Being Humble


The Tomer Devorah (second chapter) writes that the quality of humility is the key to all good middot. Humility is the crown jewel and glory of a Jew. It is a delight being in the presence of a humble person, because, as the pasuk (Mishlei 3:34) says, “Hashem bestows a special element of grace and charm upon those who are modest.”

How does a person acquire this priceless character trait? The answer is provided by the following pasuk in Yirmiyah (9:22):

“The wise man shall not pride himself for his wisdom; the mighty one shall not pride himself for his might; the wealthy man shall not pride himself for his wealth.”

A person should not pride himself for his wisdom, because as the pasuk (Mishlei 2:6) states, “For it is Hashem Who grants wisdom.” One should not be arrogant on account of his strength, because – Hashem gives people strength (I Divrei HaYamim 29:11). A person should not feel proud about his wealth, because – it is Hashem Who grants wealth, and He makes one poor and one rich. All wealth in the world belongs to Hashem, and not to the human “owner.”

Everything we have is a gift from Hashem, and the more we acknowledge this fact, the humbler we will be.

Nobody embodied this quality more than David HaMelech, who described himself as ‘a nursing baby’ (Tehillim 131:2).  A baby receives everything from his mother: his food, his clothing, all his needs. An infant cannot even put food in his mouth by himself. David says that despite everything he had – his powerful army, his wisdom, his wealth – he achieved nothing on his own. Like a newborn baby, he received everything from Hashem. It was Hashem Who granted him the wisdom to become the head of the Sanhedrin, and it was Hashem Who made him the king and granted him wealth for the purpose of helping others.

In that same chapter (Tehillim 131:1), David says about himself, “Hashem, my heart was not haughty.” The Sages explain this as referring to the time when David was anointed king.  For 28 years, he was scorned. He was not even allowed to sit at the same table with his brothers because of his questionable lineage. He was sent out with the sheep into the pastures, in the expectation that he would be devoured by a wild animal. And when the prophet Shmuel arrived with Hashem’s instructions to anoint one of Yishai’s sons as king, the family did not even bother to call David to attend. It was only after Shmuel met all the brothers and said that none of them was chosen as king, that Shmuel asked if there were any other brothers, and David was brought. David had been hounded and rejected for all those years, and now, at this moment, Shmuel took his flask of oil and anointed him king over Israel, proclaiming “This is the one.”  We could imagine the thoughts passing through a person’s mind in that situation, upon being lifted from the dust, and yet David testifies about himself – he felt not even one ounce of pride or arrogance.

David continues and declares, “my eyes were not lifted high.” Chazal teach us that this was said in reference to David’s triumph over Goliath, the enemy who had been tormenting and intimidating the Jews and whom David killed singlehandedly. Let us imagine the scene: the people saw their greatest enemy and threat killed, and they burst out in song and dance, praising their hero, David. And yet, David did not feel any pride or arrogance. He thought to himself, I did nothing; it was all Hashem.

The more credit we give Hashem for everything we have and everything we accomplish, the more humble we will become. The Shelah HaKodesh writes that if a person is humble, then his prayers are accepted, his sins are forgiven, he is privileged to sit in the presence of Hashem, and he is blessed with Torah knowledge and wisdom. Our Sages also teach that those who are humble will be given the privilege of serving as the escorts of Mashiah, may he come speedily and in our days