Be a Mountain – not a Valley

June 3, 2011 by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
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Next week (from Tuesday night) we will celebrate the festival of Shavuot. This festival marks the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. It was this event that made us into a nation and created our identity as G-d’s people.

Rabbi Michol Gourarie photo: Henry Benjamin

Our sages say that G-d specifically chose Mt Sinai as the venue for giving the Torah, as it was the smallest of all mountains and represents humility. Being humble is a critical ingredient in connecting to G-d and His Torah.

This idea raises an obvious question: If G-d was looking for a location that would be the symbol of humility, why did He choose a mountain altogether? Surely a valley or a deep pit would have highlighted this message in a more emphasized way?

The answer lies in the definition of humility.

Humility is often erroneously associated with feelings of:

– nothingness

– self-negation

– inferiority

– unworthiness

– being undeserving


However in truth, the consequence of these attitudes is not humility. On the contrary, feelings of nothingness lead to emptiness and insecurity. The person with these thoughts has no drive to achieve and feels unimportant, failing to recognize the significance in the good that he/she does.

In fact, false humility leads to arrogance. An insecure person is threatened by the views and perceptions of others, and needs to convince himself and others that he is worthy of approval. False humility brings egocentricity and self absorption.

Real humility can only be there together with a healthy sense of self. The humble person is fully aware of who he is. He acknowledges his talents, strengths and weaknesses. The humble individual feels safe with his identity and is confident and secure. On the one hand he recognizes that he has a part to play and that G-d acknowledges the importance of his good deeds. At the same time it is specifically this feeling of inner safety that allows him to:


– make space for others

– understand that his strengths are G-d given and do not make him better than anyone else

– feel secure enough with himself to understand another point of view with tolerance and respect

– be discreet about his achievements without the need for great publicity


That’s why G-d chose a mountain not a valley. G-d does not want you to be an empty valley with feelings of unworthiness and emptiness. He wants you to be a strong mountain – but a humble one.


Have a good Shabbos and Chag Sameiach



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