February 22nd has been declared “Be Humble Day,” a “holiday” that most likely originated from the online greeting card industry. Nevertheless, a day dedicated to the importance of being humble is an excellent excuse to discuss humility in Jewish thought.

Throughout the Torah and Talmud, humility is a highly praised behavior. In fact, the sages go so far as to even heap praise upon a non-animate object for its humility, a geographic location: Mount Sinai. The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 13:3) relates that all of the mountains wanted to be the place where the Al-mighty would deliver the Torah to the Jewish people. They each promoted their height, their size and their beauty. Mount Sinai, a small and dusty mountain, did not bother to enter a claim… so God declared that He desired Mount Sinai, because it was more humble than all the other mountains.

Being humble, according to Jewish wisdom, does not come from negating one’s own worth. To the contrary, in order to be truly humble one must be well aware of one’s own strengths and endowments. If one truly has the ability to be a leader, then he/she should not hang back passively, thinking that they are being humble in doing so. This fact is clearly demonstrated by the Torah’s statement that declares: “The man Moses was exceedingly humble, more than any other man on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).

Moses stood before God! Moses instructed the Jewish people daily! Moses rebuked the Israelites! But, Moses did all these things because God told him that it was his job, not out of a need to put himself above all others.

Being humble is about knowing just how great you are, and not needing to flaunt it. More importantly, however, being humble is remembering that not only you, but everyone else around you, shares the Divine spark.

This Treat was originally posted on February 22, 2011.