Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Foolishness of Pride

Many great tzaddikim explained that, in a certain way, arrogance is the worst character trait. Even when a person truly improves himself, he can easily fall into the trap of feeling excessive pride in his accomplishments. Once he starts feeling this way, it is very difficult to help him. But what should one do to avoid such pitfalls? The Kedushas Tzion, zt”l, learns practical guidance on this issue from a statement in the Mishnah.
“If one works hard to advance spiritually, he still must overcome the kinds of thoughts that invalidate his avodah just as thoughts of pigul invalidate an offering. These thoughts revolve around how much he as grown, but they are tainted by conceit. To counter them we need only consider the root cause of pride. Our sages teach that arrogance is a sign of poverty in Torah. As people are wont to say, ‘A baal gaavah is nothing more than a fool.’ The person who fell in this area will then understand that the only way to overcome his flaw is to begin learning Torah with renewed intensity. If he learns Torah with this intention, the arrogance will quickly pass away.
“This is the meaning of the statement in the Mishnah, 'עלה בכבש'—‘One who has ascended in being kovesh yitzro, in overcoming his yetzer hara, and attains a level of kedusha; 'ופנה לסובב'—He understands that he has veered off the path of holiness by indulging in prideful thoughts; 'ובא לו לקרן דרומית'—‘He will then come to the south corner.’ This should be understood in light of the teaching in Bava Basra, ‘One who wishes to become wise will turn to the south,’ which was the place of the menorah, the light of the Torah. The only thing for him to do is to learn Torah with renewed intensity so that he can rectify that which caused the arrogance in the first place: poverty of Torah.”

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