Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • Pathways in Personality Development
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Asher Ben Haim

21. The Dangers of Pride

Just as “cleanliness” must reside in deeds, so must it reside in traits. The work involved in changing one's traits is more difficult than that involved in changing one's deeds. This is because changing traits means doing battle with one's own nature.


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Just as "cleanliness" must reside in deeds, so must it reside in traits. The work involved in changing one's traits is more difficult than that involved in changing one's deeds. This is because changing traits calls for doing battle with one's natural propensities - and changing one's nature is not easy. It calls for great strength: "Who is strong? One who conquers his evil inclination.

The first traits which need to be dealt with are pride, anger, envy, and lust.

Pride consists in a person's focusing on himself, trying to impress others, attributing importance to himself. This tendency can find expression in a number of manners. A person might take pride in his handsomeness, or his physical strength. Slowly, he begins to think highly of himself and wants others to do the same. Similarly, A person might take pride in his intelligence or in other spiritual virtues, to the point that he becomes bloated from pride.

Pride is a particularly detestable attribute. The Torah warns us regarding it: "And your heart will be proud and you will forget the Lord, your God" (Deuteronomy 8:14). A proud person focuses on himself, his honor, his virtues, and forgets the most important thing - he forgets God. He forgets that it is God Who has embed him with all of his qualities.

Some people let their pride go to their head and begin to behave in a manner which reflects their importance, walking and talking like an important person and wearing the sort of clothing which befits such a person. Everything they do, they do to feed their honor, to be "in," to look important.

Pride is an evil sickness which removes a person from the world. All of his energies are exhausted upon himself, and instead of being full of ideological aspirations and pure content, he becomes full of himself and a slave to his own pride, destroying any positive tendency he might possess. Pride creates a partition between a person and the world. The sages teach: "Regarding a proud person, God has said: he and I cannot live together in the world." Such a person impinges upon the Divine Presence.

The sages expressed themselves very forcefully toward proud people, saying, "A proud person deserves to be uprooted like an Ashera (idolatrous) tree." Pride is like idolatry.

Sometimes pride causes a person to want to appear humble, so that everybody will admire him for his humility. He performs all sorts of actions which are appropriate for a humble person. He flees from honor, bestows titles of honor on others , always sits on the side, at the end, and all of this stems from a desire to receive honor. Obviously, one who behaves in such a manner will eventually become proud. It is impossible to hide inner pride for very long.

A proud person thinks himself superior to others and is unable to accept another person's opinion over his own. He is unable to accept criticism.

Sometimes pride takes root so deep that the proud person does not even realize that everybody is degrading him, and that those who honor him only do so outwardly. In their hearts they do not feel any admiration for him at all, and he goes from bad to worse, to the point where he is not even respected by the members of his family. The verse "The proud of heart are the abomination of God" (Proverbs 16:5) says it all.

Hence, a person must distance himself from pride to the very farthest extreme, "Be very very humble." Without examining ones deeds, without dealing with this trait, it is impossible to get rid of it. However, when a person looks closely at himself and studies this obligation, when one considers the vices involved in pride and distances himself from it, he becomes a new person, more complete and more happy.
Some of the translated biblical verses and talmudic sources in the above article might have been taken from, or based upon, Davka's Soncino Judaic Classics Library (CD-Rom). Parts of the Path of the Just were taken from, or based upon, Shraga Silverstein's translation of this work (Feldheim).

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