One of the greatest attributes possessed by Moshe was his humility, as the Torah attests in the portion Beha’alosecha : “Moshe was extremely humble, more so than any other person on the face of the earth.”1

Of all the Jewish people, G‑d selected Moshe to lead the Jews out of Egypt. Then G‑d chose him, and him alone, to receive the Torah, and learned with him for 40 days and nights.2

Moreover, in the portion Beha’alosecha the Torah states that Moshe was able to converse with G‑d whenever he wished3 ; that he shared his spirit with the 70 elders and lacked not because of it;4 and that his relationship with the Jewish people was that of a nurse carrying an infant.5

How was it possible for an individual who was so great to be so utterly humble. Was Moshe not aware of his stature? Especially so, since knowing one’s true station is a prerequisite to proper service of G‑d. For a person must serve G‑d according to his rank, and in order to do so one must be aware of both his virtues and his faults.

Moshe was indeed aware of his unique position, and that he far surpassed other men. Nevertheless, this did not prevent him from being the most humble of men. For Moshe thought to himself that were another individual to have been blessed with his talents, that person would have developed them to an even greater degree than he had. This was the cause of Moshe’s humility.6

However, this still remains to be understood: The thing which set Moshe apart from all other people was his prophetic ability, in that G‑d revealed Himself to him “face to face, in a vision not containing allegory, so that he saw a true picture of G‑d.”7 So great was his spirit of prophecy that the Torah testifies: “There has never again arisen in Israel a prophet like Moshe.”8

Prophecy is not something that an individual attains by dint of his own spiritual service, rather it is a revealed quality granted from above. Thus, it is impossible to say that concerning the attribute of prophecy Moshe thought that another individual would have developed this trait to a greater degree, for prophecy does not depend on the individual.

How was it, then, that Moshe was the most humble of men, when his main attribute — his degree of prophetic vision — could be replicated by nobody else?

We find in the Gemara9 a discussion as to whether humility is a greater or lesser trait than being a G‑d-fearing individual. Our Sages explain10 that there are two levels of humility, one of them superior and the other inferior to the trait of being a G‑d-fearing individual:

The inferior level of humility is based upon reason, e.g., humility based upon the thought that had another person been blessed with the same talents, that individual would have developed them to an even greater degree. The superior level of humility is humility that is an integral part of the person’s essence. The proof that this latter degree of humility — humility that transcends logic — indeed exists, can be ascertained from the fact that the trait is ascribed to G‑d Himself, as our Sages say:11 “In the very same place that you find G‑d’s greatness you also find His humility.”

Surely, with regard to G‑d the humility based upon the assumption that someone else would have done better, etc., simply cannot exist. We must therefore say that there is a degree of humility that surpasses logic.

Moshe possessed both degrees of humility: Regarding those qualities that he attained through his own spiritual service, he felt that had another person been granted his talents, that person would have developed them to an even greater degree.

With regard to his humility notwithstanding the fact that only he was granted such an outstanding degree of prophecy, the trait stemmed from Moshe’s innate character as “the most humble man upon the face of the earth.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIII, pp. 30-37.