1. It has been noted that if you were to ask Moshe Rabbeinu "Who is the most humble man on earth?" He would respond "I am." He wrote it in the Torah because Hashem told him to, and he knew it was true, and that it was a praiseworthy and unprecedented achievement to have reached that madreiga of humility. Bishlema his yedi'as hatorah, of course he knew was far beyond any other man. But to be aware that you are the most humble of men seems to be self-contradictory. In fact, however, this awareness did not diminish his humility at all:
Similarly, the Gemara (end of Sotah, 49b), Reb Yosef's ve'ha ika ana, where the Mishnah says that with the death of Rebbi, humility died. Reb Yosef protested, but what of me? (Of course, some interpret the "Ana" in Rav Yosef's statement as referring not to himself but to some other Tanna who was famously humble. This is not pashut pshat in the Gemara.)
At that point the judge interjected and said, "Rabbi Abramsky, do your laws and ethics not teach you to be humble? Would you not say that this is somewhat haughty on your part? Rav Abramsky responded, "Yes, we are taught to be humble. But I am under oath."
- Life is not a sports event. In a race, you are judged by comparing your position to that of others, irrespective of the competitors disparate natural talents. Perhaps life is similar, and we are judged by comparison with others: see, e.g., the machlokes Rav and Shmuel by Noach Tzadik Tamim Hayah Bedorosav. But the score is based on how close you have gotten to your tafkid, to your personal potential. Your primary competition is your perfect self. Moshe, knowing his flaws and failures, was humble. He knew that he was not where he ought to be. This awareness of his flaws and his regret for his failures meant that he was humble. His humility was simply a matter of honest self awareness. Nobody can be proud of an unflinching awareness of his failings.
- Kesef Mishna: Awareness of the greatness of other creations of Hashem makes you realize the vast chasm that separates you from perfection makes renders utterly trivial any superiority you may have over others human beings. (Kesef Mishna in 4 Yesodei Hatorah 12.)
2. Rav Yosef, earlier in Sotah, says that you always find that Hashem appears with anivus. Although Hashem is "clothed with Gei'us," that is only His 'garb,' but within that garb, Hashem chooses the middah of Anivus. Hashem, says Rav Yosef, chose Har Sinai and the Sneh to demonstrate that anivus. How is anivus shayach by Hashem?
That is the other part of anivus: appreciating the good qualities of others, irrespective of what you are, or of what others are. A small mountain, a thornbush, have qualities of their own. Respecting those qualities and loving the thing or person who has them is a form of anivus as well. See, for example, how the Ruach Chaim explains this in Avos 4:1.
The Kli Yakar (first piece in Mikeitz, Breishis 41:1) begins with another Gemara (Megilla 31a) that associates the Ribono shel Olam with the Middah of Anivus, and explains it as follows:
The idea of appreciation and respect for others is how the Netziv in our parsha explains Anivus by the Ribono shel Olam as well.
I'm putting in a piece from the Gemara in Sotah 5a, for several reasons. It talks about the repugnance of Ga'ava and the beauty of humility, and because it reiterates the idea of Hashem's middah of Anivus, but mostly because of the wonderful line about B'shamta if you do and B'shamta if you don't, which the Rambam brings in his pirush to Avos (4:4), and which we discuss more fully vis a vis the Ma'apilim, here.
Kli Yakar: Yom LeShana, a day for each year; in that this refers to the punishment for the Meraglim, it should be written the opposite way, Shana le'yom. He explains that the term has a dual meaning. Of course it means they were sentenced to wander in the desert for forty years (minus fifteen days, as explained here), one year for each day of the willful blindness of the Meraglim. But “yom” also refers to Tisha Ba’av. There will be one day every year that you re-experience the tzaros that resulted from what you have done here.
There was a man named William Temple, a Bishop of the Church of England, who happened to be a Judeophile and friend of Chief Rabbi Hertz. He once said an interesting thing:
Since I wrote about humility, and that many people misunderstand it, I have to write the famous mussar joke about anivus. A new bachur comes into Navoradok and sits down to learn mussar with hispa'alus, and begins to cry and moan "oy, I am nobody, I am nothing...." An older bachur nudges his friend, and says "Look who thinks he's nobody."
And let us remember Winston Churchill's instructive observation, if only to eschew it. Churchill once said "Yes, Man is but a worm, but I think that perhaps I am a glow-worm."