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Jewish Concepts: Arrogance

Ezekiel 25:17

17. Your heart was raised because of your beauty, you have corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I have cast you to the ground, I have laid you before kings, that they may behold you.

Psalms 101:5

5. I will cut off whoever secretly slanders his neighbor; I will not endure the man who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart.

Your Psalm Navigator

1. Does slandering in secret have any relationship to arrogance?

Proverbs 5:16

5. Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; those who join hands shall not be cleansed.

Midrash Rabbah - Mishlei Chapter 13 Section 3

Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: Anyone who is arrogant before His Creator, will not be cleansed from the judgment of Hell. Rabbi Simon said: Anyone who is lowly in spirit, and is concerned in his heart to walk in the ways of the Holy One, he will be guaranteed that the Holy One will prepare his steps. As it is written: "The heart of the human will consider his way and the Lord will prepare his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)

Your Midrash Navigator

1. Why is arrogance antithetical to being close to God?

Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 5a-b

Rabbi Alexandri said: Every man in whom there is haughtiness of spirit, will be disturbed by the slightest wind. As it is said: But the wicked are like the troubled sea If the sea, which contains so many quarters of gallons of water, is ruffled by the slightest wind, how much more so a human being who contains but one quarter of a gallon.

Rabbi Hiyya b. Ashi said in the name of Rav: A disciple of the Sages should possess an eighth [of pride]. Rav Huna the son of R. Joshua said: [This small amount of pride] crowns him like the awn of the grain. Raba said: [A disciple of the Sages] who possesses [haughtiness of spirit] deserves excommunication, and if he does not possess it he deserves excommunication. Rabbi Nahman bar Isaac said: He should not possess it or part of it; as it is written: "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord!" (Proverbs 16:5)

Hezekiah said: A man's prayer is not heard unless he makes his heart [soft] like flesh; as it is said , "And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, shall all flesh come to worship, etc" (Isaiah 66:23) Rabbi Zera said: Concerning flesh it is written: And it is healed; but it is not written concerning man, And he is healed.

Rabbi Johanan said: The word for man [ADaM] is an acronym and indicates dust (Afar), blood (Dam) and gall (Marah); the word for flesh [BaSaR] indicates shame (Bushah), stench (Serucha) and worm (Rima). Some declare that [instead of stench (Serucha) we should have the word] Sheol, (hell) since its initial letter corresponds.

Your Talmud Navigator

1. There are many opinions about arrogance in these passages, which ones resonate with you?
2. Why do you think there are so many opinions?

Maimonides, Laws of Behavior 2:3

There are behaviors which a person is prohibited from doing even moderately. Instead he would distance himself from them in the most extreme fashion. An example of this is arrogance. For it is not sufficient for a person to be only humble, but he must be of lowly spirit, and his spirit should be very low, therefore it is written about Moshe our teacher that he was "very humble" instead of merely stating he was "humble".

Therefore, our sages commanded us to be of extremely lowly spirit, and they also said, "that anyone who has a haughty heart has committed heresy, as it is written: "With the haughtiness of your heart you have forgotten the Lord your God."

It was also stated, "A ban should be placed on the scholar who exhibits a haughty spirit"--even if only a little bit...

Your Maimonides Navigator

1. Maimonides only quotes one opinion from the Talmud. He is of the opinion that even a little pride or haughtiness is a negative quality. Do you agree?
2. Can you define haughtiness from the perspective of Maimonides?

Sources: Rabbi Avi Weinstein, Director, Hillel's Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning. Reprinted with permission.