with Rav Avigdor Miller
Arrogance and Self-Esteem
Part I. The Humble Man
The Greatest Praise
In Parshas Behaaloscha we find some of the most glorious words of acclaim that Hakodosh Boruch Hu ever heaped upon a single human being. About Moshe Rabeinu the Torah tells us: וְהָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה עָנָיו מְאֹד – And the man Moshe was very humble, מִכֹּל הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר עַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה – more humble than any other human being on the face of the earth (Bamidbar 12:3).
Now, the Torah doesn’t tell us that he was a chacham mi’kol ha’adam, the wisest man on the face of the earth – although he was. And it doesn’t say that he was a zariz m’kol ha’adam – and Moshe was that too. There are many words of praise that the Torah could have chosen to laud upon Moshe, absolutely. And yet, the one thing that the Torah chooses to tell us is that he was “more humble than any other human being on the face of the earth.”
What Is Humility?
Now, a statement like that about Moshe Rabeinu, an encomium of such magnitude, deserves to be studied at length; the truth is that we could spend many hours on the subject and it wouldn’t be enough. However, the first thing we make note of is that this whole subject of Moshe Rabeinu’s exceptional anivus doesn’t really make sense to us altogether; because according to the way we usually understand the subject of humility we would have believed that Moshe was a meek person; a quiet and self-effacing man who didn’t recognize his own greatness. Isn’t that what humility means after all? Doesn’t it mean that you have a low opinion of yourself in comparison to others; that you don’t consider yourself as wise and as virtuous as others?
And so, if we were saying pshat in the Torah, we would have said that “the man Moshe was more humble than any other human being on the face of the earth” means that Moshe Rabeinu considered himself inferior to everyone else on the earth. That’s what I would have said anyhow.
An Impossible Conclusion
And yet, such a conclusion is impossible to conceive of. It would be preposterous for us to imagine that Moshe Rabeinu considered himself inferior because in the Torah it’s written, וְלֹא קָם נָבִיא עוֹד בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל כְּמֹשֶׁה – Never again did there arise a prophet like Moshe (Devarim 34:10). Our great Torah teacher, Moshe Rabeinu, wouldn’t deny that possuk. He had to believe he was the greatest prophet – it’s part of the Torah.
And it’s not just part of the Torah – it’s the Torah! Because that’s the certification of the whole Torah; that there’s no such thing as a prophecy that supersedes the prophecy of Moshe Rabeinu! “Never again,” says Hakodosh Boruch Hu, “will there arise a prophet as great as Moshe.” And if anyone should come along subsequently with a claim that he has been given a vision that Moshe’s Torah is abolished – “The Old Testament was good up to a certain time but I’ve been told directly from Hashem Himself that from now on its null and void” – so he’s a liar and a false prophet. No one will ever have the power to say, “I have been given a vision min hashamayim to nullify what Moshe Rabeinu taught.”
No Inferiority Complex
Now, of all the men on the face of the earth Moshe Rabeinu knew the Torah best and he certainly believed this fundamental principle that never again would a navi arise like himself. Moshe Rabeinu believed every word of the Torah; he wasn’t an apikoris, chas v’shalom. He knew that he was the only man in history to speak face to face with Hashem and that the dvar Hashem that had come to the Am Yisroel through him was the final word forever.
And so we come back to our question: How could it be that the man who was greater than anyone on the face of the earth was also humbler than anyone on the face of the earth? It presents a problem to the usual definition of meekness because Moshe certainly knew his worth; he certainly didn’t have an inferiority complex.
Know Your Strong Points
So we’ll have to repeat what we’ve said before from the Chovos Halevavos: A beheimah, he says, also seems to be an anav. You see a big ox and he’s being driven down the road by a little boy. Now, your standard ox weighs more than a thousand pounds and the little boy is maybe seventy, eighty pounds. The ox could step on him and mash him in an instant but it marches along meekly, following the boy’s commands. So, you’re going to tell me this ox is an anav?! No, it’s not an anav, it’s just a dumb ox! It has no seichel – it doesn’t know its power; it’s not aware of its capabilities.
So a leader of the Am Yisroel, even if he’s an anav, can’t be a dumb ox; he can’t be someone who yields. Moshe Rabeinu was not a nebech’el; he wasn’t a milquetoast. He didn’t yield to Korach or anybody else. He was a strong man, and he spoke with teeth when he had to. He showed anger too! וַיִּקְצֹף מֹשֶׁה עַל פְּקוּדֵי הֶחָיִל – Moshe Rabeinu was angry at the commanders of the troops (Bamidbar 31:14). Or when the se’ir ha’chatas was burned, וַיִּקְצֹף עַל אֶלְעָזָר וְעַל אִיתָמָר – Moshe got angry with Elazar and Isamar. דָּרֹשׁ דָּרַשׁ מֹשֶׁה – He demanded to know: “What’s the reason you burned the korban?!” He didn’t walk away meekly, doubting himself. He was tough! He demanded to know! “Why didn’t you eat the korban?!”
Sign Of A Great Man
And yet, as big as he was, as imposing and tough as he was, when it was needed, he was an anav towards men. Certainly Moshe Rabeinu dealt with his fellow man in a most humble manner when it was called for. All of our great men were like that – if someone didn’t deal with others with anivus, then you can be sure he wasn’t great.
Certainly you could be the greatest of men and yet see the greatness of others; certainly you can be the most honored man and still treat everyone else with honor. And that very great achievement of Moshe Rabeinu – to appreciate your self worth and yet to learn how to be humble towards all people – is one that we all have to try to imitate. Like it says in one sefer, one of the questions they will ask a man in the next world is, Himlachta es chaveirecha alecha b’nachas ruach – “Did you make your chaver reign over you with your gentleness?” (Reishis Chochma Sha’ar Ha’yirah 12). That’s a question you’re going to have to answer on the great day of judgment. Did you or didn’t you? Instead of ruling over your fellow by means of your attitude, by means of opening a big mouth, did you speak gently to him? Did you make him feel like he’s more important than you? It’s a question you’ll have to answer one day.
The Ignorant Arrogant
Now, it’s not as easy as it sounds because we’re not humble! Actually we think very highly of ourselves! And when someone thinks highly of himself it just can’t be helped – he looks down on other people. Sometimes he’ll even talk against them and belittle them.
You hear it all the time – even by ignorant people; unlearned people stand on the telephone and you hear them knocking this one and knocking that one, belittling this person and that person. If you sit next to one of these people in the beis knesses and listen to him for just a little bit, you’ll find out right away that you’re sitting next to somebody great. He’s knocking everyone; the man sitting behind him, the Rav, the gabbai, the chazan. Nobody matches up to him! That’s why he knocks people – he considers himself superior and he looks down on them.
Most People Never Grow Up
It’s the most natural thing there is. Even a little baby standing in his crib is full of ga’avah. He loves to do things to get attention; he’ll jump up and down in his crib so that you’ll clap at him. A little child thinks he’s everything. אֲנִי וְאַפְסִי עוֹד – “I am everything and besides for me nothing counts in this world.” He thinks the whole world is battel to him; what he wants, that’s what’s important in the world. And if he doesn’t get what he wants he stamps his feet and goes into a tantrum; he shouts and screams for it. The world revolves around him and only him.
Now, in the course of time, as he gets older he begins to recognize that there are other people in the world besides him and he gains a certain understanding of how to adjust to mankind. In order to interact with society he learns to squelch his ga’avah within him. But it’s still there – it’s very much there. What he does and how he does it and how he thinks, that’s the right way to be. “I know that my judgment is best,” he thinks. “Sometimes I can make an error, but in general my mind is more straight than most people.” And he is so proud of himself that he looks down on very many people; he makes them nothing at all.
The Instinctive Haughtiness
But the cold hard truth is that a man is accustomed to considering himself important, not because he made any calculation. He never took the time to study the virtues of others and the virtues he possesses and compare them. No, he never made any such reckoning. He instinctively knows that he is better! It’s the most natural instinct in the world!
And therefore, if we’re going to overcome that instinct, it will take some effort; in order to counter that inborn feeling of your own importance you must get busy studying the good qualities of other people. Recognizing virtues in other people is the first step to becoming a humble person, a person who won’t be embarrassed to answer that question, “Did you make your chaver reign over you?” That’s the first exercise for building up our humility muscles – to spend some time looking for virtues in other people.
Set Aside Some Time
And if you look, you’re certainly going to find. You’ll find! Everybody has some good points. You’ll be surprised how many there are. You might even find that others are just as great as you are – maybe even more important than you are. We’ve been turning our eyes away from everyone else’s good points because we prefer to think about our own qualities – we like it better that way. But it’s not a matter of putting yourself down; what we’re saying here is that you have to start lifting others up.
Now, don’t tell me that you know all about it. It’s not true; you never did it – you never set aside time to think about the qualities of somebody else. It could be that once it accidentally came into your head that this person has this ma’aleh or somebody else has a different good quality, but that’s not enough. You must spend time thinking about it. If you’re willing to think a little, then after a while you begin to see that you’re not the only tzadik in the world – other people are full of good things too. And little by little, you begin to level out with other people. Maybe you’ll even end up feeling inferior to many people.
When you start studying people individually, one at a time, you’ll be amazed at the good qualities of people and little by little, the ga’avah, the arrogance, will start leaching out of you. When you search out for the good qualities in others and realize that other people are good too, that’s one of the ways to work on overcoming ga’avah. It’s one of the ways of beginning to walk the path of humility that Moshe Rabeinu walked his whole life.
And that means walking the path to greatness. That’s what the seforim say – when you look in mussar seforim and you study the subject of humility you see that it’s the foundation of so many good middos. Anavah is a shem hakollel, a general term that includes many good things; all the good middos of character are subdivisions of humility. An anvasan, a humble person, is beloved by all those around. Not only is he not arrogant but he is kindly and patient; he’s forgiving too. Someone who is an anav to the people around him is walking on the road to greatness.
Part II. The Humble Human
The Other Humility
Now, you’ll notice that when it comes to anivus the seforim always emphasize bein adam la’chaveiro, the humility that one is supposed to feel towards his fellow man. Because that is the most usual understanding of humility. Against whom are people arrogant? Against other people! And therefore that is the definition that we usually think of – to be an anav, a humble fellow, to everybody. And that’s why the avodah of studying the virtue of others is so important.
However, when you study the Chovos Halevavos and you reach the Sha’ar Ha’keniah, the section where he’s teaching us about the middah of humility, you’ll seek in vain if you look for the quality in the way we’ve spoken about it here tonight. The Chovos Halevavos is a sefer bein adam la’Makom, an instruction manual for how to live in this world with Hashem; and so when he talks about humility he introduces us to something entirely new altogether. Pay attention to this because this is the whole subject of tonight; it’s a fundamental concept that deserves to be studied at length.
When the Chovos Halevavos talks about being an anav he says that humility means being an anav towards Hakodosh Boruch Hu. That’s the definition of humility as supplied by the Chovos Halevavos – you have to learn how to be a humble person in your dealings with Hashem.
Humble To Whom?
Now, most people when they hear this, they think, “Is it really necessary to tell me to be an anav to Hashem?” They don’t even know what it means. But the Chovos Halevavos considers it extremely necessary! And he tells us a big chiddush – that when the Torah praises Moshe Rabbeinu for his humility it was primarily because of this anivus; he was humbled before Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
Now, we understand of course that if the Torah tells us he was most humble, he was certainly humble to other people as well. Moshe Rabeinu treated everyone with respect; certainly he was a humble man bein adam la’chaveiro. But what we’re learning now is that even that humility of Moshe Rabeinu was built upon the more sublime humility – humility towards Hashem. That’s what the Chovos Halevavos is teaching us.
Humility and Awareness
Now, if we’re going to try to take something out of tonight’s speech, we should try to understand as best as we possibly can what it was that Moshe Rabeinu did to achieve such a humility; a humility to Hashem that brought him such praise in the Torah. We certainly won’t be able to understand everything on the level that Moshe understood it, but one thing we do know is that this most humble of all men wasn’t born humble; he rose to greatness by means of a lot of work. And so, it’s something we can emulate; it’s something we should emulate.
So we look back in our parsha and we see that the first thing the Torah tells us about Moshe Rabeinu after praising his anivus is that וּתְמֻנַת הַשֵּׁם יַבִּיט – Moshe was a man who looked at the likeness of Hashem (Behaaloscha 12:8). More than anybody else who ever lived, Moshe Rabeinu kept before him the image of Hashem. He couldn’t see Hashem, but as much as a human being could be aware of His presence, Moshe achieved that.
The Humble Duke
And just like when a man stands in front of a king – even if he himself is a duke, a lord of vast estates – but in the presence of a king he is humble; he bows or prostrates himself. Let’s say the Duke of Glasgow comes to visit the King of England. Now, in Glasgow he has a big palace with many servants; he has a chariot too with footmen – a whole retinue he has.
But when he comes to stand before the King of England, he stands humbly before him with his head bowed. When you stand near a king, no matter how great you are, you’re humbled before him; if you know you’re standing in front of someone important, and you have even a little bit of seichel, you’ll feel a sense of humility.
The Humble Prophet
And so, l’havdil, when someone stands before Hakodosh Boruch Hu like Moshe Rabeinu did, he’s automatically humble. Diber Hashem el Moshe panim el Panim – Moshe knew Hashem face to face and that’s why ha’ish Moshe anav me’od; that’s why he was the most humble of men. “Not because I’m nothing. No, I am something. I am very important.” Was Moshe the smallest of men? No, he was the greatest of men and he knew that! “But I am standing in the Presence of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, and when someone stands in the Presence of Hakodosh Boruch Hu he is automatically humble.”
And therefore, no matter how much Moshe Rabeinu recognized his excellence, no matter how great he knew that he was, but he was always meek. He was humble more than any other man because more than any other man he was aware that he was standing lifnei Hashem. Hashem was engraved on his mind in letters that could never be erased, even for a moment. There wasn’t a hesech hada’as — even for a second he didn’t forget that he was standing lifnei Hashem. And if you’re standing in front of Hashem you automatically become an anav. You don’t have to study it in the seforim; automatically you lower your head because you’re always in a mood of humility. That’s how Moshe Rabeinu lived his life, and that’s why he became the anav m’kol adam.
Try It At Home
Now, once we understand that true anavah, the genuine humility that Hashem desires from us, is based on the recognition that you’re standing always before Him, it means that the more you’ll practice up that you’re in the presence of Hashem all the time, the more of an anav you become.
The possuk says: הַשֵּׁם מִשָּׁמַיִם הִשְׁקִיף עַל בְּנֵי אָדָם – Hashem is looking down on human beings constantly, לִרְאוֹת הֲיֵשׁ מַשְׂכִּיל דֹּרֵשׁ אֶת אֱלֹקִים– He wants to see, “Is there anyone who is thinking about Me?” (Tehillim 14:2). He’s looking at you all the time. And Pirkei Avos teaches us that we need to live with this understanding. Da mah limaalah mimcha – You have to know what’s above you, Ayin ro’eh – An eye is looking at you (Avos 2:1). Da means that you have to know it; you have to feel it with all your being. And the ones who keep that in mind, they become the true anavim; they become the truly humble people, because they are humbled before Hashem.
Practicing in Kovno
When I was in Slabodka I heard from the older Yeshiva men that there was a mussar shtiebel in Kovno; a special mussar house. So I left the seder once and went there. I left the Yeshiva and walked across the river and went to the mussar house. They told me it’s always locked but that there is loose brick where they keep the key hidden. They described to me where the loose brick is and they said that I should pull out the loose brick and that I would find the key there. So sure enough I saw the loose brick; I pulled it out and found the key and I let myself in.
I walked in and I was all by myself in the old mussar house. And I was sitting there and I was thinking, “OK; I’m here; but what should I do? It’s an opportunity.” So I was thinking I should work on this: “Hashem is looking at me.” So I sat there for an hour. For a full hour I sat there by myself, thinking that Hashem is looking at me. It was in the old mussar shtiebel in Kovno. I don’t regret that experience. Not at all.
It’s so important and you must find time for it. The great tzadikim of ancient times spent weeks and months on that. Of course, they did other things too; but they constantly worked on this attitude, this awareness that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is looking. All the time, His eyes are looking at you.
Part III. The Humble Mute
Man Of Few Words
Now, there’s another very valuable method of working your way towards the humility that comes from Awareness of Hashem; the anivus that Moshe Rabeinu is so praised for. You remember when Moshe was commissioned by Hashem to go back to Mitzrayim to speak to Pharaoh, he said לֹא אִישׁ דְּבָרִים אָנֹכִי – I am not a man of words (Shemos 4:10). So some people think it means he was tongue-tied with a stammer. But that’s not so – the pshat in the chumash is different than what we think. “I am not a man of words,” means that he was a man unaccustomed to talking; he had trained himself to keep his mouth closed. And it was by means of that training that Moshe Rabeinu achieved that eternal title of anav me’od m’kol adam, the most humble of all men. It’s an important lesson you’re hearing now – one of the ways of gaining humility is to be a man of few words.
Sometimes you watch a man sitting on a park bench and he’s talking for hours. You might even envy him. You’d fall short of words if you would open your mouth and yet he’s a fountain of speech; words just flow so naturally from him, and people are listening to him. And you’re watching him and thinking, “What does he have to talk about so much?!”
The answer is, he’s talking about himself — what he saw, what he heard, what he did. The man is emptying out all that he has. It’s a middah of egoism. A person is interested in himself and he wants to show himself to others – talking is the opposite of humility.
A Shverer Rambam
And that answers for us a question, something that at first glance seems quite puzzling. In Hilchos Dei’os the Rambam introduces us to the middah of humility; he’s telling us there about the dangers of ga’avah and he advises us to go to the extremes of humility: שֶׁאֵין הַדֶּרֶךְ הַטּוֹבָה שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הָאָדָם עָנָיו בִּלְבַד – It’s not the proper path to just be somewhat of a humble person, אֶלָּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה שְׁפַל רוּחַ – instead, you should be a sh’fal ruach – it means you should be very very humble.
And then suddenly, in the middle of this discussion the Rambam says like this: “A man should always train himself to be as silent as possible; he should speak only in words of wisdom or words that are necessary for his daily existence.”
Now, to the casual reader it seems like the Rambam is switching gears; he’s talking about arrogance and suddenly he switches topics altogether and he’s warning us against unnecessary words. It seems to be a non-sequitur.
Silence is Humility
But if you’ll analyze it properly, you’ll see it’s not so. And that’s because silence is anavah! Not talking is both the cause and result of humility! Because silence means that you know that you are standing in the presence of someone.
Shlomo Hamelech taught us that. In Koheles (5:1) he teaches us the secret to true anavah: אַל תְּבַהֵל עַל פִּיךָ – Don’t be in a hurry to express yourself, וְלִבְּךָ אַל יְמַהֵר לְהוֹצִיא דָבָר לִפְנֵי הָאֱלֹקִים – Your heart, your mind, shouldn’t be in a hurry to say something in the Presence of Hashem. When you’re sitting at the table with your family, your friends, Hashem is present; so keep quiet, says Shlomo. כִּי הָאֱלֹקִים בַּשָּׁמַיִם וְאַתָּה עַל הָאָרֶץ – Because Hashem is in the heavens and you’re down below on the earth, עַל כֵּן יִהְיוּ דְבָרֶיךָ מְעַטִּים – therefore your words should be few.
The Sensible Silence
If a man opens up his mouth and words flow out without restraint, so it means he doesn’t feel like he’s in anybody’s presence! L’havdil elef havdolos, if you are talking with the gadol hador, with let’s say Rav Shach, Rav Moshe Feinstein, would you talk much? If you have any sense at all you wouldn’t say a word!
Let’s say you meet the Sigheter Rav on Bedford Avenue; you’re standing in front of him and somebody comes over to you, “Hey, Chaim! What time is it?” Would you say, “It’s three o’clock”?! No you keep quiet; you keep your mouth shut when you’re standing in front of your rebbeh! Let him talk; you keep quiet. Chacham eino medaber bifnei mi shegadol mimenu – “Someone with chochma doesn’t open his mouth when he’s standing in front of somebody bigger than him” (Avos 5:7).
Quiet! He’s Here!
Not only in the presence of an adam gadol. Even if a rich man was standing here you would talk in subdued tones. A rich man once came down to our yarchei kallah; he was a very rich man and when he walked in everyone was subdued; it quieted down. For what? For nothing. He wouldn’t give us anything anyhow. The rich sometimes give the least of all and we knew him already; he wouldn’t give anything. But still, we quieted down because we were aware that we were in the presence of a wealthy person. We had a certain respect for him — we were talking in a whisper.
You see it again and again. The president of the Board of Directors walks into the yeshiva, into the beis medrash, and it quiets down. Right away, it’s quiet. Even the rebbehs begin speaking quietly; the bochurim, instead of chattering loudly and laughing now they’re talking in subdued tones. The big man is here!
The Real Boss Is Here
Now, there’s someone who’s bigger than the president of the board; bigger than Rav Shach and the Sigheter Rav, l’havdil. Anyone who opens his mouth and talks as much as he wants that’s a demonstration that he’s not standing in the presence of Hashem. He doesn’t feel it at all! There’s no question about it! If you talk according to your heart’s desire, then you don’t believe in Hashem; you don’t have any emunah. I don’t care how you look and what you profess to be – if you’re going to chatter without restraint you’re not standing lifnei Elokim.
I’m not talking now about frumkeit; frumkeit is not yiras shamayim – there’s no connection at all. Frumkeit is a certain habit, a very good habit; but that’s all it is, a good habit. Yiras shomayim is something else altogether – it means you’re aware of Hakodosh Boruch Hu. And if you’re aware that you’re actually standing in front of Hashem so you don’t open your mouth and talk. The fact that you keep your mouth closed indicates that you realize that you’re standing in front of somebody. Just like you wouldn’t shoot off your mouth in the presence of somebody important, you don’t chatter in the presence of Elokim bashomayim.
Is It Out Of Reach?
Now, such a madreigah, such a level of awareness seems to be out of reach for most of us. And that’s because for us Hashem is a name in the siddur, that’s all. He’s in the shul maybe; we’ll give Him that. Halevai we should stop talking in the shul when the siddur is open. But how do plain people like us achieve such an awareness, an awareness of the Presence of Hashem at all times?
The answer is that there is a great principle which is taught to us by the Mesillas Yesharim who uses it extensively. It’s such an important psychological principle that it cannot be overstated. Briefly stated the principle is as follows: הַחִיצוֹנִיּוּת מְעוֹרֶרֶת אֶת הַפְּנִימִיּוּת – The exteriority bestirs the interiority; it means that our outward acts stir up inwardly reactions within us.
Supercharge Your Prayers
It’s like a man who comes to shul in the morning and he’s tired and lazy; he has no enthusiasm. So what does he do? Usually nothing. But if he learned this eitzah from the Mesillas Yesharim so he opens his big mouth and he forces himself to shout: Hodu lashem, kir’u b’shmo, hodi’u lashem alilosav! He doesn’t mean it at all but he shouts anyhow. And after a while his outwardliness stirs up a reaction inwardly and he becomes enthusiastic too.
The same is in case you don’t love a certain person but as you pass by you give that person a friendly smile; it warms you up and you become friendly to him. You’re not in the mood, but by opening your mouth, by moving your limbs and making the motions of enthusiasm, you’ll see soon that it will evoke from you an attitude of enthusiasm and readiness.
It’s a very important principle you’re hearing now. If you want to change, then act like you’re good and that’s the way to stir up a reaction inside of you. Act like a gentleman. Act like a decent person. Act like you want to be davening with kavanah. You’re not deceiving anybody because the result will be that it’s going to warm you up and you’ll actually become that.
And so we should make use of that principle for our subject as well. So what if you’re not aware of Hashem right now?! But you want it and you’re willing to practice it. If we want to train ourselves to be humble like Moshe Rabeinu, we have to do things externally to awaken those emotions of awareness of the Presence of Hashem.
If a man behaves as much as he can as if he is standing in the Presence of Hakodosh Boruch Hu – even though he doesn’t feel it at all but he knows that he wants to feel it and so when the time comes to open his mouth and he clamps down and desists, that’s going to make him feel as if he was standing lifnei Elokim. He doesn’t feel it at all but it’s going to have that effect on him. Just like the man who does feel that he’s standing lifnei Elokim and he keeps quiet because of that, the one who goes through the motions is also little by little going to stir up within himself a genuine emotion of Awareness of Hashem.
It’s an avodah; it takes practice. You practice it up a few times during the day; “Instead of opening my mouth, I’m going to squelch the wisecrack that I wanted to say because I’m in the Presence of Hakodosh Boruch Hu.” By means of restraining that leitzanus that you wanted to say — Don’t say it! — by acting as if you’re standing lifnei ha’Elokim, it’s going to gain for you a genuine feeling of emunah that you are standing in front of Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
Be A Wallflower
You want to hear more? If possible, you should try to make yourself inconspicuous when you come together with people. Let’s say you come to a wedding; don’t stand in the middle of the floor greeting everybody and acting as if you are the most important person there, like a president greeting all the visitors that come to his reception. No. You sit at the side like a wallflower, like an unimportant person, keeping your mouth closed. Not because you’re shy or humble; you’re practicing.
When you come to the beis haknesses, try to make the least noise that you can. Try to crush, to repress the urge to show yourself. Not that you’re a nobody; you’re a somebody, absolutely. But if Hashem is also in the room then it’s hard to shoot off your mouth no matter how important you are.
The purpose of opening the mouth and talking is to show, “I am here! Look at me!” And that’s why it takes effort to be silent – because you’re battling against this animal within you that wants to bark or meow or make noises, to show that it’s there, to demonstrate anochi. And therefore, when a man is able to keep his mouth closed with the opposite purpose in mind, by reminding himself that he’s humble before Hashem, he’s already walking in the footsteps of Moshe Rabeinu.
The True Humble
And so we come back to what is said about Moshe in our parsha: וְהָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה עָנָיו מְאֹד – Moshe was a very humble man (Bamidbar 12:3). It doesn’t say there that he was humble. No, he was humble me’od, very humble – “more humble than anyone on the face of the earth.” And that’s because he was more aware of Hashem than anyone else on the face of the earth. Because temunas Hashem yabit, that’s why he was the anav m’kol adam.
True humility is the sign of an eved Hashem because it comes from Awareness of Him – that’s why all those who serve Hakodosh Boruch Hu and believe in Him implicitly are called anavim. When Dovid Hamelech wanted to tell how Hakodosh Boruch Hu saved him from his enemies, he said, בַּהַשֵּׁם תִּתְהַלֵּל נַפְשִׁי – My soul takes pride in Hashem because He came and saved me from all kinds of troubles during my career, יִשְׁמְעוּ עֲנָוִים וְיִשְׂמָחוּ – Let the humble listen and let them rejoice (Tehillim 34:3). “I want to tell you now how Hakodosh Boruch Hu steps in and helps,” said Dovid, “and you people, you humble people, should listen and rejoice.”
Now, where does humble come in here?! All of a sudden he is calling them humble? It should have been yishme’u tzaddikim or yishme’u yere’im – “Listen you tzadikim,” or “Listen you ones who fear Hashem.” Maybe yishme’u maaminim v’yismachu, “Listen up, you faithful ones and rejoice.” But instead he says yishme’u anavim – “Let the humble, the meek listen and rejoice.”What is Dovid trying to say?
The answer is that the anav in Tehillim is the same anav as in our parsha. It means somebody who has a genuine awareness of Hashem. He’s fully convinced and he always feels that he’s standing in the Presence of Hashem. It’s not merely that he signs on the dotted line, Ani maamin – “I am a maamin.” You sign off that you believe in Hashem and that’s all? No, that’s not a maamin. A real maamin is one who feels the presence of Hashem so strongly that he is nichna before Him. It can’t be helped; he doesn’t have to learn in the seforim how to be an anav – he actually feels humbled! And that’s because he knows, he actually senses, that he is standing before Hashem. And of all people in the world there was nobody who understood that he was standing before Hakodosh Boruch Hu at all times like Moshe Rabeinu did.
Have A Wonderful Shabbos