The Silence of Humility

At the end of this week’s action packed parsha, Parshas Beha’aloscha, the Torah tells us that Miriam and Aharon spoke questionable, negative words about their brother, Moshe Rabbeinu.  Rashi tells us that they spoke about Moshe separating from his wife, for hadn’t Hashem spoken to them as well, they reasoned, and they did not need to separate from their spouses!? 

R’ Soloveitchik zt’l teaches that they did not appreciated the segula quality of Moshe – they failed to grasp his uniqueness, his greatness, his intimate connection with the Almighty. 

Hashem appeared to them, to chastise them, and to inform them that Moshe’s degree of nevuah, prophecy, was higher than anyone else’s, and therefore, Moshe had to be ready – at moment’s notice, or even without notice! – to speak with Hashem. 

And here, embedded within this perplexing story of lashon ha’rah, is a pasuk that is testimony to the greatness of our greatest leader to ever live: וְהָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה, עָנָו מְאֹד–מִכֹּל, הָאָדָם, אֲשֶׁר, עַל-פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה – And the man Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any other person on the face of the earth (Bamidbar 12:3). 

He was so humble, they thought he was just like them!  He was so humble, he did not answer back when he was spoken about.  And he was so humble, he never used his tremendous Torah knowledge, leadership position, or relationship with Hashem, to aggrandize himself over others.  He remained הָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה – the man, Moshe. 

The Sages teach, Pirkei Avos 2:9

רבן יוחנן בן זכאי קיבל מהלל ומשמאי. הוא היה אומר

אם למדת תורה הרבה, אל תחזיק טובה לעצמך, כי לכך נוצרת – Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai used to say: If you have studied [and hence, acquired] much Torah, do not take credit for yourself, because for this [a life of Torah] you were created!

At the first meeting of Gedolei Yisroel that he attended in his capacity as Rosh Yeshiva Yeshivas Mir Yerushalayim, R’ Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt’l sat quietly as the others present offered their opinions on a certain matter.  Suddenly, one of the rabbonim present rose to his feet and called out, “Un vus zugt der Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva – and what does the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva say?”

R’ Nosson Tzvi later told his brother, R’ Gedalya, that he nearly fainted at hearing himself described as the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva – especially in front of the great leaders of Klal Yisrael

Hashem endows each one of us with our own unique talents, abilities, and strengths.  The humble man embraces those abilities, recognizes they are gifts from Hashem, and humbly utilizes them to serve fellow man, Am Yisrael and HKB”H. 

Chazal teach (Sanhedrin 88b) – Who is destined for the World to Come?  One who is modest and humble, who enters [the Beis Medrash] bowing and leaves bowing, and who learns Torah constantly but does not take credit for himself.

R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s nephew once wrote the gaon a letter, asking him four halachic questions.  R’ Shlomo Zalman answered the questions, and then added a note: “It is ‘very not nice’ of you to write all these titles to me, especially on the envelope.  Do you think it matters or interests the mailman if I am a Rav or a Gaon, or the other exaggerations you wrote?  The poor man sweats in the summer, gets drenched in the winter, and, if that isn’t enough, you have to complicate his job by making him struggle with all these acronyms and fancy titles to decipher whom the letter is for.  It is inexcusable gezel zman, the robbery of someone’s time.  It is strictly forbidden to write all of this on the envelope. All that is necessary and all that should be written is the name. Period.”

וְהָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה, עָנָו מְאֹד–מִכֹּל, הָאָדָם, אֲשֶׁר, עַל-פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה

May we always be wise enough to recognize the gifts Hashem bestows upon us, kind enough to share those gifts with others, courageous enough to use them well, and humble enough to recognize that for this we have been created, and haughtiness has no place in our avodas Hashem

,בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום


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