Home Subscribe Services Support Us
Print Version

Email this article to a friend


by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

"And Moshe said to Aaron, 'this is what G-d has spoken, saying "among my dear ones will I be sanctified..."'" [10:3]

Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki quotes the Talmud (Zevachim 115b): "Where did HaShem say this? 'And I will set a meeting there with the Children of Israel, and I will be sanctified through my honor.' [Exodus 29:43] Do not pronounce the word as 'my honor' but 'my honored ones.' Moshe said to Aaron, 'Aaron, my brother, I knew that the Tabernacle would be sanctified through those close to HaShem. And I thought it would be either you or me. Now I see that they were greater than we are.'"

How do we understand this? Moshe said "I thought it would be either you or me." "I thought we were the greatest, the closest to G-d, and now I see we're second best." Is this the same Moshe about whom G-d Himself said, "And the man, Moshe, was exceedingly humble, more than any man on the face of the earth?" [Numbers 11:3]

Rabbi Leib Chasman, in his book Ohr Yahel, asks the question this way: "if a human king were to announce that he planned to honor and offer tribute to one of his greatest ministers, and one minister were to loudly announce that it appeared that the king was thinking about him, would be not be considered tremendously haughty by his colleagues? If so, how could Moshe say 'I thought it would be either you or me?'" After reading the Megillah on Purim, as uncomfortable as it might be to mention both men in the same breath - doesn't this sound like Haman rather than Moshe? Could Moshe say such a thing?

Absolutely. And understanding why this is so may help us to pursue the advice of Maimonides, who said [as we mentioned two weeks ago] that unlike all other character traits, when it comes to humility we too should strive for the extreme.

Rabbi Chasman offers a comparison to a porter, carrying a large burden. Does the porter begin to think that the entire burden is his? Of course not! So we must think of wisdom, intelligence, and other traits in the same way.

A humble person is not one who does not comprehend her own value or potential - that's a fool. Rather, explains Rabbi Chasman, a humble person recognizes that everything she has is a gift from G-d! And even more, the greater the recognition of her positive traits, and the recognition that all this comes through the kindness of Heaven, the greater the resulting humility. She recognizes all she has, and simultaneously that she is absolutely nothing without G-d's constant assistance and kindness - none of this is genuinely hers.

With this outlook, we can understand the Talmudic passage [Sotah] in which a teacher says: "Since Rebbe [Rabbi Yehudah the Prince, compiler of the Mishnah] passed away, humility and fear of sin have been lost." And Rabbi Yosef responds: "don't teach 'humility,' for I am here." Again, how can someone call himself humble? Isn't this something we say as a joke? Isn't it inherently contradictory?

If we understand humility as a recognition that positive traits are acquired only through G-d's help and kindness, rather than inherently ours, then it is possible for someone - although only one who truly has achieved the highest levels of humility - to describe himself as humble. For if this is truly so, then he will regard this as if he is talking about his friend's traits, rather than his own, for all the praise is not his.

Although a level such as this is a long way off, perhaps if we consider it for a moment, we'll be better prepared to receive some good traits ourselves!

Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.



View Complete List

Because I Care
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5772

Mysterious Events
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5773

Purpose of Mission
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5756

Looking for a Chavrusah?

To Struggle, Or Not To Struggle, Part 2
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5767

Nothing Hurts More...
Shlomo Katz - 5759

Judging by Appearances
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5772

> Suffering and Tohu
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5774

Yosef and Chanukah
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5757

Wisdom in Action
Rabbi Label Lam - 5775


A Blessed Business
Rabbi Label Lam - 5769

Redefining Grief
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5773

In Command
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5765

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The Brothers Went To Indulge Themselves
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5771

The Key To Something More
Rabbi Label Lam - 5762

Yosef’s Dreams—Bow Advice
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5766

O Chanukah, O Chanukah . . .
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765

Project Genesis Home

Torah Portion

Jewish Law



Learn the Basics




Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base


About Us

Contact Us

Free Book on Geulah! Home Copyright Information