Great teachings on pride by the Elders of Israel

Great teachings on pride by the Elders of Israel

Rabbi Jacob Joseph of Polonne said that pride is the root of all evil. So how can a person save him or herself from pride?

The answer is very simple: focusing on “doing” instead of focusing on “being”.

In other words, when the person is engaged in positive actions that seek to contribute selflessly to the good and happiness of others, he or she has no time to lose in sterile games of “ego”, “poses” or self-pity.

Therefore, the challenge is simply to make a firm decision to become “engines” and propellers of our own lives, seeking to take meaningful action to fill our souls, avoiding having to use “patches of pride” that can only deceitfully cover the internal vacuum that we feel in our hearts.

And without a doubt, when a person begins to fill their life with Judaism and spirituality, they are transformed into energy and the fuel that feeds their daily growth, making that “internal engine” grow and become even stronger every day.

Said Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin: the proud lack understanding, because if they really had understanding, they would understand that they have no reasons to be proud. And why are there no real reasons for us to be proud? For many reasons.

First, because all we are and all we have, it is because Hashem allows us to be what we are and what we have; and if Hashem wanted to stop us from being what we are or having what we have, He would not have any impairment to stop Him from achieving it.

Second, because all we are and all we have is while playing the game of life, for as long as we are in this world; and in the next world all that counts is what we did with what we are and what we offered to the world out of what we have now.

Third, none of what we are or what we have is one hundred percent perfect, and if Hashem would show us all the defects that we or our things have, certainly not only would we not feel proud, but we would possibly even feel ashamed.

Fourth, in Hebrew, the verbs “to be” and “to have” do not exist, because the only thing that really is is Hashem and the One who really “has” is Hashem too.

Therefore, as there is no reason for us to be really proud, the most logical and convenient is that we always maintain an attitude of humility and simplicity in front of every one of our fellow human beings, and relating with great respect and decorum to all people, which does not mean that not everyone should be treated according to the dignity of their position or title, unless we’re specifically asked not to do so.

Rabbi Yisroel Salanter said: No person has died of starvation, but of pride. This means that whenever a person is not able to overcome his or her pride to ask for food or help when they really need it, he or she is even exposed to starvation as a result of a negligent conduct.

And it is necessary to know not only that asking for help is not shameful, but instead, by doing, so we are giving others the possibility to give, thus feeding their souls by doing so.

Finally, as the proud person is distressed when things do not go his or her way, his or her physical and mental health can be damaged and it can even result in death.

And conversely, when the person is humble, he or she can accommodate much more easily to any situation, thus strengthening their lives and vitality.

Image courtesy of Courtney Carmody at
Image courtesy of Courtney Carmody at

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said: The Messiah will not come until pride is eliminated from the world. And why did Rabbi Nachman of Breslov state this as a sine qua non condition for the Messiah to come again?

Surely, because for the Messiah to be revealed, it is necessary to make room in this world to receive him. And in a world where pride governs, there is not enough room for the “spirit of Moshiach” to enter it.

And all the economic disasters, revolutions and natural disasters that occur in the world have no other purpose than to show us how fragile and vulnerable we are as human beings, and to what extent pride and hubris really have no reason to be.

And when all people understand this and begin to act in a much more sensible and humane way towards the rest of their peers, the world will be prepared for the Messiah to be fully disclosed within our reality, raising it to a much loftiest and even sublime level.

Said Rabbi Moses ben Jacob ibn Ezra: pride exists only among people who feel diminished. In other words, pride is nothing more than a psychological mechanism used by persons who possess a low level of self-esteem, as an “alternative” to investing time and efforts in finding a true solution. The solution would be to induce the person to invest more of their time studying those Jewish contents that help them to know themselves better, so that they can assess and improve their good qualities and be happy with what they have.