Humility and its importance within Judaism and the Community
Lesson Plan Sections
0 Ratings
Add to Favorite  

Humility and its importance within Judaism and the Community

Categories Humility 

Lesson Summary:

Understanding the meaning of humility and how Judaism values its importance.

Enduring Understandings:

  • Humility, paramount to Jewish tradition, involves a concern for doing and helping others rather than a concern for what others think. 
  • Judaism s underlying message of being humble/showing humility should be embedded within our daily living as we focus on sharing our talents and abilities to serve others as best we can.

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

The value of anavah, or humility, often is described as one of the most important values within Jewish tradition, particularly for those in positions of leadership. Humility may often be construed as having a lack of self-esteem or even being unassertive. However, the value of anavah best can be understood as excessive pride. Moses, who is described as the “most humble man of them all,” fell short of his reputation when his ego led him to being banned from entering the Promised Land.

Humility is a matter of perspective, it is an understanding that our own greatness emerges when we recognize how we as individuals fit within in the larger community. One who is humble understands the importance of placing other’s needs before his or her own. Our own contributions, talents, and gifts are essential to our roles within the community, but one who truly possesses the quality of anavah needs no recognition, aims for any attention to be drawn away from him or herself, and lives without concern of what others think of them.

It was the Hasidic sage Rabbi Simha Bunim of Przysucha who taught: “Every person should have two pockets so he can reach into one or the other, according to his needs. In his right pocket are to be the words: “For my sake was the world created,” and in his left: “I am earth and ashes.”” Our true greatness, then, emerges when we are able to discover the balance between arrogance and self-degradation. For we should embrace our greatness, but remain aware that to be great, we must temper our pride.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Think of a modern example of an individual who possesses the value of anavah. What actions demonstrate that they display humility? What can you learn from his or her example?
  2. An aspect of anavah is developing an awareness of ourselves so that we may try to refrain from behaving too haughty. What are some strategies you think you practice to develop this type of awareness?
  3. Refer to the Rabbi Simha Bunim of Przysucha quote. If you were to write something in your right pocket, what would it be? If you were to write something in your left pocket what would it be?
  4. How can you incorporate the value of anavah within your classroom?

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Materials and resourcesmore


Quotes using the word humble and its different forms (included)
Printed “Name that Vocabulary” activity and instructions
Different color dry erase markers.
Text of Elie Wiesel s Acceptance Speech for the Nobel Peace Prize


Internet enabled devices
Projector or smartboard
Video of Elie Wiesel s Acceptance Speech for the Nobel Peace Prize


(Note: This lesson will take several days based on the levels and skills of your students)

The day before the lesson, tape the following quotes related to the word “humility” in different areas of the room. When the students walk in, draw their attention to the quotes. As they walk around the room, ask them to read each quote silently, and think of the relationship between them. What do the quotes have in common?

Once all students have completed the above, ask them to stand under the quote that most resonates with them or most affects them in some way. Involve students in a class discussion, explaining why they selected the quote they did and what it says to them. (They may wish to use one of these quotes in their final product.)

"Humility is the only true wisdom by which we prepare our minds for all the possible changes of life." — George Arliss

"Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right." — Ezra Taft Benson

"Humility is to make a right estimate of oneself."— Charles H. Spurgeon

 "Life is a long lesson in humility." — James M. Barrie

2. Engage students in a question-answer discussion about the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • What do you think it takes to win such a prestigious award?
  • Assign a 5 minute research task to define the requirements of what it takes to win the Nobel Peace Prize. 
  • Discuss the following questions: How would you imagine the prize would be received? Do you think the recipients would accept the awards with humility? Explain.

Students will be reading Elie Wiesel’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize. To help them better understand the speech, involve them in the following activity to facilitate their understanding of significant vocabulary:
  • Distribute the activity sheet with instructions for “Name that Vocabulary Word”. (Note: I choose to stop the vocabulary after the 7th short paragraph of the acceptance speech to begin the next step. Please continue if so desired, using the skill above with additional significant words from the speech with which they may be unfamiliar. 
  • Display a large visual with the same vocabulary words and instructions on the board. Model the lesson by indicating the category number for the the first 3 vocabulary words and have the students complete the rest independently. Be sure to use different color markers for each category to easily identify the correct category.
  • Discuss their category selections and as necessary scaffold understanding of each word.
  • Use all the above vocabulary words to create an SME. ( An SME is a several minute essay that will allow them to properly use the vocabulary and better comprehend the upcoming reading of the speech. For their SME have them describe either a current event, a time in history that these vocabulary words are used or have been used. Examples include Past history: WWI, WWII, Bosnia, Darfur.     While students write the SME, please put on classical music or something that fits the mood of the assignment. (Teacher will write his/her SME on the board while the students are creating theirs.)

2. Reinforce and emphasize the meaning of humility, the actions that one may do or express when being humble. Give examples, have visuals on the board of people who personify the meaning of humility on a daily basis. Some examples: Gandhi, Golda Meir, Albert Einstein.

 3. Hand out a copy of Eli Wiesel’s Acceptance Speech. Teacher begins reading and then asks for volunteers to read where you left off and have a “popcorn” reading session. This means that the students can snap when they want to read and the student reading can call on the next person to read. Stop periodically to review and discuss the speech. Some examples of questions may include:

-In what ways does Elie Wiesel show humility?
-How does Elie Wiesel incorporate his past and Judaism while accepting the prize?
-In what ways does Wiesel’s humility affect or inspire you?
-Think of a person you have learned about, whether from the Torah or a current political Jewish figure, who reflects the quality of being humble. Please explain what they have accomplished and how they demonstrate this humility.

4. When the students have completed the reading, show the video of Elie Wiesel’s acceptance speech so they visualize his body language, his energy and emotion while reading the speech.

Allow students the opportunity to share their understanding of the importance of humility through the creation of a poem, a narrative, or video to give examples of the ways which Elie Wiesel, and others highlighted in his speech, live their lives with humility. They may wish to incorporate one of the quotes read in the “Before” activity.


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Youngest Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai
Speeches such as Wiesel s are extremely important as messages of hope,inspiration, and the power of the human spirit. Teachers may wish to involve students in the reading and discussion of other Nobel Peace Prize winners and include these as appropriate to supplement curriculum. For example, the youngest winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize, Malala Yousafzai, has an empowering message for today s youth, that will surely resonate with them: Malala s lecture

Music Connectionsmore

Evidence of Learningmore

Class discussion reflects their understanding of humility and the ways in which Wiesel and others from our Jewish History have reflected this virtue.

Completed poem, narrative, or video reflects the importance of humility and how it can change and inspire lives.

Students writing is clear and coherent and the the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Lesson Contributors

Lauren Feldman, Kesher at Scheck Hillel Community School, Aventura, Florida