In the end of this week’s Torah portion God describes Moses as the most humble man upon the face of the earth. According to the Torah’s definition of greatness, Moshe represents the ultimate level a person can reach; he attained the greatest closeness to God humanly possible, learned the most Torah and was the teacher of all of the community of Yisrael. It is clear that his outstanding humility is directly connected to his greatness.
We know that there are many desirable character traits such as kindness and honesty. Why is humility the one quality that Hashem highlighted so clearly?
In order to answer this it is instructive to analyze the trait which is the opposite of humility – arrogance. The Talmud describes God’s hatred for the arrogant person – God says that there is no room for Himself and the arrogant person to dwell together. Why?
The arrogant person believes that he does not need God to succeed in life. He considers his own talents sufficient and therefore he does not need God’s ‘help’. Accordingly, God responds measure for measure and complies with this attitude; He withholds from the arrogant person any heavenly help; i.e., God doesn’t reside with him. Therefore, sonner or later, the arrogant man/woman is greatly limited in what he/she can achieve on their own. They may be intelligent, but intelligence is only part of the picture – without insight, wisdom and social maturity, the arrogant man eventually fails in one way or another. As written in Mishle (Proverbs), pride goes before a fall.
The humble person has just the opposite attitude. He realizes that his talents are God-given and gives God the appropriate honor for whatever he/she is able to accomplish in life. The person who recognizes that God provides him with whatever ability is necessary, experiences unlimited potential because his source (God) is unlimited. If a person is willing to exert the necessary effort in doing God’s will then he can achieve significant success.
This explains why Moses’ attribute of humility enabled him to reach such incredible heights. He realized that anything he tried to do was only through the power given to him by God. This recognition removed any limitations on what he could do, and as we see many times in the Torah he attained supernatural achievements.
In Judaism we are taught that everyone is obligated to ask himself when he will reach the level of the Forefathers. “All one’s behavior and actions must be directed at reaching the level of the actions of the Holy Forefathers. Even though the distance is extremely far, and according to the normal laws of nature, it is impossible to reach it, nevertheless man is obligated to strive to do whatever he can to attain it.” Such ambitious goals for holiness and righteousness can be attained but only through the help of Hashem.
Thus we have seen that humility is the key to greatness. Many years ago I heard a teacher say, “If you truly want to be great in God’s eyes, don’t wait for opportunities to be thrust upon you to exercise humility. Actively LOOK for opportunities to walk humbly.”
In Tune with Torah this week = this coming week, ask Hashem to help you seize opportunities to voluntarily humble yourself before Him and others.