Sotah 40 - The humility of Rabbi Abbahu

While the Kohanim bless the people, the people recite phrases that support and explain those blessings. Why? Is there a servant who will remain silent and not express his appreciation while he is being blessed by his master?

An opposite point of view: people should be silent. Is there a servant who will keep talking while he is being blessed, instead of listening?

Rabbi Abbahu said, "Initially I used to say these phrases during the blessing of the Kohanim. But once I saw Rabbi Abba from Akko being silent, I stopped talking as well." Rabbi Abbahu continued, "I thought that I had real humility. But once I observed the following behavior of Rabbi Abba. He was delivering a lecture to a large audience, and his helper - whose task it was to repeat the lesson in loud voice and to explain it - was giving a different explanations to the same points as Rabbi Abba mentioned. Nevertheless, Rabbi Abba said nothing to him! Compared to him, I do not have humility."

Then why did Rabbi Abbahu think initially that he had humility? Because of the following incident. Rabbi Abbahu also had a helper to loudly repeat and explain his lectures. The wife of the helper told the wife of Rabbi Abbahu that her husband (the helper) had as much knowledge as Rabbi Abbahu, and he showed obeisance just to be polite. The wife of Rabbi Abbahu took affront, but Rabbi Abbahu told her, "It does not matter! Between the two of us, we make sure that the people learn Torah."

Art: A humble question by Herman Frederik Carel ten Kate