This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Vol. 23 No. 37
Yeshaya ben Baruch z"l
Humility Grows with the Tzadik
"The man (ho'ish) Moshe was very humble, more than all the men (ho'odom) on the face of the earth" (12:3).
How is it possible, asks the Chofetz Chayim, for a man who ascended to the Heaven and communicated with G-d to feel so small?
A man's task in this world is to serve G-d according to his personal level of understanding. Consequently, Moshe R., who had received the Torah from the Hand of G-d, could not reach his full potential by being like other men. In his capacity as the greatest of men, he had to strive to become like the angels, whose ranks he had all but joined. Hence the Sifri comments on the words "more than all men" - but not more than the angels, who, totally immersed as they are in the service of their Creator, are devoid of any ego whatsoever.
As man grows spiritually and draws closer to G-d, not only is there no room for pride, but his level of humility must grow together with him. Much like a senior employee in a large company, whose responsibilities increase as he climbs the corporate ladder. Should he use his authority to throw his weight around and to boost his own ego, he will more than likely find himself out of a job.
Bearing in mind that "Ish" generally refers to a higher level of man, and "Adam", to a lower one, the change of "Ish" to "Adam" in the opening Pasuk now fits beautifully. The Pasuk is now telling us that Moshe the Ish, was more humble that any Odom. Not only does the change from Ish to Odom highlight Moshe's incredible Midah of humility, it was the inevitable outcome of the high level that he attained - the greater the person, the greater the humility. And that explains why, even today, we see the most outstanding Talmidei-Chachamim and Tzadikim who are devoid of the slightest measure of haughtiness or pride.
The question remains however, how on earth these great men - who tower over their contemporaries in learning, in Yir'as Shamayim, and in good deeds, remain seemingly unaware of their own greatness?
This can be explained in two ways, ut first, we need to point out that genuine humility (in the realm of the spiritual) is only applicable to a great person, inasmuch as he has something about which to boast. Someone who falls short in his duties towards his Creator, has nothing of which to be proud, and can therefore lay no claim to humility.
Now for the two reasons: 1). By being constantly aware of the need to grow in character as one grows in knowledge, Tzadikim work on themselves continuously, as they perceive the purpose of their ever-growing increase in knowledge to reach new heights in character-development. This is in keeping with the Medrash Tanchuma, which states that the Mitzvos were only given to Yisrael for them to purify their characters-traits; and in keeping with the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (3:9) which places the Fear of G-d on a higher plane than Torah-knowledge.
2). People generally gauge their own achievements and view their level against the achievements and the level of their fellow-men. Tzadikim however, as they draw closer to G-d, measure their own level against His, seeing His greatness and by contrast, their own smallness. Consequently, their own shortcomings, all but invisible against the backdrop of their contemporaries, become that much more conspicuous when seen in light of His perfection - much in the same way as a washed garment, which appears perfectly clean when compared to a dirty one, appears shabby when compared to one that has been bleached.
This fits beautifully with the S'fas Emes, who attributes Bil'am's blindness in one eye to the fact that whereas a person has two eyes, one with which to perceive G-d's greatness, the other, his own smallness, Bil'am (in his capacity as a prophet) saw G-d's greatness, but he could not see his own smallness.
Tzadikim's knowledge and understanding of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu grow daily and their Midos and humility grow apace.
(See following article).
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Acknowledging G-d's Greatness
Yesterday & Today
The above article is reminiscent of the following story of R. Sa'adya Ga'on, which took place when he once stayed at an inn. When after a few days, the inn-keeper discovered the identity of his esteemed guest, he rushed to see him and began apologizing profusely for not having treated him well. R. Sa'adya Ga'on did not understand. He pointed out to his host that the food was excellent and that the service had been of the highest standard.
But the latter, beside himself with remorse, explained that he had treated him like any other guest, not in the way that one ought to treat a guest of his caliber. And so he proceeded to beg his forgiveness for not having given R. Sa'adya Ga'on the V.I.P. treatment that the Gadol ha'Dor deserved.
From that day on, the story goes, taking his cue from the inn-keeper, the Ga'on did Teshuvah every day of his life - for not giving Hashem the Kavod that He deserved. This, he explained, was due to the fact that, not acknowledging G-d's Greatness yesterday to the extent that he did today, he only honoured Him according to yesterday's understanding. But now that his appreciation of G-d had increased, he had to do Teshuvah for not honouring Him yesterday in accordance with today's understanding.
Go Take the Land
Ten days short of a year after arriving at Har Sinai, Yisrael left on their way to capture Eretz Cana'an, as it was then called. Commenting on the words "Arise, Hashem and your enemies will scatter" (10:35) - a phrase that we repeat whenever the Seifer-Torah is taken out from the Oron ha'Kodesh - the Seforno extrapolates that, had Yisrael not subsequently sinned by the Meraglim, the Cana'anim would have run away and Yisrael would have taken over the land without 'a shot being fired' (a fact that Rashi in Devarim learns from the Pasuk there [1:8] "Come, take possession of the land!").
G-d's response to the spies was 'If you opt to fight, then go ahead, I will not stand in your way', as Chazal have said 'One leads a person along the path that he chooses to go' (Makos, 10b).
This episode and change of plan had two major ramifications:
1). That due to Yisrael's additional forty years sojourn in the desert, the Cana'anim, who were pervert but not yet worthy of annihilation, continued to degenerate to the extent that they eventually had to be destroyed, as the Seforno himself points out.
2). That as a result of the new set of circumstances, Yisrael were unable or rather unworthy, of conquering the entire country. This resulted in idolatry remaining rampant in the land, a sin in which Yisrael participated, thus sowing the seeds of the Churban Beis-ha-Mikdash, and their exile from the land almost nine hundred years later.
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