bruised from head to toe. Every time a person is degraded, it is healing his illnesses, like purifying waters, “Then I will sprinkle pure water upon you, that you may become cleansed” (Ezekiel 36:25).
Humility and lowliness is something which has no limit. When a person is humiliated, he becomes infinite, unlimited, like “ayin,” nothingness. Now that he is limitless, he can feel the G-dly light. People say about such a person, “This guy is a nobody. He’s not worth anything. He’s a liar, a hypocrite.” The more they talk about him, the more “ayin,” (nothing) he becomes. And then he is granted all the success in the world, he receives such an abundance. One humiliation brings in its wake a million successes. After being degraded, the success and abundance is endless—the person can then provide for the entire country. He merits unlimited abundance. “And Yosef was the provider to all the people of the land” (Bereishis 42:6). Yosef became the provider for the whole land, because after they sold him and denigrated him, he became “ayin,” nothing, and all the abundance came through him. So, the more a person is degraded, the more abundance and success he will have.
Sometimes when a person is humiliated, he says to himself, “I am being humiliated because I am a tzaddik, because I am serving Hashem!” This is pride. A person shouldn’t become haughty because he is being degraded. Rather, he should say to himself, “They are denigrating me because I deserve it, because I am not a tzaddik or a chassid. I don’t learn Torah the way I am supposed to, and I don’t keep my eyes. I am truly a rasha!” A person must admit to the truth. If someone tells you, “You’re a rasha!” you need to think, “Baruch Hashem that he is telling me the truth.” A person must admit the truth. When someone comes and reminds me who I really am, I should kiss him—I should kiss his feet since he is telling me the truth. There is a saying, “Hate the ones who love you, and love the ones that hate you.” Whoever hates you, you have to love. A person needs that people will talk about him and denigrate him as much as possible, but people that love me—they are of no value to me. “The ones who love you, you need to hate.” Whoever loves you only flatters you and confuses you. He gives you the illusion that you’re a tzaddik, that you’re alright. “Hate those who love you!” But “love those that hate you.” They’re the ones that reprimand you and embarrass you—you must love them! They’re the ones you should put on your shoulders. So what will happen if someone tells you the truth? What did you get from your friends who only honor and flatter you?
The Rebbe brings in Likutei Moharan in Torah 260, that through mesirus nefesh a person makes yechudim (unifications). But at a time when there are no tzaddikim making yechudim, when there is no one who gets up at Chatzos and cries out in the middle of the night, and there is no one who really is serving Hashem with mesirus nefesh, then the only way for the yechudim to get done is for people to get killed. But there is one other way to accomplish the yechudim, and that is by accepting humiliation with love. A person who accepts humiliation with love saves his generation from bloodshed. Every time a person remains happy when he is disgraced, he can be sure that he is saving a Jew from being killed. And the more famous a person is, the more important he is, the more he is able to save people from being killed when he is humiliated and talked about and accepts it all with love. And there is one tzaddik who does this intentionally, and looks for all kinds of ways to get people to talk about him, how to get them to humiliate him. And the Rebbe says, “He does this with will and forethought.” This is how he makes the greatest and most awesome yechudim. This is called “dying al kiddush Hashem (for the sanctification of His Name).” He sacrifices his name, because the name is the soul. And everyone is speaking against him, the most terrible things, and this is how he saves the nation of Israel from being murdered, because by having his own blood spilt [through being humiliated] at every moment and every second and by accepting it all with happiness and love, he is saving the generation from terrible decrees, from calamities that are supposed to happen to them, chas v’shalom. So anyone who sees that he is being humiliated should simply accept it with love because who knows how many evil decrees he is saving Israel from.
Rabbeinu said in Siach Sarfei Kodesh (2:65), “People who oppose me, I cannot hate them.” I cannot hate anyone who is against me, anyone who hates me—how can I hate such a person. They are doing me a favor—such wonderful favors they are doing for me. I can literally see the good they are doing for me, because when someone opposes me and speaks against me, I receive such lights that I just want to hug him and kiss him.
The moment a person accepts upon himself humiliation, at the same moment he gets a million dollars. It is told of Reb Zushia and Rebbe Elimelech from Lishensk that they arrived at an inn, and at night went to bed. There were a bunch of drunkards that were kicking one another, until they spotted Reb Zushia. He was lying on the outside bed, with Reb Elimelech next to him, against the wall, and they grabbed and started hitting and kicking Reb Zushia until they almost broke all his bones. And then the No’am Elimelech said to Reb Zushia, “My brother, you are taking all the blows. I also want to get hit and humiliated. I also want Olam HaBa. What? Am I not also a human being? Shouldn’t I get a little bit? I also want a few merits—let me have a turn! Do you want everything for yourself?” For an entire hour he tried to persuade him, and begged him to switch places with him. In the end, he convinced him. The No’am Elimelech took the spot toward the inside of the room, so that they should take him and hit him, and Reb Zushia took the bed next to the wall, and after they changed places, the drunken goyim said, “Enough with that one. Let’s take care of the other one, who we haven’t touched yet!” And they grabbed and started hitting Reb Zushia all over again. Reb Zushia said to Rebbe Elimelech, “You see, I’m the one who really deserves it.” A person cannot touch what has been prepared for his friend, not even the slightest amount.
One affront can atone for a thousand reincarnations of a person’s sins. With one affront a person receives atonement for an infinite number of sins. One humiliating experience can achieve for a person what a thousand good deeds cannot. Every humiliation is worth thousands of fasts, thousands of mortifications. It is instead of going into the fire, into the ovens. A person doesn’t know what tikkunim he is doing. “No eye has seen it, G-d, apart from You.”
Please, merciful and compassionate One, You can do everything. May I merit accepting all the embarrassment in the world with the utmost happiness. May I know that all forms of humiliation are a way of connecting to the honor of Hashem Yisborach, as it is written, “In His palace, everyone speaks of His honor.” And I should merit to fulfill the words of Chazal (Shabbat 88), “They are insulted and they do not return the offense. They hear their disgrace and they do not respond. They do this with love and rejoice with their suffering.” About them it is written, “Let those who love Him be like the powerfully rising sun” (Shoftim 5:31). May I merit, from now on, never to get angry, even at someone who makes me suffer terribly or insults me. I should only love him with a whole heart, because he is also a G-dly soul carved out from the Heavenly Throne.