The Idol Within

November 26, 2015

2 min read


Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43 )

Beware of the traps of arrogance.

In this week's Torah portion, Jacob says to his household, "Cast away the false god that is within you..." On this, the Sages ask: Which false god is 'within' a person? Arrogance.

In Jewish thinking, arrogance is akin to idolatry, for arrogance is worship of the self. Arrogance is a person thinking that he is the most important part of this world. Nothing matters more than me and my will. Judaism has little patience for the arrogant human being. The Sages say that God tells the arrogant man, so to speak, "There is no room for both of us in this world. Let Me in, or I will throw you out."

The traps of arrogance are many. Amongst the subtlest, the arrogant man is a puppet. He is so worried about his image in the eyes of others, that he will do whatever necessary to achieve this end. If people look up to a powerful person, then that is what he must become. If they look up to a wealthy person, then that is what he must become. If they look down upon a compassionate person, then that is what he must not become. He is no longer his own person as his values will swap and change to suit the expectations of the outside world.

By contrast, a humble person has no fear of what others think of him. (An arrogant person, though he pretends not to, thinks of little else.) As such, a humble person will stick to his values no matter what the world says. An arrogant person will stick to what the world says, no matter what his values.

Humility, the Sages tell us, is the key to greatness. An arrogant person may achieve much in the eyes of others. Yet he will achieve little in the eyes of God - and deep down in his own eyes, too. Though people may outwardly respect him, inwardly they despise him. No one likes an arrogant person for he will always do his best to make others feel small and insignificant.

Finally, the arrogant person will never find true happiness. For he knows, better than anyone else, that he is only an inflated balloon - full of hot air, but not much else.

Judaism says not to despise the arrogant man, rather to pity him (though not in an arrogant way!). For he is his own worst enemy.

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