Beha’alotcha-Humility

Our parsha (Beha’alotcha) discusses the humility of Moshe Rabeinu: “The man, Moshe, was very humble, [moreso] than any other man on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).  This verse follows immediately after the Torah describes how Moshe would receive prophecy from Above (“face to face”).  From this, various commentaries deduce that there is an intrinsic connection between the level of humility and prophecy.  The question is: Is humility just one of several qualities necessary to attain prophecy and revelation, or is it somehow more important, leading by itself to the attainment of prophecy or other forms of revelation, such as ruach hakodesh (“divine inspiration”)?

In short, both are true, and since there are several levels of divine revelation, there are also several roles that humility may play in attaining those levels.

We may discern three different levels of humility: 1) We are aware of our positive qualities, but we think nothing of them because we assume that anyone else with the same qualities would have achieved much more  2) We not only think nothing of ourselves, but we actively minimize our own egos because we assume that it is not only “possible” that another would have surpassed us, but that it is “certain” that anyone else would have surpassed our achievements, given our qualities.  3) Not only do we minimize our ego, but we also get actively involved with other people, since “where you find the greatness of God, there you find His humility.”

These three levels of humility play three different roles in the attainment of prophecy.  For, it is known that there are several levels of divine revelation:

1) On one level, it is not necessary for us to do anything: “On every ten Jews, the Shechina dwells,” and therefore whenever ten Jews are together, a certain level of divine revelation is present.  For us to be aware of this, it is necessary to be humble, since God does not permeate that which is not nullified to Him (Tanya, Ch 6).  Here, though, humility is but one of several traits that are necessary in order to receive His divine presence.  The others are wisdom, wealth and strength (Nedarim 38A)

2) A higher level may occur to one who is humble even without comparing himself to others.  Without bothering to think that others are more than him, such a person is innately humble and does not see himself as worthy of divine revelation.  This is the level of humility that “leads to ruach kadodesh” (divine revelation) that we see in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 11A).  In this case, humility is not merely an incidental trait.  It is the causal factor that leads to divine revelation.

3) The highest level of divine revelation – prophecy – occurs among those who do not consider themselves whatsoever; they are entirely devoted to others.  Such people do not stop to think that others may be on a higher level.  Instead, they go out to be among other people and help them, throwing themselves into the fray to lift up others and help them without any regard whatsoever for themselves.  Here, humility and divine revelation are one.  The person who is humble on this level attains prophecy because he is nothing more than a conduit for the expression of Godliness in the world. It is not he who finds spiritual revelation; it is Godliness that finds him and expresses itself through him since he has no consideration for his own ego whatsoever.  This is true prophecy.

The three levels of divine revelation described above correspond to the three months of Nissan, Iyar and Sivan.  When the Jews first left Egypt during the month of Nissan, they did not attain any level of spiritual revelation.  They recognized the existence of God, but they did not feel or understand His presence.  But, they were nullified in relation to Him, and therefore, they experienced the first level of Godly revelation, that comes with merely being among other Jews.  On this level, humility is one of several traits that facilitate revelation, but do not guarantee it.

During the month of Iyar, as we count the omer, we look inside of ourselves and make an accounting. Without comparing ourslvles to others, we minimize our own egos because we understand that in essence all of us come from one source.  This promotes the level of humility that leads to ruach hakodesh – that is, to revelation of spirituality within our own intellect and feelings.  On this level, we possess our own identity, but it is permeated with spiritual revelation.

The highest level of revelation occurs during the month of Sivan, as we culminate the inner work of refinement within ourselves, and congregate to receive the Torah. At this point, we are no longer individuals who have refined our own qualities. At this point, we are members of an extended family who all work together for the good of one another, and the well-being of the other members of the family matters more to us that our own well being.  This is the spiritual level that leads to prophecy, as we saw during the giving of the Torah.

For a more detailed version, go to www.jerusalemconnection.org

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol 38, page 40-47

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