web analytics
September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



A Humbling Lesson (Part I)

It would follow that humility means not judging ourselves in comparison with others, but in accord with our own personal capabilities and the tasks we believe God has allocated for us.
Rabbi Hanoch Teller

There is only one virtue explicitly ascribed to Moshe: “Now Moshe was a very humble man, more so than any other man on earth” (Numbers 12:3). That this is the only virtue the Torah attributes to its greatest hero is itself the most significant indication of the importance Judaism places upon humility.

Why is it that Moshe, the one who would seemingly be the most likely candidate to revel in fame and popularity, was the most humble? Most men who see their names in volumes and journals far less significant – infinitely less significant – than the Bible seem to have no check on their ego. And yet Moshe, the most famous man, was also the most humble.

This is because if one measures oneself against the infinite and eternal Creator, he understands his own relative insignificance. Thus precisely because Moshe achieved such a tangible closeness to God was he more humble than any man to have walked the earth.

“One’s greatness as a person depends,” explains Rabbi Avraham Chaim Feuer, “on the degree to which one can truly perceive his Creator’s presence and make this ultimate yardstick a reality for himself.” Consequently arrogant people are that way precisely because they judge themselves not in relationship to God, but in contrast to those who are less accomplished.

A scientific interpretation might also be offered to explain Moshe’s humility. Plants are endowed with a mechanism that causes them to bend toward light. Known as phototropism, the explanation can get more technical regarding auxins, elongated cells and external stimuli – but the essence is that no matter which direction a plant is pointing, it will always bend toward the source of light.

Because Moshe was so connected to the “Source,” the influence was overwhelming. God’s presence worked as axiomatically on Moshe’s self-image as light does to an organism. Because Moshe was so close to the Almighty and so cognizant of His greatness, that his own self-image, in contrast, was infinitesimally miniscule. Others, not blessed with Moshe’s awareness, feel a far greater distance from the Source, yet feel neither overwhelmed nor any other impingement upon their self-image.

It would follow that humility means not judging ourselves in comparison with others, but in accord with our own personal capabilities and the tasks we believe God has allocated for us. This was well articulated by Rabbi Yisroel Salanter: “I know that I have the mental capacity of a thousand men, but because of that, my obligation is also that of a thousand men.”

Such a perspective, as Rabbi Joseph Telushkin elaborates, teaches that the very capabilities that can make a person most proud are also those that should be the most humbling. If we are endowed with significant wisdom, then we also have a greater responsibility to bring others to wisdom. If we have wealth, then we have a greater responsibility to help those in need. If we occupy a position of power, we have a greater obligation to help the oppressed. Thinking about how much we can do in comparison to what we have done serves as a corrective against pride and arrogance.

Thus says the Orchos Tzaddikim, “All of the good things I do are but a drop in the ocean in comparison to what I ought to do.” There was a cinematic portrayal of this lesson in Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning film, “Schindler’s List.”

The movie relates how Nazi Party member Oskar Schindler saved close to 1,200 Jews from extermination. When the members of Schindler’s List were liberated, the former prisoners schemed as to what gesture they could afford to express to their benefactor in terms of their gratitude. As impoverished former slaves, they were bereft of any financial means.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “A Humbling Lesson (Part I)”

  1. So enjoyed part (1)

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
A Muslim social media campaign against ISIS was begun by the British Active Change Foundation.
Muslims Tell ISIS: #NotInMyName [video]
Latest Judaism Stories
Teens-091214-Shofar

Hamas’ tunnels were destroyed as were plans for their unparalleled terror attacks on Rosh Hashana.

Hertzberg-092614

Perhaps the most important leadership lesson Elkana taught us is to never underestimate the difference a single person can make.

Teller-Rabbi-Hanoch-NEW

“he’s my rabbi” the Black painter said with pride, pulling out a photo of the Rebbe from his wallet

Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of theYeshivat Chovevei Torah. Rabbi Asher Lopatin will be replacing him as head of the school.

The Torah notes that even when we are dispersed God will return us to Him.

Simply, for Rambam the number 14 (2×7) was his favored organizing principle.

One of the cornerstones of our Jewish life is chesed, kindness. Chesed can only be taught by example

Our understanding of what is and what is not possible creates imagined ceilings of opportunity for us.

This young, innocent child gave me a powerful, warm surge of energy and strength.

The Chafetz Chaim answered that there are two forms of teshuvah; teshuvah m’ahava and teshuvah m’yirah.

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

A Role Reversal
‘Return, O Wayward Sons…’
(Chagigah 15a)

When the Kleins returned, however, they were dismayed to see that the renters did a poor job cleaning up after themselves.

In Parshas Re’eh the Torah tells us about the bechira to adhere to the commandments of Hashem and refrain from sin. In Parshas Nitzavim, the Torah tells us that we have the choice to repent after we have sinned.

As Moshe is about to die, why does God tell him about how the Israelites will ruin everything?

Jonah objected to God accepting repentance based on ulterior motives and likely for short duration.

More Articles from Rabbi Hanoch Teller
Teller-Rabbi-Hanoch-NEW

“he’s my rabbi” the Black painter said with pride, pulling out a photo of the Rebbe from his wallet

Teller-Rabbi-Hanoch-NEW

Nothing is more effective to diminish envy than gratitude.

The enormity of Hiram’s accomplishments crazed him and deluded him into self-deification.

Thinking about how much we can do in comparison to what we have done serves as a corrective against pride and arrogance.

Separating fun from happiness can liberate, regarding (a) time, (b) money and (c) jealousy.

People expectantly go through their lives awaiting the event that will make them happy.

If you expect more, you will be less grateful; if you expect less, you will be more grateful.

So goes the story about a man in the silly town of Chelm who visited a public bathhouse and found himself in a terrible predicament. Without the distinction of clothing, everyone looked alike. “Among all these men who look alike,” he said to himself, “how will I ever know which one is me?” He solved his dilemma by tying a red string around his big toe.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/chodesh-tov/a-humbling-lesson-part-i/2014/06/19/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: