Weekly Torah Commentary — Be’halot’ha June 5, 2014

NUMBERS/BAMIDABAR chapters 8 – 12

In the last chapter of this week’s reading, we are told what God considers the most important character trait of the leader of the children of Israel.

“Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man on the face of the earth.” 12:3

Why humility? And what is it anyway? With so many other wonderful traits like kindness, honesty, compassion, etc., why is Moses’ humility singled out for recognition?

One way to answer the question is to look at 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 ‘reside together’. The prophet Isaiah said it this way: “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and humble of spirit.” 57:15

The arrogant person believes that he does not need God to succeed in life. He has an exaggerated perception of his own talents and considers himself a ‘self-made’ man. Therefore he thinks he doesn’t need God’s help. He may be intellectually intelligent but he is spiritually ignorant and doesn’t even realize it. He forgets that his very talents are gifts of God to be used for the good of others, not simply to exalt himself. Accordingly, God responds measure for measure and complies with this attitude; He provides the arrogant person with no Heavenly help and when his own talents sooner or later run out, he finds himself helpless.

The humble person has the very opposite attitude. He realizes that he has talents but that they are God-given. He recognizes that anything he strives to do can only be accomplished with Heavenly help. Rather than limiting him, this understanding is incredibly empowering. When a person recognizes that God provides him with whatever ability is necessary, it becomes obvious that his potential is unlimited because the source for his success is Himself unlimited!

This explains why Moses’ attribute of humility enabled him to reach such incredible heights. Realizing that anything he accomplished was only through the power of God at work through him, he transcended limitations and as we see in the Torah, several times attained supernatural achievements.

Humility is not complicated; it is the abiding recognition that God is the source of all our strength, that it is He who enables ordinary people to achieve great things. Real humility mandates that each of us be completely honest with ourselves; neither denying the gift and talents we have, nor thinking more highly of ourselves because of them. It is also requires that we just as honestly recognize our weaknesses and struggles and are not afraid or reluctant to acknowledge them.

One of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard of humility was this: Humility means I’m free of comparing myself to others.

Humility is the key to greatness. Once we tap into this unlimited source, then we can reach incredible heights.

In Tune with Torah this week = think about someone whom you admire for their virtue and their spiritual maturity. Can you see humility expressed through them? How? What is there about them that you can emulate?

Shabbat Shalom

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