There is a story told about Rabbi Rivkin who was the chief rabbi of the Rabbinical Council of the U.S. and Canada. He once was in court to testify on a religious matter. He was introduced as the chief rabbi of the Rabbinical Council of the U.S. When he got up to speak he added: “and Canada.” The judge turned to him and asked: “Isn’t humility a Jewish thing?” The Rabbi replied: “Most definitely, but what can I do — I’m under oath!”
In this week’s Torah portion, we read how the Almighty proclaims that Moses is the most humble man that ever existed and there will never be anyone as humble as him. While it is obvious that Hashem can predict the future, we are taught that every person has free will, so how did Hashem know that there will never be anyone as humble as Moses?
We can understand this by first understanding what humility is in Judaism. Typically, humility is understood to mean a low self-regard and sense of unworthiness.
In Judaism, that is not the case. You must always recognize your self-value and realize you are needed in this world, and that life for the more than 7 billion people on this planet would not be the same without you. You are part of G-d’s master plan.
You must also understand that all the talents you have, and everything you accomplish, are only thanks to the tools and opportunities that G-d gave you. While you can take credit for your hard work, you never know whether if G-d had given the same opportunity to someone else, they might have used it in a more effective and productive way.
Take those who are blessed with wealth and give charity: If they fully recognize that the wealth they have is a blessing from G-d in order to give tzedakah, they are not going to feel proud about how much tzedakah they give — just as the bank teller is not full of pride when he or she gives you cash from your account.
While it is very important to recognize the gifts you have to give (physical, emotional or spiritual support), you also need to understand you were given your talents so you can them share with others and make the world a G-dly place.
In the shtetl, there was once a wealthy man who was known to be not too intelligent. But his accountant was known to be one of the more intelligent people in the shtetl. One time, when the rich man was in a good mood, he turned to his accountant and asked: “Why is it that I am not so smart, and I am the rich man, while you are known to be so smart and you are working for me?” The accountant answered: “You know that if G-d gave me all that money you have, there is no way I would ever hire you for anything.”
Now we can understand how G-d knew that Moses would be the most humble man to ever walk on the face of the earth. The more gifted you are, the more humble you can be. While we have free will to do good or bad, G-d decides what gifts to give each one of us. And He decided that Moses would be the most gifted human to ever exist. So, because Moses was the most gifted person (and recognized that his gifts were gifts from G-d) there can never be anyone with more humility than him. PJC
Rabbi Zalman Gurevitz is the rabbi at the Rohr Chabad Jewish Center in Morgantown, West Virginia. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabaim of Greater Pittsburgh.