Mussar

Mussar

MESILAT YESHARIM

The factor that is responsible more than any other for a person’s coming to feel self-important and proud is wisdom. This is so because wisdom is a superior quality of the person himself, a function of his most honored faculty, intelligence. But there is no sage who will not err and will not need to learn from the words of his friends and, very often, even from those of his disciples. How,then, can he pride himself in his wisdom? In truth, one who is possessed of an honest intelligence,even if he has managed to become a toweringly great sage, will see, when he looks into the matter, that there is no room at all for pride and self-importance. For a man of intelligence, one who knows more than others, acts only according to the dictates of his nature, as it is natural for a bird to fly, and as it is dictated for an ox to pull with his strength. One is wise only because his nature has led him to be so. And one who is not so wise now, were he in possession of the sage’s natural intelligence, would become just as wise as he. There is no place, then, for self-importance and pride in respect to wisdom. Rather, if one possesses much wisdom, he is duty-bound to impart it to those in need of it. As stated by R. Yochanan ben Zakkai (Avoth 2.9), “If you have learned much Torah, do not take credit for it, for you were created to do so.” One who is wealthy may rejoice in his lot, but at the same time he must help those in need. If one is strong, he must assist the weak and rescue the oppressed. The situation is analogous to that of a household where there are different servants assigned to different tasks, and where each servant must fulfill his appointed task if the affairs and requirements of the household are all to be attended to. In truth there is no place for pride here.

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