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Behar-Bechukosai: A Proper Place for Pride

This week, we read two sidros of the Torah instead of one. What is the connection between these two sidros, which makes it such a perfect combination?

There is a famous story about the tzaddik Rebbe Avrohom Hamalach. He once arrived at a city and many people came to the room where he was staying in order to see him. However, the tzaddik did not go out to greet the people. Instead, he stayed at the window and looked into the distance. After a while, one audacious young man went over to the window and asked: “What does the Rebbe see there? What is the Rebbe looking at?” The Rebbe looked at him piercingly and replied: “I am looking at the mountain up there and wonder how a piece of earth can think so highly of himself…” The pointed message hit home; the young man understood that the Rebbe saw right through him and was rebuking him for his tendency to be arrogant.

While arrogance is a very despicable trait, there is a place for healthy pride. It says in Tehillim (10:3): “For the wicked one praises himself for [having achieved] the desires of his soul.”  The Rebbe Reb Zusha would say: “The verse uses the word hillel (praise). The saintly Tanna Hillel was known as one of the most humble men. The verse can be interpreted to mean: ‘The wicked one uses Hillel’s humility in order to achieve the desires of his soul.’ How so? When he has the chance to do a mitzvah, the yetzer hara tells him: You are a lowly person. Just forget about it… Who do you think you are anyway, looking for mitzvos? Hashem isn’t even interested in your good deeds.’ The same thing happens when he tries to learn Torah. The yetzer hara discourages him by reminding him of the verse in Tehillim (50:16): ‘And to the wicked one says Hashem: What is it to you to speak of My commandments?’ With this misplaced humility, the yetzer hara convinces the person not to learn Torah and perform mitzvos.”

This is an example of how humility can be badly misplaced. Due to so-called humility, the wicked person refrains from learning Torah and doing mitzvos. This is highly improper. If a person feels that he isn’t worthy of learning Torah and doing mitzvos, he shall do tshuva. It is told that the holy tzaddik of Lublin would sit down to learn Torah, and he would burst out crying: “And to the wicked one says Hashem: What is it to you to speak of My commandments?” he would weep. “How can I learn Torah if I am so unworthy? But I can do tshuva!” he concluded. He would make a renewed commitment to become better and then learn with great diligence.

When it comes to serving Hashem, a person should have pride, as it says (Divrei Hayamim II 17:6): “And he lifted his heart in the ways of Hashem.” When necessary, a person should fill his heart with healthy pride and think of how fortunate he is to be able to perform mitzvos. He should be proud to do the will of Hashem!

The two sidros that we learn this week are Behar and Bechukosai. Behar means a mountain, and Bechukosai means the commandments of Hashem. This teaches us that although a person must never be haughty like a mountain, when it comes to Hashem’s commandments there is a time a place for pride. Don’t ever think that you are too low and unworthy to learn Torah and do mitzvos. Be a mountain to fulfill Hashem’s commandments!

In the merit of taking pride in serving Hashem, may all people be helped with whatever they need. Those in need of a refuah or yeshua shall merit being helped quickly and easily. May all of us be able to prepare ourselves properly for kabbolas haTorah (receiving the Torah), and in this merit we will be zocheh to greet Moshiach speedily in our days, Amein.

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