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What is Humility?

What is Humility?

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Question:

With all due respect, rabbi, I don't think you could possibly give me a satisfying answer to the following question.

In the Torah it says, "And Moses was exceedingly humble, more than any man on the face of the earth". Very nice compliment, but who wrote this verse? Moses himself! Is that called humility?!

Answer:

Before I answer your question, allow me to make it even stronger. It also says in the Torah, "Moses spoke face to face with G-d", "No man like Moses ever lived" and countless other similar praises. How could Moses write all this if he is indeed humble?

The question is based on a misunderstanding of what humility is. If being humble means thinking of yourself as a good-for-nothing scumbag then your question is a good one. But that's not humility. That's low self-esteem, which is the opposite of humility.

Truly humble people recognize their own talents and achievements. But they don't take credit for them. They feel that their talents are gifts from G-d. They truly believe that their achievements are only due to the opportunities that came their way. No matter how successful, popular and gifted they may be, it won't go to their head, because they feel that it isn't their own accomplishment.

Moses was more humble than any man on the face of the earth. He was fully aware of the amazing feats that he had achieved. He took the Israelites out of Egypt, led them through the desert, spoke to G-d on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights. No other human in history had reached such heights, and Moses knew it. But he truly believed that his greatness was a Divine gift, and had somebody else been given his opportunities they would have utilized them better than he did. He would look at the simplest of people and think, "If he was in my shoes, he would have been a better Moses than me."

To see yourself as worthless is not humility; that's just being ungrateful. G-d has blessed each one of us with unique qualities, and we should be aware of that. In fact, only when we are aware of our self-worth can we be humble. We are humbled when we ask ourselves "I have been given the potential for greatness - have I used this gift?"

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Discussion (17)
October 18, 2009
Humility
Thank you for this explanation. It really helped me put some things in perspective.
Debra webb
South Pasadena, CA
October 17, 2009
Moses had humility
The Torah existed before Gd created the universe.

Gd looked into theTorah, which served as his blueprint when he went to create the world.

Gd GAVE the Torah to Moses for us at Mt. Sinai.

We do not know HOW Gd did this giving. Some authorities say that Gd gave it all at once. Others say that Moses was contnuing to write it down over a period of years on parchment, made from the skin of a cloven-hoofed animal (an ox, a sheep, or a goat--or even a calf, in which case the parchment is called vellum).

Either way, the words are those of Gd, not of Moses. Moses humbly accepts the Torah as is, or humbly writes what he is told to write.

The Torah is not merely Divinely inspired. It is literally the WORD of GD.

Gd carved the first set of the ten commandments on stone.
When Moses broke the first set, Gd required him to gather up the pieces and put them in the Ark, & he also required him to carve the second set himself.

* * *

He didn't break the 2nd set.
Aaron
October 17, 2009
So I finally know, what I don't like on it.
The question is put like that on purpose, that that somebody who asks does not believe at all that there is something like G-d. Then I am asking what is the reason of that person, why he asks if he does not believe in G-d, then he cannot believe in Torah, then he cannot believe in main actor - who was Moshe and his purpose in this book - that is that He was most humble person in the world, and that was the reason, why G-d choose him for Himself as His spokesman
Robert Fuchs
Jerusalem
October 17, 2009
To Karen
Yeah, the question is weird. And that is why I do believe somebody wrote it on purpose like that
Robert Fuchs
Jerusalem
October 17, 2009
HUMILITY...depends who ACTUALLY wrote...
I don't believe Moishe wrote the Torah in printed words. There is no indication he had a computer, typewriter, papyrus or ink...and if he had papyrus, he'd have run out of ink in the 40 years of traveling. Therefore, although we THINK Moses "wrote" it, it is possible this was oral history, and the person who wrote the oral history added his own commentary. Believing Moses wrote the Bible is the same as believing G-d Himself physically wrote the Bible. The only thing we have recorded is that G-d wrote the 10 commandments with His own hand.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA
October 16, 2009
To Edith
Edith,

I think you misunderstand some of the frames of reference that the Rabbi is using. To fully understand, you really need to be Jewish or to study Judaism more fully, within your own faith/religion, i.e. Christianity.

By the way, "G-d helps those who help themselves" is not an accurate interpretation of what is going on the Torah. This is a very common mistake in Christianity, which uses improper English translations and interpretations of the Hebrew.
Saul
FC, Colorado
October 16, 2009
Good job
Rabbi Aron,

Very good explanation, thanks!
Saul
FC, Colorado
October 16, 2009
Humility part 2
…Moses would said: “Please oh! Mighty G-d! Chose him instead me!”. But who was Moses to disagree with G-D?

And through Moses, G-d performed His wonders. And lead the people of Israel o the promise land. And he did well. (of course it was not a nice trip). He even saw the face of G-d. The greatest achievement of all!!! And, in that exactly moment, Moses was so humble, that he refused to look straight into G-d´s face. Because he knew that could be someone better than him. And that is to be humble.

If you could look into G-d´s face, would you do what Moses did, or you would take a peack?

Think about it!

By the way:
Who writes these questions? lololol
André
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
October 16, 2009
Humility
I undertood tha rabbi´s point of view. There is a big difference between being humble and being a loser. I always saw this diffrence that way.

What people did not realize is the difference between being proud and being a snob. And that´s the greatness of Moses. A snob belivers he/she is the one and no one else can be like him. In the other hand, a true proud person is the one who understand that his/her position in only temporaly.

Let´s imagine am athlete who brokes all records. One day, someone will break it (it is a fact). In this particular momment, the athlete has two paths to follow. One is no regonize the others records - Hiding himself in his on past glory. Or... he could reconize the other new record and even congratulate the other athlete with no jealously.
That´s the difference of Moses. Since the beggining, he said he was not the one to set the people free. (he even claim he was a steader). If G-d had found another guy, Moses... (to becontinue)
André
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
October 16, 2009
Hi.
It is like with all those questions on Chabad.org.
Who wrote these questions?
Robert Fuchs
Jerusalem
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