Holy Haughtiness by Daniel Weintraub


Parashat Eikev describes what will happen when Bnei Yisrael enter Eretz Yisrael. It depicts the beauty of the land in great detail. The Pasuk states that when Hashem brings the Jews into the land, “VeAchalta VeSavata UVeirachta Et Hashem Elokecha Al HaAretz HaTovah Asher Natan Lach,” “You will eat and you will be satisfied, and you will bless Hashem, your God, for the good land which He has given to you” (Devarim 8:10). This seems to be an eminently logical commandment. Yet just a few Pesukim later, the Torah repeats practically the same thing, formulated in the negative, “Pen Tochal VeSavata UVatim Tovim Tivneh VeYashavta UVkarecha VeTzonecha Yirbeyun… VeRam Levavecha VeShachachta Et Hashem Elokecha,” “Lest you eat and be satisfied, and build good houses, and settle, and your cattle and sheep and goats will increase…and your hearts will become haughty and you will forget Hashem, your God” (8:12-14). Why would the Pasuk have to repeat the same thing in both positive and negative forms? It’s like saying, “Remember to tie your shoes, lest you forget to tie your shoes.” Why do the Jews need the same idea twice within two Pesukim of each other?

The answer is fairly simple. If the Jews aren’t repeatedly warned about forgetting Hashem, they will forget about him quickly due to the human trait of haughtiness. This trait is so bad that Hashem felt the need to tell us repeatedly to stay away from it. The Gemara (Sotah 4b-5a) states, “Any person who is haughty is as if he served idols, as if he denied God, as if he participated in immorality and as if he built an altar [to idols].” This demonstrates just how bad the trait of haughtiness is. But this raises another question. Why did God give man a trait that is so bad that he is (virtually) never allowed to use it?

The answer can be seen by observing Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe was on a very high level; he spoke to Hashem quite often, Hashem performed miracles through him and he saved an entire people from becoming spiritually wasted, yet he never bragged about it. In fact, the Torah testifies that Moshe was the most humble person alive (BeMidbar 12:3). Yet he must have felt some haughtiness, though he certainly kept it below the surface. After all, he was only human, albeit a very special human. Moshe probably had a very strong sense of haughtiness, but he was able to use it in the service of Hashem. He trained himself so well that anytime he even thought that he might have possibly done something great, he would immediately turn his thoughts to Hashem. He focused all of the energy that his body would normally exert on haughtiness into gratefulness. The point of haughtiness is to serve as a benchmark for feelings of gratitude to Hashem for everything He has given us.

The same should be done with every bad trait. We have to be able to channel “bad” traits for use in furthering our good traits and our service of Hashem. The Rambam says that every negative trait has its place in the world.  We just have to learn how to use them for good. 

Testing Hashem by Ilan Griboff

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