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What is humility?

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

One of the most interesting verses in the Torah appears in this week's parasha. "And Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any man on the face of the earth." (Numbers 12:3) How could the most prominent person, who reached the highest level, also be the most modest person in the world? This is the explanation of Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks which is also a powerful message for all of us:

"Many think that humility is low self-esteem. This is an error. True humility is the knowledge that we are standing in the presence of greatness. Humility is a language in which the 'I' is silent so that I can hear the 'Thou.' As C.S. Lewis wrote, 'Humility is not that I think less of myself, but that I think of myself less'.

There is an irrepressible human urge for recognition. Over the years, we have begun to believe 'If you've got it, flaunt it'. But true humility does not require that. True humility derives from the belief that beneath the surface of the world there is a Presence that knows us, loves us, and watches over our actions. It's the knowledge that we fulfill a function in a grand plan that is many times greater than us.

Humility such as this is a source of enormous power. For when we think less of the 'I,' we are not offended by words of criticism or disrespect. Humility is not just a good character trait, it's a perception of reality. It's not a concealment of self-worth, but a simple recognition of the worth of others. That was how Moshe Rabbeinu acted. A humble person does not think about himself simply because he has more important things to think about."


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