This week’s learning has been dedicated in loving memory of Chayim ben Yosef a”h, Herbert Schnider, and in honor of his wife, ylctv”a (may she live and be well) Miriam bas Moshe, Muriel Schnider, by Stuart, Elizabeth and their girls.
In this week’s reading, the Torah warns us that after the people enter Israel, they may be prone to think only about their own accomplishments, and forget the source of all blessings: “and you become haughty, and forget HaShem your G-d who brought you out from Egypt, from the house of slavery… and you say in your heart, my own might and the strength of my hand have made me all of this wealth.” [Dev. 8:14, 17]
This is something that can affect all of us. Maimonides says that we should look for the middle ground, that even bad traits have their place (meaning, sometimes it is right to appear angry, for example), but that haughtiness is the exception. There is never a time to be “full of ourselves.”
This does not mean we should fail to appreciate our gifts. Moshe was the leader and teacher of the Jewish people, he spoke directly with G-d, and received the Torah and taught it to us. But the Torah also testifies that he was more humble than anyone — and the Torah doesn’t exaggerate!
Rav Shamshon Rephael Hirsch writes that arrogance is the first step towards forgetting G-d. Moshe never ignored his gifts, but he also recognized where they came from. What prevents us from becoming arrogant or haughty is the appreciation that everything we have is a gift.
There is a popular radio host who likes to identify himself as possessing “talent on loan from G-d.” Although he uses it as mock puffery, the truth is just the opposite — that if we recognize our talents as being “on loan from G-d,” there’s no room for becoming full of ourselves or lording it over someone else. We must appreciate and use all our talents — not to puff ourselves up, but to recognize that our “gifts” are exactly that.