To some, humility is on a parallel line with obsequiousness. We see from Moshe Rabbeinu, the most humble man to walk the face of the earth, that this is not true. Our leader took a stand when necessary. Certainly, he was aware that speaking with Hashem was not something to which the average man is accustomed. Yet, he was humble, because humility is an awareness of oneself. Despite one’s achievements, in the eyes of the humble person they are merely activities which are expected of him. He is doing what he is supposed to be doing.
The Alter, zl, m’Kelm, wonders how Moshe was able to write such an accolade about himself. True, Hashem dictated it to him, but he must have felt terribly awkward. Furthermore, how does Moshe write such an extraordinary accolade and continue to remain humble? It is not often that one receives such praise from Hashem. The Alter explains that a person is not impressed with his personal achievement if this is what he is supposed to be doing. For instance, one does not tout his eyesight or his hearing, since these are capabilities he is supposed to have. It is only when it begins to fail, and then returns to complete good health does he have reason to sense a feeling of personal satisfaction. Moshe viewed every aspect of himself, including his humility, as part of his G-d-given innate qualities. Thus, he had no reason to arrogate himself over anyone. He understood that humility was like vision. Hashem gave him two eyes with which to see. Likewise, humility was an essential part of his psyche – nothing special. It was part of him!
How did Moshe reach such an incredible level of humility, to be considered by Hashem and recorded in the Torah as the most humble man on the earth? Horav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel, zl, explains that Moshe acknowledged and appreciated every person’s talents and virtues. He sought out the hidden characteristics in each individual, his unknown qualities and potential that were concealed to the human eye, but to the learned and discerning individual, such as Moshe, were an open book of positive qualities. Thus, every person, regardless of his present state, was a storehouse of unlimited potential. This awareness of each person is what motivated Moshe’s sense of humility. In other words, he viewed people through a different lens, thereby elevating each person to an unbelievable, yet unrealized, status.
This is alluded to by the pasuk, “Now, the man Moshe was exceedingly humble – more than any person.” Why? When he viewed people with his penetrating, discerning eye, he was able to discover their extraordinary potential – a potential of qualities from which he felt humbled. When one views others through the lens of his own potential, he has greater respect for his fellow man and less for which he should be haughty.