The Torah tells us in this week's parsha, B'ha'alot'cha, that Moshe was"anav mikall adam," meaning that he was"the humblest of all men."
What does that really mean? Now you must understand that this was in the context of Miriam's famous slander episode, by her referencing his marital situation. How did he react to her behavior? Did he submit meekly to her accusations? Did he pretend he didn't know about it? Is ignoring the pain to one's self that is inflicted by others truly the Torah's example for humility which we should embrace? What is true humility according to the Torah? How did Moses exemplify this quality? It is not found in turning the other cheek. The answer is hidden in the word itself.
Anav, meaning "humble," is spelled with the same letters related to the word "answer," or "reply." We might well then ask, what was Moses answering? And to what was he replying? Miriam speaks against him regarding the"Kushite woman." This is what his response was based on. And with regard to Miriam's plight, when he saw that she became afflicted with "leprosy" as a punishment for her words, words said against him, he responded with a short prayer:EL NA REFA NA LA."Please G*d, heal her now."
Now Moses was aware of what had happened. He knew that she, his own sister, had somehow slandered him. Aren't we often the most upset with the ones we love, with the ones we are closest to? If a stranger says something not so nice we often shrug it off. But if a family member says the same thing we tend to take it so much more personally.
"Of all people, THEY should understand me. They're family."
How many families are fractured and split and torn apart over "just words" said in haste or in anger? Now what was Moses' reaction? Did he rebuke his sister? Did he distance himself from her, never to speak to her again? Was he contrite and submissive? The answer is a resounding NO.
Instead of reacting negatively, he said a prayer on her behalf. He was the anav, the one who responds. It is for this reason that Hashem called him the humblest man. He was not called humble because he was modest or self-denigrating or meek. The Torah is telling us that he was called "humble" by G*d because in his pain he reached out to her, to the one who was causing him (in this case) psychic pain.
Instead of turning AWAY from her, and merely defusing the situation by walking away, or retaliating in kind, which would be the most "natural" response, he counterintuitively turned TOWARDS her and offered a healing prayer for her speedy recovery. Moses, Moshe Rabbeinu, is teaching us a lesson. The answer to insult is not further insult, leading to escalating tension. The answer to insult is not retribution. Nor is it grovelling or self-denigration.
The answer to insult is hidden in the very word for "humble,"- ANAV. The answer to insult is to answer with love. If someone insults us, clearly they have some sort of illness, not to see that we are made in G*d's image. Therefore they need a healing. They need a blessing. And they need it fast. May all the fractured families all over the world find a speedy healing. And may Clal Yisrael, the greater Family of Israel, and indeed all the world entire find its own healing immediately, and so bring redemption soon. Amen.
© 2000-2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua HaKohen Melman
These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.
Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)