Arrogance and Forgetfulness

By: Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui

 

Rabbi Moses of Coucy as his name suggests, was born or raised in Coucy in Northern France. In 1240 he was one of four rabbis required to defend the Talmud, in a public disputation in Paris. It is likely that the need for a work like his, the codification of Jewish Law which he authored, was driven by the decrees against the Talmud which had been promulgated in France, and had led to the confiscation and burning of all Talmud manuscripts in 1242.

The book he authored, “Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (Hebrew for, Large Book of the Commandments; abbreviated “SeMaG”) deals with the 365 negative commandments and the 248 positive commandments, separately discussing each one of them.

On the verse in the Bible, “Be careful lest you forget G-d your G-d …and your heart is elevated (in ego) and you forget G-d…” Rabbi Moses writes.” At first I did not intend to include this verse in the count of negative commandments. As I was about to end my count of the negative commandments, “G-d appeared to me in a dream” and told me, “ you forgot the most important (principle) , “ Be careful lest you forget G-d your G-d…” I contemplated regarding this dream, and decided this is indeed a basic foundation in the observance …etc.”

As a result, the SeMaG includes as one of the negative commandments, “a warning (in the Bible) that one should not be arrogant…”

The SeMaG includes this warning as a negative commandment, not because he was told to in a dream. There is a clear statement. Once the Bible was presented to people here in this world, “we don’t pay any attention to a heavenly voice,” and, “Torah-instructions are not (any more) in the heaven.” The dream prompted him to think once again the importance of this verse, and it was his own rational logical conclusion that brought him to include this, as a negative commandment.

Maimonides, one of the pillars of Jewish Law does not include this verse as one of the actual negative transgressions of the Bible. How do we clarify this?

The Baal Shem Tov explains the connection between, “Lest you forget…” and as a result, “your heart will be elevated in ego…” by comparing this, to the negative outcome of indulging in even permissible bodily gratification.

When a person is pleasure seeking, he strengthens the animalistic tendencies inside himself. As a result, his sensitivities as a human being, and his clarity of thinking, the abode for the higher G-dly senses are greatly compromised.

Similar to this. When a person stops thinking about, and forgets the influence of G-dliness in his life, so, because “G-d is your Shadow”, a persons’ lack of attention to G-dliness, causes G-d to be shoved to the sidelines. In this condition, it becomes possible for the person to become self-centered and egotistic. To truly believe he is “self-made.”

This leads to a further degradation, “forget you will surely forget.” A situation even deeper in the pit of darkness, where the person forgets, that he even forgot. He doesn’t even realize that he has a problem regarding his forgetfulness of G-d. And an ever increasing sense of arrogance and haughtiness, “ME & I” becomes his reality. This is so serious a problem that in regards to all other transgressions G-d says, “I dwell in the midst of their impurity.”

However in regards to arrogance and haughtiness, G-d says, “I and him cannot (do not) dwell together.” Haughtiness is a total distancing from G-d, the exact opposite of humility, the quality of Moses, “a G-dly man.” who “spoke to G-d, face to face.”

It is because of the extreme severity of this demeanor, Maimonides did not count this as a separate negative commandment. According to Maimonides the prohibition against worshiping idols, includes this terrible act of, forgetting (the influence of) G-d in one’s life.

The antidote to all the above, is an absolute trust in the promises and assurances of G-d. The acceptance of G-ds goodness and authority in one’s life. To realize we are all very finite beings, and to submit ourselves to the awareness of G-d, the higher power.

 

To read more articles from Rabbi Ezagui visit him at http://koshercaffeine.blogspot.com/

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