I am the occupant of this body. I am the little guy inside who pulls the levers. Buy I didn’t create the body. I don’t know how to stretch the skin over the facial bones. I don’t know how to weave the one hundred billion neurons that comprise my brain. I am the little guy inside who tells the arms to move, who tells the mouth to open.
So am I deserving of honor? The body that I occupy sure is; just look at what it can do. But I am that little guy inside – small, insignificant, unimportant.
Both realities are correct. Both can coexist as long as I understand that I didn’t create me; Hashem did. Hashem may have put me into a position of power and greatness, but it has nothing to do with me. While I temporarily hold that position, I must act with due deference to my station in life. However, I am not the creator of it, nor will I occupy it forever. This is the balance between the extraordinary greatness of man and a healthy dose of humility.
The Most Humble of Men
The only human who reached a true understanding of this dichotomy was Moshe Rabbeinu. The Torah tells us that “The man, Moshe, was very humble, more so than any other person on the face of the earth” (Bamidbar 12:3). Yet Moshe knew his worth. He was completely cognizant of his position and his power. Hashem said to write the word “vayikra” with an aleph, but Moshe didn’t want to. Hashem told him to do it anyway, and still Moshe felt that it wasn’t proper, so he stood up to Hashem and said, “You put me in this position, and You authorized me to be a factor in defining the transmission of Torah. I am exercising that right You have given me. I am going to write it – but the aleph will be small.”
This is a fabulous illustration of towering humility balanced with a courage and fortitude that comes from knowing one’s position.
Finding the balance
This perception is very applicable in our times. Most people struggle with either a poor self-image or an inflated sense of self. Either that inner voice says, “I am worthless. What can I accomplish anyway? How much can be expected of me?” or it speaks out, “Do you know who I am? Do you know how great I am? Do you know how weighty, mighty and significant I am?”
Both these extremes are false. The correct understanding is that Hashem created me and put me into a position where I can shape worlds. Born into this thing called a human body, I have extraordinary potential and capacities. And at the same time, I am but that little guy inside. I am the crane operator.
Understanding this balance allows us to recognize our significance and at the same time remain grounded. I was created in the image of Hashem, but at the end of the day I am but a creation – and Hashem is my Creator.