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Tools for Growth: Shevet Mussar: Who is Really the Slave?

There is a powerful hint in Jewish law to the advantages of humility: The moment one is sold as a slave he acquires two new titles. He is called “Ivri,” just as our father Abraham, described by the Talmud and Midrash as a spiritual giant, was called “Ivri.”


The Talmud teaches that, “One who acquires and Eved Ivri; it is as if he has acquired a master for himself (Kiddush in 20a).” The Talmud is teaching us that this humble slave actually becomes a master.

“Ivri,” and “Master.” Two powerful expressions of praise for the one who has been thrust into a position of humility. (Shevet Mussar 17:30)

A person who is striving to acquire the attribute of humility should use the blessing of “Avot,” in the Amidah, when speaking of the patriarchs, to pray that he successfully achieve the title of “Ivri,” that described Abraham.

Whenever he finds himself struggling to master the situation; he should remember this lesson of the Shevet  Mussar and refocus his attention on developing true humility, which will lead to his ability to “Master” the situation.

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