The Path of the Just: Chapter 23 (Part 5)
A number of factors hold us back from being truly humble. Foremost, Ramchal
asserts, are rank “overabundance” and the sheer delight in things.
Truth be known, the sheer reverence for “overabundance” -- for wanting too
much of quite enough -- defines modernity. Whereas stark and painful want
and poverty gnawed at and injured so many people in the past, and the
blessing of plenty has refreshed the human heart for many years now, things
have gone too far and it’s now against our spiritual well-being.
These verses lay out the dilemma, as Ramchal understands it: "(Beware, lest)
you eat and grow full (and forget G-d), and your heart becomes proud"
(Deuteronomy 8:12–14). In other words, the terrible spiritual consequences
of enjoying overabundance are our setting G-d out of sight and mind, and our
placing ourselves at the center of the universe instead.
Wanting to avoid that at all costs, “the pious find it better to deprive
themselves sometimes (of this and that), so that they might subdue the
inclination towards arrogance which flourishes in a climate of plenty”
Ramchal offers. The point is that we’d do well to deprive ourselves of
things here and there to avoid that, too.
What also prevents us from being humble is a lack of Torah knowledge,
Ramchal underscores. As he points out, our sages enunciated that thusly: "A
sure sign that someone knows nothing is (his) bragging" (Zohar, Balak),
which suggests that a person only thinks he needs to brag when he actually
has nothing worthwhile to be proud of. And they said that, "A single coin in
(an otherwise empty) bottle makes a loud clanging sound"(Baba Metziah 85b),
which means that only a mind that’s full of thoughts of consequence and of
spiritual content can drown out useless untruths.