SALT - Friday, 15 Sivan 5777 - June 9, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg

            The Torah in Parashat Beha’alotekha tells of Moshe’s appointment of seventy men to assist him in leading Benei Yisrael.  In accordance with God’s instructions, Moshe brought the selected individuals to his tent outside the Israelite camp, where they were endowed with his “spirit” (11:25).  Two of the selected men, Eldad and Meidad, remained in the camp and did not join the others in Moshe’s tent.  Nevertheless, when God endowed the others with prophecy outside the camp, Eldad and Meidad began prophesying inside the camp (11:26). 

            The Gemara discusses this incident in Masekhet Sanhedrin (17a), and it explains that Eldad and Meidad, despite being chosen for this lofty role, felt unworthy of serving as leaders, and they therefore remained in the camp.  In reward for their humility, the Gemara tells, God proclaimed, “Since you humbled yourselves, I am hereby adding greater prestige onto your prestige.”  The Gemara then explains, “What prestige did He add for them?  All the prophets prophesied and then stopped, but they prophesied and did not stop.”  Rashi explains that the other of the seventy chosen leaders prophesied only on that occasion, when they were first appointed as leaders, whereas Eldad and Meidad retained their prophetic stature even beyond that particular time.

            What might be the significance of this specific reward for Eldad and Meidad’s humility?

            The Gemara perhaps seeks to teach that the greatest, most enduring influence we can exert is through humility, when we specifically do not look for audiences before whom to broadcast our ideas and opinions.  True, there are times when it is appropriate and necessary to search for opportunities to spread an important message, and to actively work to spread awareness of a certain cause or ideal.  Very often, however, the most effective means of influence is humility.  When people see our genuineness, that we are driven purely by sincere motives and an authentic desire to spread the truth, then our words will have a greater impact.  Assertiveness and activism can often appear as, and sometimes are, a self-serving effort to achieve fame and recognition, and, as such, they tend to invite scorn, derision and rejection.  Eldad and Meidad’s prophetic stature endured specifically because they did not pursue it, because they did not go out and look for the opportunity to preach and to lead.  Their sincerity was readily discernible, and thus their message was more impactful, teaching us that we can achieve far more through humility than through assertive self-promotion.