Rivka Olenick

"Be careful lest you forget Hashem, your God." Devarim 8:11

The Torah is specifically speaking about the character flaws of arrogance and pride, which are closely related. The dictionary defines arrogance as: full of unwarranted pride and giving oneself an undue degree of self-importance, haughtiness and conceit. When a person conducts him/herself in an arrogant manner, he/she is saying: "I am faultless, it's others who are at fault." And if a person believes they are faultless why should they bother to live according to Torah? The person believes their priorities in life come before what God has established for mankind. Independence and acquisition is what estranges a person from God. A person thinks: "I have all that I need." All the possessions and enjoyments a person has he/she attributes to their own doing. The trap "one sets up for oneself" is based on an over-estimation of who they are in the world. And by living in the trap of arrogance and pride, a person is convinced they do not need God. Yet everything one has achieved and obtained in one's life is due only to God.

The Gemora in Sota 5a, warns against arrogance and pride, which are closely related. "Arrogance does not just lead to forgetting God, arrogance itself is the beginning of forgetfulness of God." Since man's thoughts should be directed to God, arrogance does not allow room in one's mind for thoughts of God. In all that man enjoys, his good fortune and everything that he has gained makes man think it is all due to his own power and strength. How quickly and easily man forgets that he was a slave in Egypt. How helpless he was until God took him out.

In his book Horeb, A Philosophy of Jewish Laws and Observances, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch says: "Be not proud! Never look upon anything and call it you own, neither your possession, your strength and good looks, nor your intelligence and abilities. But always remember that it is not you who have procured these things for yourself - but God who lent them to you. That it is He alone Whom you have to thank for them. Nay, more that he is still Master of them although you call them yours. Think of this and beware of pride - for sin has no greater friend!"

So, what can a person do to be free of the trap of arrogance and pride? The first step is to cultivate self-knowledge. Look into your personality and try to be honest about who you are. Begin to figure out what your disposition is and what is in your heart. And if you need help, ask for help. Go to someone who you trust, who is honest and cares about your life, your Rav, or your friend. Ask for an objective opinion. And at the same time look at yourself, watch for situations that bring out arrogance, pride and obstinacy. At the end of the day make a calculation of the day: a self-examination to "see" how you behaved. Be your own judge and don't excuse yourself for anything. Determine whether you took a step forward or a step back - and try to be honest, this is truly for your own benefit! Start each day with new hope in making small changes. Is it difficult? It is. But think how much energy a person puts into making changes in a business plan? Even small ones!

Rabbi Hirsch says: "Just as the door stands wide open to one who runs after impurity, so God Himself helps one who makes purity his aim."

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