Sharing Torah Insights

Humility

Posted on י׳ בסיון ה׳תשע״ד (June 8, 2014) | in Behaalotcha | by

humilityIn Parshat Behaalotcha we encounter the story of Miriam and Aharon, Moshe’s siblings, speaking Lashon Hara about him. They find out that Moshe is no longer able to be intimate with his wife because of his need to be constantly ready to receive prophecy, and they question whether this is correct, because they too are prophets and don’t have the same restrictions.

In the middle of this whole episode, there is a very strange verse. After presenting Miriam and Aharon’s claim against Moshe, and before presenting the answer from God that Moshe’s prophecy is fundamentally different from theirs, the Torah says:

 וְהָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה, עָנָו מְאֹד–מִכֹּל, הָאָדָם, אֲשֶׁר, עַל-פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה. בְּמִדְבַּר 12:3

And the man Moses was very humble — more than every man upon the face of the earth. Numbers 12:3

What does Moshe’s humility have to do with anything in this story?

Different commentators answer this question in different ways. Some say that Moshe was so humble that he wouldn’t defend himself, and God Himself had to come to his defense. Others say that Moshe, in his humility, would have never considered his level of prophecy to be superior to anyone else’s.

I would like to suggest a different approach.

Moshe was a prophet entirely unparalleled in history. He received prophecy while he was awake and spoke to Hashem “face to face,” while all other prophets received prophecy asleep, through dreams and riddles.

And yet, Miriam and Aharon, Moshe’s own siblings, had no idea! They assumed he was a prophet just like them and as such, should have behaved differently towards his wife.

Moshe’s humility was not that he thought he was a lowly nothing, and not that he didn’t know how to stand up for principles he believed in. On the contrary. He knew exactly who he was and what his connection to God was. And he was never afraid to take a stand for what he knew was right.

Moshe’s humility was that he did all of this without acting in a way that anyone else – not even his siblings – could tell quite how special and different he really was.

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