Our Rabbi & Humility

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Our Rabbi emphasized that humility is the most important of all traits (Avodah Zarah 20b), and it is related to Moshe Rabbenu (Bemidbar 12:3) and cleaving to the Land of Israel, as it says: "And the humble will inherit the Land" (Tehillim 37:11).

Out of his great humility, our Rabbi hid his greatness from most people, even from the yeshiva students who did not participate in his classes. His external appearance was not exceptional and his talks lacked the polish of an orator. Only one who was close to him was able to recognize the greatness of his character traits and Torah learning.

The municipality of Jerusalem decided to honor Rabbi Aryeh Levin with the title "Cherished Citizen of Jerusalem," but he refused on account of his great humility. He said that he was not worthy. They next turned to our Rabbi to honor his with this title, but he also refused on account of his great humility. They next turned to Rabbi Shalom Natan Ra'anan Kook, son-in-law of Rav Kook and our Rabbi's brother-in-law, and to everyone's great surprised he accepted. His close relatives were so surprised because of his great humility and they asked him: "Why did you decide to accept this honor when our Rabbi and Reb Aryeh declined?" The great Rav humbly responded: "If I would have refused, they would have placed me on the same level as our Rabbis, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah and Reb Aryeh, and they would think that I am as humble as them. I know that I have not reached that level. I therefore acted this way, so they would not be mistaken. (Ha-Rav Yitzchak Dadon, "Nishkafa Kemo Shachar" p. 135)

A student asked our Rabbi a halachic question relating to a custom of Jerusalem. Our Rabbi turned to Reb Shimon, the yeshiva's secretary and said to him: It seems to me that Jerusalem's custom is such-and-such. Is that not so? (Ha-Rav Aharon Gelik)

One of our Rabbi's students wanted to know the parameters of the mitzvah of serving Torah scholars. When he brought our Rabbi a cup of tea, he asked: Is this considered serving a Torah scholar? Our Rabbi responded to him: A doubtful Torah scholar (referring to himself), [therefore] a doubtful serving.

Similarly, a student once saw a tiny piece of dust on our Rabbi's hat and he pointed it out to our Rabbi, since it is known that it is not proper for a Torah scholar to have a stain on his clothing (Shabbat 114a). Our Rabbi responded: A doubtful Torah scholar, a doubtful speck, a doubtful (obligation to wear a) hat…