16 Av 5780 / Thursday, August 06, 2020 | Torah Reading: Eikev
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Behaalotcha: Mighty but Humble    

Behaalotcha: Mighty but Humble

The Torah goes out of its way to emphasize that Moses was a human, born from a woman's womb. Don't we all know that Moses was a man?


"And the man Moses was exceedingly humble, more than any other person on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3).


We know that the Torah doesn't waste a single word; why then does it say "the man Moses" and not simply "Moses"? Don't we all know that Moses was a man?


Moses merited a spiritual level that no other human being ever attained. Yet, when people read about his accomplishments such as his talking to Hashem face-to-face in a manner that no other prophet on earth ever did, or his learning with Hashem for forty days and forty nights without eating or drinking, they are liable to react with more than a raised eyebrow.


People look at the world through their own limited vision. They see their own spiritual level and they can't believe that there are those true tzaddikim who understand, do and see what they cannot. They therefore say, "If this is true, Moses could not have been human!" The Torah stresses in great length that Moses was human, presenting the entire circumstances of his birth in Parshat Shemot. That's why the Torah emphasizes "the man Moses", for Moses was a flesh-and-blood human being who was born to Amram and Yocheved just like any other baby is born to his or her parents.


Our sages say[1] that the Schechina – the Divine Presence – rests only on a person who is brilliant, mighty, rich and humble, and that Moses possessed all these qualities. The Torah itself testifies in our passage at hand that "the man Moses" was the most humble human – "more than any other person", again, stressing that Moses was human. In light of what our sages teach us, we can now grasp this passage much better. If a person is a dimwit, he can't brag that he's humble because he doesn't have anything to be proud about. If he's a weakling and can't beat his way out of a paper bag, he can't walk up to a football linebacker and say, "Be thankful that I'm humble, otherwise I'd mop the floor with you." Ridiculous, no? And, if he walks around begging for a handout, how can he be haughty? The Gemara says that one of the things that people can't stand is a haughty pauper.[2]


Moses was mighty, as our sages tell us in numerous places. He killed the Egyptian taskmaster with one punch. He tossed the heavy stone tablets of the covenant as if they were tennis balls. He protected Yitro's daughters against all the shepherds who were bothering them. He killed the giant Og, king of the Bashan.[3] Moses was rich as well, and he didn't need favors from anyone. He had a brilliant intellect and was phenomenally gifted. Yet, despite all his marvelous qualities, he was humble. That is genuine humility, when you have something to boast about but you don't. Genuine humility is when a person can push others around if he so desires, but he doesn't. This was "the Man" Moses, more humble than any other human who ever walked the face of the earth.


Once again, why does the Torah emphasize "the man Moses"? If I'm not mistaken, the Torah is telling us that any of us humans has the capability of going much higher than we think we can. We can all be tzaddikim if we only desire. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev would chastise his followers when they'd say, "Sure, Rebbe – you attained what you did because of your lofty soul!"[4]


"No way," the Rebbe would answer. "I attained what I did because of my hard work!" Rebbe Nachman told us that with desire and work, we too can attain great heights. When we don't, we either lack desire, hard work or both.


The prophet tells us, "And your people will all be tzaddikim"[5]. Here is scriptural proof that we all have the potential for greatness, if we'll only have the desire and the willingness to work hard. Let's get to work – there's no time to waste!



[1] Nedarim 38a

[2] Pesachim 113b

[3] See Maharal, Gur Arie, Bamidbar 21:35

[4] See Sichot Haran, 165

[5] Isaiah 60:21


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