Rabbi Ezrachi, the Rosh Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel who people notice because of his gait of walking with regal bearing, shoulders back, like a general at attention for review parade. He explains how he got to be that way. When he was but a teen, one day his Rosh Yeshiva (Dean of a Yeshiva) asked to be walked home, and he specifically wanted Rabbi Ezrachi to walk him home. They walked home, but as they neared the Rosh Yeshiva’s house, the Rosh Yeshiva said, “nisht azoy – not like this. We are going to do this again.” So the Rosh Yeshiva and the young Rabbi Ezrachi walked back to the Yeshiva and retraced their way home. But the Rosh Yeshiva was still not happy, “nisht azoy – not like this” he said again, and so again they did the full route. Rabbi Ezrachi had no clue what his Rosh Yeshiva wanted from him. Three times they went, back and forth. Finally, totally mystified, Rabbi Ezrachi asked the Rosh Yeshiva, “What do you want from me?” The reply was quick, ‘we don’t shuffle, with our head down. A ben Torah, a future leader must walk like a general, commanding respect. Now let us try it again, with you walking like a Ben Torah, proud of your role in the world.’
It is not about pride to stand tall and proud. It is about self-esteem. Mordechai knew how to do it. He was humble, didn’t think much of himself. But when it came time to stand tall and not bow, he was able to walk like a regal leader, shoulders back, erect, commanding dignity. When it came to commanding respect for G-d’s word in the world, Mordechai did not slouch and shuffle.
Rav Breuer, ZT”L of Washington Heights said, pride is knowing what we should be, humility is knowing how far we measure from who we are meant to be.
That is why Moshe was able to be called Anav Mekol Adam – humbler than any other person in the world. And, yet, knew how to lead folks back to G-d.
Humility is not negating our potential and our skills. It is realizing we have a long way to go to fulfill our full potential.