16 Sivan 5773 / May 24-25, 2013
This week’s portion, Beha’alotcha, shares a verse that I would argue is more powerful that just about any in the entire Torah:
“Now Moses was a very humble man, more so than any other man on earth.” [Numbers 12:3]
Moses, the man who our tradition describes as the ultimate prophet (and thus arguably wielding more power than any other human being alive), is also described as the most humble man on earth in his generation.
What is the association between humility and leadership?
One of my favorite personal rabbis is someone who is incredibly unassuming and humble, despite his stature as a giant in the rabbinic world. His humility is part of what makes him approachable and accessible, and as a result, his wisdom and guidance are overwhelmingly received with an open heart and mind.
But is humility all it’s cracked up to be? In today’s hypercompetitive job market, it seems near impossible to land a position without at least a little bit of self-promotion and strong sense of self-worth. One of the most revered personalities of our generation is Steve Jobs, and he certainly was not humble. Can we be humble while selling ourselves?
What are we doing as a community to help inspire and show that we value humility (do we value humility still)? Many of us tell our children that they’re special. What we often fail to do is remind them that they’re special… just like everyone else.
We learn in Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of our Ancestors, that it is a virtue to be humble in spirit (Avot 4:12 and 5:22). Maybe there’s a compromise position here, where we strive to be humble in spirit, and being such doesn’t diminish our ability to advocate for ourselves when need be.
This Shabbat, reflect on what it might mean to be more humble in spirit. See what it's like to put those ideas into practice. Report back.