http://revach.net/article.php?id=5165

Section:  Avodah   Category: Ahavas Yisroel
Is Everybody a Donkey?

The gemara (Shabbos 112b) says, "Im Rishonim Bnei Malachim Anu Bnei Anashim, V'Im Rishonim Bnei Anashim Anu KaChamorim V'Lo KaChamor Shel Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa V'Shel Rebbi Pinchas ben Yair", if the earlier generations were like malachim then we are like humans, if the the earlier generations were humans then we are like donkeys and not even the donkey of Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa or Rebbi Pinchas ben Yair.

Why if the earlier generations were human, does that make us donkeys? We may not be as worthy as them but on what grounds do we lose our humanity? Furthermore what does it mean we aren't even like the donkey of Pinchas ben Yair? Is that just to rub it in?

If we look a this Chazal from another perspective maybe we can answer these questions. Maybe Chazal is not telling us who we are, but the effects of the way we view others. What are our expectations of our Gedolim, do we require them to be perfect or do we allow for human frailty?

We all know that each generation is inferior to the generation before, as we move one step further from Har Sinai and the Bais HaMikdash and sink one step deeper into the abyss of the Galus. Chazal may be telling us that if we view the previous generation as examples and standards of what our Gedolim must be, our expectation borders on the impossible, and we will consider all our Gedolim, no matter how big, small by comparison.

If we hold the previous generation on a pedestal and say that they were angels, then the finest of today can be considered model humans. However if our forbears were simply model citizens then we will consider today's greats animals by comparison. And not only that, but we will belittle them even in comparison to the tzidkus of even the donkey of Pinchas ben Yair.

The same holds true when we look at everyone around us. Do we expected refinement and perfection from everyone? If so we will be very frustrated by all the "animals" we need to interact with all the time. If we are more generous and forgiving of the shortcomings of others, we will be less bitter at the world and free of constant critique, making life that much more pleasant.