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Parshat Behar – Anavah – Humbleness

Leviticus 25:1-26:2 from 7 May till 13 May

וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בְּהַ֥ר סִינַ֖י לֵאמֹֽר׃

יהוה spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai:

Leviticus 25:1

Jewish Tradition has chosen to call this parsha “Behar” and not “Behar Sinai,” even though it was such an important Mountain, the Mountain on which G-d revealed His Words, His Torah. The 613 Mitzvot to the Jewish people and the 7 Mitzvot repeated and reaffirmed to the rest of the World.

לָ֤מָּה ׀ תְּֽרַצְּדוּן֮ הָרִ֢ים גַּבְנֻ֫נִּ֥ים הָהָ֗ר חָמַ֣ד אֱלֹהִ֣ים לְשִׁבְתּ֑וֹ אַף־יְ֝הֹוָ֗ה יִשְׁכֹּ֥ן לָנֶֽצַח׃

why so hostile, O jagged mountains,
toward the mountain G-d desired as His dwelling?
The L-RD shall abide there forever.

Tehillim 68:17

There is a Midrash on this verse that tells that when G-d chose a mountain to give the Torah, large and wide mountains each displayed their unique characteristics in an effort to attract G-d’s attention. Mount Sinai is neither tall nor broad, so it remained silent. As a result, G-d chose to rest His presence specifically on its inconspicuous surface.[1]

G-d wants to teach us an important lesson here about humblenes – anavah in Hebrew . But if G-d wants to teach us a lesson about humbleness, why didn’t He give the Torah in a valley? Mount Sinai was not high like the highest mountains and not low like the lowest valley. She was “average” – a symbol of humility (Sotah 5a-8) this teaches us the value of the Golden Middle Way, of seeking and finding the right balance.


We do not need to brag about what we can or have accomplished. Personal pride – claiming credit for our accomplishments – has no place in Judaism.

When we are constantly aware that everything we can and everything we do, everything we achieve is because of Him, because He gives us possibilities and opportunities, because He gives us help, because He gives us insight, then we remain humble and it does not go to our heads. Don’t we become a high mountain.

However, we should also not tip over to the other side and fall into a valley. When we feel totally selfless, we feel powerless in the face of challenges, doubts, arguments or nasty words from others. Humility should not lead to indignity.

Finding the right balance can be seen in the words of Abraham Isaac Kook, who was the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel:

Praiseworthy humility is quite different from a demeanor of degradation and lowliness. Listlessness, degradation, lowliness, and baseness are not signs of humility. Rather, while a humble person will not be conceited, he will also not be undignified.[2]

Rava depicts the search for the right balance in the following way:

Rava said: A Torah scholar who has arrogance should be excommunicated, and one who does not have arrogance at all should be excommunicated as well.[3]

Good balance, appropriate humility means that there is no danger to your self-esteem – making you non-combatant – and no danger of an inflated ego that makes you lose touch with G-d. For in a heart where an inflated ego dwells, there is no place for G-d.

The Gematria (Mispar Katan Mispari) fon Anava is 5. Only by studying the Chumash – the 5 first books of Tenach, Torah, do we learn to find this right balance. May we only strengthen and improve that character trait.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources: [1] Humble Har Sinai: The Source, [2] Rav Avraham Yitzvchak Kook, The Moral Principles, p. 176, [3] Sotah 5a-16, Kehot Chumash Behar, Het Heilige in het Alledaagse by Alan Morinis

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