The Parsha this week is Parshas Behaaloscho. In Parshas Behaaloscha the Torah tells us of the episode when Miriam, the sister of Moses, spoke lashan Hara – evil gossip about Moses. She didn’t say anything horrific about Moses. She simply said that he was on the same level as other prophets, and had no right to act in a way different than them. For this statement, she was afflicted with tzaraas, the affliction given to one who speaks lashan hara – evil gossip about another. She was sent out of the Jewish camp for seven days, and the entire Jewish people had to wait to resume their travels to the land of Israel until she got better. The Torah at this point discusses one of the Thirteen Priciples of Jewish faith – the greatness of the prophecy of Moses as opposed to other prophets. The Torah also makes a statement regarding Moses at this point. “And the man Moses was exceedingly humble, more than any other man on the face of the Earth” (Numbers 12 :3). Why does the Torah pick this point to describe the humility of Moses?
The Chofetz Chaim explains that the Torah wants to point out the severity of the prohibition to speak lashan hara. Even though one could argue that there should be no problem of lashan hara in speaking about Moses, since he was so humble and wouldn’t care, and even though it wasn’t really a negative thing that was said about him, just a limitation of Moses greatness, nevertheless it is still prohibited.
The statement that there was never anyone as humble as Moses begs for explanation. Certainly Hashem dictated these words to Moses to be written, as is true with every letter in the Torah. Nevertheless, is it not strange for a humble person to be writing this about himself?
This question requires us to ponder the concept of humility. Does humility mean that one is to feel that they have less qualities than they do? Does humility mean that one should not recognize their qualities?
The Torah teaches us here that this is not what humility means. One must know his or her strengths. To not recognize them is to squander the gifts Hashem has bestowed upon oneself, and to be irresponsible. Humility is to realize that the fact that Hasem has given one a particular talent or strength does not make him or her better than anyone else. Just like the horse that carries a load of gold isn’t a better horse than the one that carries coal, the person who has a particular quality is merely carrying it to use it properly to serve Hashem. If anything, they may be on a lower level than one who doesn’t have this quality, but who serves Hashem properly according to their ability. The minute we feel that we are better or more deserving than someone else we have fallen into the snares of the horrific trap of conceit. When we truly feel that anyone we meet is as good or better than us in the eyes of Hashem, this is a true feeling of humility.
This is the lesson that Moses taught us, and the beauty of true humility that prevents conceit, false pride, arguments, jealousy, lashan hara, and so many other problems in life. It is the opening to a life of serenity, happiness, of being content, avoiding arguments, and fulfilling ones true role in life.