When Moses came down from Sinai, the Torah teaches, “He did not know that his face was aglow” [Exodus 34:29].
This is one of the most inspiring verses in the Torah, awaiting our age to reveal its full depth. Today, the slightest sliver of charisma is noted, celebrated and selfied. We are all acutely conscious of our gifts, and encouraged not only to exercise them, but also to trumpet their existence to the world. If our faces were glowing, it would be on Twitter before the veil lowered.
Moses is called by the Torah the most humble man who ever lived. His humility was not forced or false. He did not know his own glow because he was not the preeminent subject in his own mind. At the greatest moment imaginable in life, rather than exulting in his encounter with God, Moses is literally unaware of the mark on his own face. He was not absent-minded, but rather very present-minded on things that mattered.
In our strutting and self-congratulatory age, Moses stands as a man who achieved the pinnacle of greatness and walked humbly with God.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).