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Burst of Inspiration

#4 – Don’t Be Arrogant

Another negative prohibition, another lo sa’aseh that’s very common to violate when speaking lashon hara is “הִשָּׁמֵר לְךָ פֶּן תִּשְׁכַּח אֶת ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ”, guard yourself lest you forget Hashem, your G-d. The Rishonim learn this as a warning not to be arrogant. When I’m arrogant I have the sense of independence, I have the sense of power, and that causes me to deny my dependence and my being a servant of Hashem. Arrogance by definition is wearing the middah of Hashem, it’s wearing the middah of adnus, of mastery, and it rebels against Hashem. If I’m a master I can’t have a master. Arrogance therefore is something that causes you to forget Hashem.

Human nature being what it is, the Chafetz Chaim explains that it’s almost impossible to speak lashon hara without a tinge of arrogance. You see, if I recognize that I too am a human, if I recognize that I too am flawed, it would be very difficult for me to speak about other people. It would be very difficult for me to tell you, “You know Reuven, you know what a dummy he is, you know what a fool he is, you know what he did?” If I recognize my own frailty, if I recognize my own weaknesses, it would be very difficult for me to speak about someone.

Typically, when we speak about other people there’s a sense of superiority, there’s a sense of I’m better than them, there’s a sense of he’s a fool but I’m not, and that is arrogance. We don’t think about it in those terms, we don’t isolate it and identify it that way, but the Chafetz Chaim explains to us that that’s exactly what’s going on. The minute I have that sense of I’m better or I’m not a fool, I would never do those kind of things, then obviously I’ll speak about him. But that only stems from a sense of ga’avah, of arrogance, and explains the Chafetz Chaim almost always when you speak lashon hara you’re violating “הִשָּׁמֵר לְךָ פֶּן תִּשְׁכַּח אֶת ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ”, you’re violating the lav of not having arrogance in your heart.

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