Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #35, “Loving integrity”
Arrogance is like filthy clothing on a prince. The two don’t mesh.
First, others are repelled.
Second, the person himself is soiled.
Torah knowledge is attenuated if others cannot respect it. Of more import, a glass ceiling hovers over the arrogant student. He thinks he sees through the ceiling to higher levels of knowledge, but this is an illusion. The ceiling is a blockade.
Rabbi Israel Salanter (1810-1883) is said to have known the entire Talmudic commentary of Tosafot by heart. This is hundreds of thousands of words. Greatly impoverished, Rabbi Salanter could study Torah wherever he wandered even without books. Yet, he left an imprint on the ages, not least because of his humility. He regarded his extraordinary mind purely as a gift from G-d, not as a result of his strenuous efforts to acquire the Torah.
Even a novice can fall prey to arrogance. Each additional piece of knowledge can fill one with pride. I overcame my intellectual, spiritual or linguistic limitations!
To defeat arrogance is worthy in and of itself, but it is essential to acquiring the Torah, from its lowest level to its most sublime.
The 35th way to acquire the Torah: Not Flaunting One’s Learning.
Way #1, Study; Way #2, Listen; Way #3, Articulate Speech; Way #4, Understanding of the Heart; Way #5, An Intelligent Heart; Way #6, Awe; Way #7, Fear; Way #8, Humility; Way #9a, Joy; Way #9b, Purity; Way #10, Serving the Sages; Way #11, Interaction with colleagues; Way #12, Exchanges with students; Way #13, Deliberation; Way #14, Scripture; Way #15a, Mishnah; Way #15b, Limited Business Activity; Way #16a, Limited Marital Relations; Way #16b, Portion Control; Way #17, Limited Pleasure; Way #18, All nighters; Way #19, Limited Conversation; Way #20, Limited Entertainment; Way #21, Slowness to anger; Way #22, A good heart; Way #23, Faith in the sages; Way #24, Acceptance of suffering; Way #25, Knowing one’s place; Way #26, Happiness with one’s lot; Way #27, Have a filter; Way #28, Claim no credit; Way #29, Being beloved; Way #30, Loving the Omnipresent; Way #31, Loving G-d’s creatures; Way #31b, Loving acts of charity; Way #32, Loving reproof; Way #33, Loving integrity; Way #34, Shunning honors