"V'ha-ish Moshe anav me'od."
Was Moshe unaware that he was the greatest
of prophets, the greatest leader in Klal Yisrael? Obviously not.
Humility does not mean living in blind ignorance of one's abilities
or accomplishments; rather, it means recognizing that one's abilities and
accomplishments are a gift from Heaven. Humility means divorcing
one's accomplishments from one's ego.
The gemara (Sota 49) lists
a number of middos that were lost when Rebbi died. Rav Yosef commented
that humility should not be on that list, as he lived after Rebbi and he
personified that trait.
Maharasha comments: "Ain derech
chachamim l'hispaer u'l'hishtabeyach b'ma'alasam," it is not proper
for chachamim to boast and sing their own praises, as the pasuk says, "Ye'halelucha
zar v'lo picha," let strangers sing your praises, but don't let them
come out of your own mouth. Nonetheless, explains Maharasha, Rav Yosef's comment was
justified to ensure that the text of the braysa was correct, etc.
The sefer Bad Kodesh writes that someone
came to the Brisker Rav and remarked that he had always been troubled by
this statement of Rav Yosef. How can one claim to be humble yet at
the same time boast of one's humility? Now that he discovered the Maharasha, he had an answer.
The Brisker Rav explained to this individual that he completely misunderstood the Maharasha. There is obviously no contradiction,
said the Brisker Rav, between being humble and professing humility, as
the truly humble person does not connect achievement with ego -- there
is no "I" involved, and hence nothing such a person says constitutes boasting. What bothered the Maharasha is that even if
Rav Yosef was not a stira minei u'bei, even if we grant that there is no
contradiction between professing humility and actually personifying that
same trait, Rav Yosef's still seem to fly in the face of the pasuk,
"Yehalelucha zar...?" To this the Maharasha answers the
the extenuating circumstance of rectifying the text of the braysa justified Rav Yosef's words.