Kenneth Cohen

Humility and Greatness

We see that that there is a direct correlation between greatness and humility. The greater the person, the more humble he is. It follows that the more arrogant a person is, the smaller he is.

We have three examples from three of the greatest Jews who ever lived. When Abraham pleaded for sparing the evil cities of Sodom and Gemorrah, he referred to himself as עפר ואפר, dust and ashes. He realized that despite his own achievements, compared to G-d, he was nothing.

When King David would go out to battle, he always went out with the words, “I am but a worm, and not a man.” He understood that ultimately, after death, he is worm food. He knew that his strength and success completely depended on Hashem. This made him a highly successful warrior.

And Moshe and Aharon didn’t even have a description of who they were. They simply said, ואנחנו מה, “And what are we?” They felt their own smallness and were unworthy of being able to deal with the complaints of the nation.

Society tends to tolerate arrogance and conceit as acceptable behaviors. But if we look closely at our greatest leaders, we realize how important it is to uproot from our own personalities, such feelings of self aggrandizement. Without it, we will never be able to achieve greatness in the eyes of G-d.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at