Insights: The divine view of human psychology is intriguing. There is an enigmatic verse from this week’s Torah portion that, within the fortnight following Shavuot, gives us an important lesson. The verse says, "Now, this man Moses was exceedingly humble, more so than any person on earth." (Num. 12:3) But Moses spoke face to face with G‑d! How can such an exalted person who merited such high spiritual levels be humbler than anyone? The great Rebbe, Naftali Tzvi of Ropshitz, once asked this question to Rabbi Tzvi Hersh of Zidichov, and this is the answer that he received.

But Moses spoke face to face with G‑d!

Even before receiving the two tablets of the Covenant, Moses learned that Tzitzit is considered a very important commandment on high, to the point that it is equal to all the commandments of the Torah combined. (Nedarim 25a) Naturally, he concluded that Tzizit were to be made from the most valuable of materials. He was surprised to discover that it could even be made from something as lowly as flax fiber.

Similarly, Tefillin. The commandment of Tefillin is so dear in heaven that we learn that G‑d too wears them. (Berachot 6a) Moses in his pure heart was certain that the leather used to make Tefillin had to be the very best. However, it turns out that while the animal leather is used to make the Tefillin has to be a kosher animal, it did not have to be ritually slaughtered! Moses then understood that even the most important commandments could still be fulfilled in a kosher way, even if made from something simple and inexpensive.

This was a significant lesson for him. Moses had assumed that the reason that the Torah had not been given until now (nearly 2500 years had passed since the world was created) was because the receiver had to be very great, and until then G‑d had not found a fitting enough person for that purpose. In his humility, it was now not surprising to Moses why G‑d had chosen him to transmit the Torah to the Jewish people: it must be because of his simplicity and ordinariness, just like the materials used for the commandments of Tzizit and Tefillin! This is why the Torah praises Moses and calls him the most humble person.

After hearing this explanation, the holy rabbi of Ropshitz kissed the Zidichover Rebbe’s forehead.

If you would leave here and I remain alone, who knows if I would merit...

This also explains a verse earlier in the portion, in connection to the complaint voiced by a certain group who were exempted from bringing the Pascal offering. They could not accept that even though they were spiritually impure at the time the offering was to be brought, they should be left out. Moses heard their question and responded, "Stand up and I will hear what G‑d will tell you!" (Num. 9:8) How could Moses know with such certainty that G‑d would speak to him? Are these the words of the most humble man on earth? The Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin answered that Moses was not referring to himself at all. ‘Stand up’ was directed at the people who had asked the question! In your merit and not mine, Moses said, will I hear what G‑d commands. If you would leave here and I remain alone, who knows if I would merit that the Almighty would speak to me!

We see something similar with the luminaries of Tsfat. All of the revelations of Rabbi Yosef Karo (author of the authoritative "Code of Jewish Law") and Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the kabbalist leader known as the Holy Ari) came from the special souls that taught them. What was their great merit to be given such a privilege? Were the secrets revealed to them because of their genius or lineage? Rather, it was their piety, purity and humility that made them a vessel. The Baal Shem Tov said about himself that the reason he was blessed with divine inspiration and a special soul to teach him was because of his great investment in prayer. In these days following the holiday of Shavuot, when the Jewish people each year again receive the Torah anew, it is time to apply these lessons to ourselves. We have to remember that true greatness and spiritual clarity is not necessarily associated with intellect, rather piety, purity and humility.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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