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Tall & Humble

Friday, 8 April, 2022 - 7:51 am

Time and again, those recalling their private encounters with Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, mention the simplicity and modesty of the Rebbe’s office and surroundings. The Rebbe, it’s fair to say, led a worldwide revolution of Jewish thought and practice. Yet, it was all orchestrated without the trappings of typical bureaucracy, grandeur and pomp.

Apart from other Chassidic Rebbes, the Rebbe did not wear the luxurious, princely garb of Chassidic royalty. He dressed like any other Chassid.

Apart from other Jewish leaders, one did not need connections to see the Rebbe. To be sure, one had to book an appointment months in advance (due to the incredible demand). But, anyone could do so. The Rebbe’s door was open to all – Jew and non-Jew alike.

The Rebbe famously refused gifts, new cars, and all types of honors. He just wanted to focus on Torah study, serving G-d, and helping others.

Despite being the most recognizable Jewish spiritual leader of the twentieth century, the Rebbe lived a life of absolute modesty.

How does utter humility go hand in hand with outrageous success?


In explaining the need for a person stricken with Tzaraat to utilize both cedar wood and hyssop for purification, the Midrash explains that since he has exalted himself like a cedar, he should humble himself like a grass.  In other words this week’s parsha of Metzorah instructs the use of both a tall tree and a shrub to symbolize the need for humility. After all, Tzaraat is an ailment brought on by Lashon Harah, speaking ill of others – so its remedy is a good dose of modesty.

But if the point is to display true humbleness, why is the cedar part of the purification process at all?


To better understand this let’s consider the fact that the Torah labels Moshe the humblest of all people on earth. Strange that the man who had a hand in bringing ten plagues upon Egypt, splitting the sea, bringing manna from heaven, and delivering G-d’s wisdom to mankind – is considered the humblest man ever.  How could all that accomplishment be discarded? Was Moses in denial? It’s obvious that he accomplished more than me and you! How can the Torah declare him the most humble of men?

Humility really isn’t about comparing my achievements to others. Rather, true humility is realizing one’s G-d-given abilities and standing tall to maximize them – without letting that get to your head.

So how do I prevent it from getting to my head?

Moshe was incredibly aware that he was the only one to whom G-d spoke "face to face.”  But he also was humbled by those very gifts that G-d had given him. Through rising to the occasion, he felt diminished by the responsibility of his greatness.  He was not humble despite his prominence.  He was humble because of his importance.

To be truly humble is to be confident in the responsibility with which we are entrusted – yet to appreciate the awesomeness of that duty. After all, the Greatest Being of All believes in you – and relies on you. It’s uplifting and humbling all at once.

Don’t strip yourself of ideals and goals to become humble. Don’t denigrate your talents in the name of humility.  Rise like a cedar and reach for the stars – but remember the deep purpose and immense task that is none but yours.


As world Jewry prepares to mark 120 years since the Rebbe’s birth – on Tuesday, 11 Nissan, corresponding to April 12 – let’s take a page out of the lives of our great leaders.

Let’s commit to do another mitzvah. Please pledge a mitzvah in the Rebbe’s honor at jewishidaho.com/rebbe120.

Doing so shouldn’t add another feather to your cap. Rather, it should add a sense of purpose to your specific role in G-d’s masterplan.

And, that will bring us one step closer to realizing the Rebbe’s vision for a just and perfect world, with the coming of Moshiach.

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