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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Parshas Naso – True Humility

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By: Chaya Sora Jungreis-Gertzulin

“V’ho-ish Moshe anav me’od mikol ha’adam asher al pnei ha’adamah, And the man Moshe was the most humble of all people on the face of the earth.” (Bamidbar 12:3)

In this week’s parshah, Moshe separates from his wife Tzipora, in order to be “on call” for his people and to be available to hear HaShem’s words. As a response to Miriam’s questioning her brother’s actions, Moshe is described as an anav, a modest, humble man.

Rashi interprets anav as one who is “Shafel v’savlon, unassuming and patient.” Traits that go hand-in-hand, for if one is truly humble, he will not feel superior to others, allowing for tolerance and understanding.

There is so much more to say about Moshe. “V’lo kom navi od b’Yisroel k’Moshe, There will never be in Israel a prophet as Moshe.” (Devarim 34:10) Moshe who was a navi, a prophet of HaShem, who brought HaShem’s Torah to Bnei Yisroel. Moshe was the leader of all leaders, fighting for his people’s freedom, confronting Pharoah time and time again. It was Moshe who led the nation across the sea and through the desert on their journey towards Eretz Yisroel. Yet, it is Moshe’s humility that the Torah emphasizes.

The Torah is conveying to us an important life lesson. Society often judges greatness in terms of intellectual capabilities, the Ivy League school degree, making partner in a prestigious law firm, being a doctor in a “big” hospital. We also tend to judge others by their looks… she could be a model… he looks straight out of GQ. And it goes without saying that many-a-time how we rate a person is by the size of their bank accounts.

Torah teaches otherwise. “Moshe was the most humble.” Torah instructs us to judge one by his middos, by his character traits. One can be an accomplished individual, yet not a great person by Torah values. Moshe Rabbeinu may have been a Torah giant, but he was most known for his modesty.

The Talmud tells us that a person should say “B’shvili nivrah ha’olam, The world was created for me.” (Sanhedrin 37a) How do we balance the feeling that the entire world was created just for me with the virtue of living a humble life? Several Torah giants, amongst them Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshicha and The Alter of Slabodka, Rav Nosson Zvi Finkel, would often tell their students to always keep a note in one pocket which reads “Be’shvili nivrah ha’olam, The world was created for me”, while in the other pocket have a note which reads “V’anochi ofor v’eifer, I am but dust and ashes.” (Bereishes 18:27).

My mother would often quote HaShem’s words to Avraham Avinu. “V’heyeh bracha, Be a blessing.” Ima would say it was an obligation upon each of us to bring blessing into the world, in whatever way we can.

“The world was created for me” is a mandate to take responsibility and do whatever we can to make it a better place. To be available to help others. In doing so, we help ourselves. Be a Blessing.

Moshe lived with these words. He was there for his people. From Moshe we learn the meaning of true humility. Humility doesn’t mean denying one’s capabilities… protesting that I can’t do it… I don’t have sufficient knowledge… talents… strength or ability. Rather, humility means saying that HaShem entrusted me with certain talents and abilities, G-d given gifts that I will use to make the world a better place. Humility means saying that with HaShem’s help, I hope to accomplish.

In this week’s chapter of Pirkei Avos, we study some of the teachings of Hillel, among which is

“Negid sh’mei avad sh’mei, He who seeks to make his name great, causes his name to be destroyed.” (Pirkei Avos 1:13) One who seeks prestige, wanting to be the name in the headlines, to always be on Instagram, in the spotlight, and pursues self-aggrandizement, he will be the one whose reputation and even his good name will ultimately be lost. What a powerful message.

Rabbi Moshe Lieber, in ArtScroll’s Pirkei Avos, cites a teaching of the Mahral, that a humble person is one who recognizes that it is HaShem who is the Source and Provider to all living things. One who is humble and views himself as dependent on the Source, allows himself to receive life. On the other hand, people who are conceited and haughty, perceiving themselves to be the grand providers, sever their connection to HaShem – the true source of life.

When my father was ill, my mother accompanied him to meet different doctors. At the conclusion of an appointment with a surgeon, my mother said, “May you be a good shaliach, a messenger from G-d, and may G-d guide your hand.” The doctor gruffly replied that he doesn’t “believe in that stuff”. My mother said afterward that she just didn’t have a good feeling.

Recently, I had reason to take a cue from my mother’s wise words and say them over to a doctor with whom I met. This time, the doctor said to me “You must pray”.

I felt like my mother was giving me a wink from Above, telling me that with HaShem’s help, all will be good.

Miriam couldn’t understand Moshe leaving his wife and devoting himself to his people. In the following posuk the Torah tells us that Moshe is an anav, a humble, modest man, living his life as if the world was created for him to blessing into the world. Life with a responsibility to others, always acknowledging HaShem at his side, a most humbling experience.

Shabbat Shalom!

Chaya Sora can be reached at [email protected]

This article was written L’zecher Nishmas / In Memory Of HaRav Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshil HaLevi, zt”l and Rebbetzin Esther bas HaRav Avraham HaLevi, zt”l

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