Anav Mikol Adam: reactions
My previous post engendered a couple of responses and a follow-up thought of my own that I would like to share.
A quick reminder: In that post, I suggested that maybe “וְהָאִ֥ישׁ מֹשֶׁ֖ה עָנָ֣ו מְאֹ֑ד מִכֹּל֙ הָֽאָדָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הָאֲדָמָֽה׃” can be defined not only as “Moshe was a very humble man, more so than any other human on earth.” But also “was a very humble man from every other human on earth.” The perhaps the point is that Moshe was an anav not because of acknowledging his own limitations, but because of his acute awareness of everyone else’s greatness!
Everything on this blog ends up on Facebook, and two people posted interesting additions to the original suggestion.
I – A Parallel in Shelomo
R’ Nathan Light commented:
The other time we a similar usage is 1-Kings 5:11:
וַיֶּחְכַּם֮ מִכׇּל־הָאָדָם֒ מֵאֵיתָ֣ן הָאֶזְרָחִ֗י וְהֵימָ֧ן וְכַלְכֹּ֛ל וְדַרְדַּ֖ע בְּנֵ֣י מָח֑וֹל וַיְהִֽי־שְׁמ֥וֹ בְכׇֽל־הַגּוֹיִ֖ם סָבִֽיב׃
He was the wiser of all men: [wiser] than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalkol, and Darda the sons of Mahol. His fame spread among all the surrounding nations.
It could very well be that Shlomo was gaining knowledge from all these people. [Rather than “wiser than all”, “grew wiser from all”. -MB] However, the verse prior suggests that he was wiser than them:
וַתֵּ֙רֶב֙ חׇכְמַ֣ת שְׁלֹמֹ֔ה מֵחׇכְמַ֖ת כׇּל־בְּנֵי־קֶ֑דֶם וּמִכֹּ֖ל חׇכְמַ֥ת מִצְרָֽיִם׃
Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the Kedemites and than all the wisdom of the Egyptians.
Nevertheless, understanding it as from acts as a nice support for Avot 4:1. [Where Ben Zoma teaches: “Who is a chakham? One who learns from every person.” -MB]
I am thinking that maybe the fact that the previous pasuq says that Shelomo was wiser than everyone in the two non-Jewish superpowers may make it more likely this pasuq isn’t just elaborating that he was wiser than all. But perhaps more likely is that the expression מכל is intentionally ambiguous, used when the pasuq is trying to say or at least connote both “more than” and “because of”. – MB
II – What is Humility doing here?
R Steven Weiner opined:
Here’s what I like about your reading. In the conventional read, what exactly is the point of mentioning Moshe’s extreme humility? Maybe to explain why he didn’t answer Aharon and Miriam and defend himself? And even that assumes they criticized him to his face, not the usual assumption of lashon hara behind his back.
Whereas with your reading, it makes perfect sense. The Torah is saying: unlike those who looked at Moshe (a towering figure) and found negatives to criticize, Moshe himself was the opposite and when he looked at others (presumably of lesser stature) he saw their good points and felt humble.
III – More Context
The RSW’s thought had me look even broader for context.
The story before this is the appointment of 70 elders to share the burden and also be nevi’im. (Bamidbar 11:23-20) The number 70 means picking 6 members of each sheivet, which would yield 72, and two of those who were found to be capable of becoming nevi’im are lose by lottery their chance to be one of the 70 — Eldad and Meidad. (Sanhedrin 17a) They get prophecy anyway, suddenly speaking Hashem’s word in the middle of the camp. And a youth and Yehoshua bin Nun (or a youth who is Yehoshua bin Nun) object. Here is Moshe’s reaction (v. 27-29):
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לוֹ֙ מֹשֶׁ֔ה הַֽמְקַנֵּ֥א אַתָּ֖ה לִ֑י וּמִ֨י יִתֵּ֜ן כׇּל־עַ֤ם ה֙’ נְבִיאִ֔ים כִּי־יִתֵּ֧ן ה’ אֶת־רוּח֖וֹ עֲלֵיהֶֽם׃
But Moses said to him, “Are you wrought up on my account? Would that all of Hashem’s people were nevi’im, that the Hashem put His ‘Spirit’ upon them!”
This reaction is consistent with the Moshe who is an anav because he is aware of everyone else’s potential. By reading our original pasuq that way, the story of Miriam’s and Aharon’s complaint about Moshe is a continuation of this theme of treasuring the value of those around him.