He (Hillel) used to say: A boor is not one who fears sin;
nor can an ignorant person be pious. A shy person does
not learn, and an [overly] strict person is not one who
can teach. And not everyone who increases commerce
("sechorah") becomes wise. And in a place where there
are no "people," attempt to be a "person."
"Not everyone who increases commerce ("sechorah") becomes wise."
This is understood through a section in Eiruvin (55a): "It is
not in heaven" (Devarim 30:12). Rebbi Yochanan says: You will
not find it (Torah) in arrogant people ("gassei ruach"). "And it
is not across the ocean." You will not find Torah in traders
("sachranim") and peddlers.
We need to understand what is unique about arrogant people
and traders that Rebbi Yochanan taught that Torah is not found
We also need to understand how the continuation of the verse
is then to be understood: "It is not in heaven and it is not
across the ocean. For it is very close; (it is) in your mouth
and in your heart to do it.
The verses are coming to teach us that the Torah is not a
physical, corporeal matter. The measure of distance is a
property of physical things. Sometimes things can be so far away
that we have no access to them. Here, we are being taught that
the intellectual/spiritual Torah is not like that. As a non-
physical reality it is simultaneously both near and far. It is
far away, due to its elevated attributes (being "way above" us).
Yet it is [considered] near, since it is not distant from any
specific place. Therefore, it is written that the Torah is not
beyond us and not far from us. (Only physical things can be said
to have a specific location in space, making them close to some
things and far from other things. Due to the Torah's non-
physical nature, it has no specific location. Rav Shamshon
Raphael Hirsch develops this theme in a beautiful way in his
discussion of the Mishkan and its vessels, contrasting the Aron
that housed the Torah and had carrying poles that were never
removed, with other vessels that had the poles that were only
inserted for the actual moving. See Hirsch on Shemoth Ch. 25,
The verse mentions the three different [distance] dimensions
that are relevant to the material: height, length and width. In
relation to "height" it is written "It is not in heaven," heaven
being the frame of reference for physical height. In relation to
"length" and "width" it is written "It is not across the ocean."
(As the ocean spans the length and width of the earth, it is used
as the metaphor for something that is long and wide.) Torah has
no corporeal dimensions.
It is for this reason that Torah is not found in arrogant
people. Arrogant people imagine that they are above everything
else. This is a result of their connection to the material, and
it is well known that arrogance is a character trait of man's
material dimension. While the greatness that the arrogant person
perceives in himself is fictitious, the perception results from a
connection to the material. Even the word for the arrogant
person, "Gass ruach," indicates this. "Gass" means thick, heavy
and coarse, which is trait of the physical. Sechel, the
dimension of the spiritual/intellectual, is fine, light and pure.
(Compare music that appeals to our animal side with music that
brings out our spiritual and intellectual side.) An arrogant
person, connected to the physical dimension, cannot develop a
relationship with Torah, which requires a connection to the
(We have mentioned previously the profound and insightful
writings of Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski on arrogance and humility,
insecurity and self-awareness. This section of the Maharal
presents some of the theoretical foundations for the empirical
and psychological work of Rabbi Twerski. A person who is rooted
in his physical existence is by nature insecure, since all
material things are finite and in a state of deterioration. The
person therefore doubts (rightly) the stability of his existence.
This insecurity causes a person to behave in arrogant ways,
working to convince himself and others that he really exists,
something which, way down deep, he doubts. Scratch below the
surface of an arrogant person and you will find an insecure
person, always letting others know that he is there, that he did
this great thing, and that he is really better than anyone else.
A person who has a clear sense of his self-worth doesn't need to
have it validated by outside sources, which leads to a natural
humility. Not because he thinks he is something lowly, but
exactly because he knows his greatness and his potential.
Humility and security go together. Only a person connected to a
dimension that transcends the physical can recognize this
greatness and live with the needed security in the value and
stability of his existence. It is exactly this greatness and
potential that brings a person to utilize those resources in
humble accomplishment. For he realizes that with greatness, with
talents, with resources, comes responsibility to utilize all
those things in the service of G-d. No fanfare, no publicity,
just service of his Creator because it if for that reason that he
exists, for that reason he has been given these resources, and
utilizing them is the deepest source of his continued existence.
It is a trick of the "yetzer hara" (translated as evil
inclination, but which I define as no more than an individual's
insecurities) to convince a person -- in the guise of humility --
that the person has no ability, no talent, no worth, and is
really not much better that a piece of dirt. What is the result
of this self-concept? "What can G-d expect from a "nothing?"
Nothing! And he rationalizes all kinds of destructive behavior,
since the person views himself as a weak and worthless victim.
(It is painful to think about how much of our social culture
is built on this attitude.)
In a similar way we understand why Torah is not found in
traders ("sachranim"). Traders travel the world, its length and
width, in search of material acquisitions. These people are
called "sachranim" from the root "l'schor" whose root appears in
Breishith (42:34) implying movement and travel around the land in
search of business. Their incessant travels in search of profit
(in contrast to people who seek their livelihood in closer
proximity) span the dimensions of the world associated with the
corporeal (length and width), and this is the result of their
connection to the material. Being rooted in the material means
they are distant from Torah, which is found on a transcendent
plane. (No pun intended! :-)) This is the basis for our lesson
"Not everyone who increases commerce ("sechorah") becomes wise."
We are not referring to someone involved in making a living.
Rather, the Tana is referring to those who make their living with
an unnecessary connection to the physical dimension of the world.
Their connection to this dimension of existence distances them
from a connection to Torah and wisdom.