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The Path of the Just

Ch. 11 (Part 14)

We were warned early on against arrogance by Moses, when he foresaw that there would be times when a person “will come to make (his) heart haughty and forget G-d your L-rd" (Deuteronomy 8:14), given that it’s easy enough to forget G-d when you’re full of yourself. So arrogance is clearly an old and odious problem we’d need to avoid.

But first a definition of the term: as Ramchal puts it, “arrogance comes down to consciously or unconsciously thinking yourself worthy of praise” and act accordingly. He then presents us with illustrations of various sorts, with some subtle and amusing differences.

A certain sort of egotist “would consider himself so unique, impressive and worthy of praise, and so he’d think it only right for him to conduct himself uniquely, impressively and respectfully” in one way or another. So he might “only walk at a leisurely, studied pace” for example, “or would sit leaning to his side” simply because that makes him look special, which he would want to come across easily enough.

Another might make a point of always “rising up (from his place) slowly and deliberately, like a serpent”, or he might think it only right for someone of his caliber “to not speak with just anybody, but only with important people”, and to “speak in short, pithy,=2 0seer-like phrases”, to seem wise and unique. And he’d do everything “in a heavy-handed way, as if his flesh was lead, and his bones were stone or sand”, to stand out and be noticed.

Others might believe that they’re so great and important to begin with that they really don’t need to be honored, so they’d act modest to draw attention to themselves and act terribly humble while actually glowing in their hearts in pride, saying to themselves something like, "I’m so great and important (to begin with) that I don’t need any more respect, so I can renounce it”.

Another egotist would “want to make a great impression with his superiority and be recognized as being unique” so that, rather than wanting everyone to praise him for the greatness, “he’d like everyone to praise him for being the most humble person in the world!” Ramchal offers.

And there’s another who “believes he’s a great sage who knows absolutely everything”, so he totally “disregards everyone else’s opinion, and surmises that if the subject at hand is difficult for him it must be impossible for everyone else”.

But the truth be known, each one of us falls into one or more of these categories from time to time. So it would do us all well to catch sight of ourselves now and be more humble.


Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org


 


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