Parshat Eikev: Making Room for Hashem

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Some people are guilty of inflating their egos so greatly that no one can live in their world except for themselves. Friends, family, coworkers, fellow humans, and even Hashem are treated as secondary “extras” on the stage of their lives. Ultimately, this invites great sadness and unhappiness, tainting the purity of self-confidence and self-love into a distorted reality that solely revolves around themselves. In Parshat Eikev, Bnei Yisrael is warned about this poison, and it offers a powerful lesson for our own lives, today.

As Moshe Rabbeinu continues his final words to Bnei Yisrael, he prepares them for their final entry into Eretz Yisrael. He says, “When you have eaten your fill, and have built fine houses to live in, and your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold have increased, and everything you own has prospered, beware lest your heart grow haughty and you forget the LORD your God—who freed you from the land of Egypt, the house of bondage… And you say to yourselves, ‘My own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me’” (Devarim 8:12-14,17).

The essence of Moshe’s message is best captured when he says, “beware lest your heart grow haughty and you forget the LORD your God.” This rings familiar to Masechet Sotah, in which Rabbi Yochanan said that anyone who has arrogance is considered as if he were an idol worshipper (4b). Moshe’s words and this gemarah are certainly linked, stressing that self-aggrandizement and haughtiness lead us to serve ourselves in a negative way, throwing Hashem out of the world, so to speak.

Rabbeinu Bahya comments on the aforementioned pasuk that an abundance of affluence and the like invoke the arrogance of the heart, leading us to act in ways that deny our very essence (8:14). Essentially, these lessons ring a common truth: When our lives are only about ourselves, and we seize complete ownership of our accomplishments and successes, we bloat ourselves to push Hashem out of our world and our lives. Arrogance brings about this great danger.

As mentioned earlier, a conceited ego results from the distortion of pure, ideal traits: namely self-confidence and self-love. Rav Kook was a big believer that every character trait has its place, and arrogance – or the good version of it — is no exception.

“One’s love for oneself can express itself in an unsophisticated way and become corrupted, motivating evil actions and creating bad character traits,” Rav Kook writes. “On the other hand, love for oneself can be holy and ideal…For when one improves oneself and one’s good side grows and fill’s one’s entire being, one’s perspective on reality becomes illuminated with joy…And reality truly is good when the person looking at it, living it, and acting within it is good” (Shmoneh Kevatzim 1:115).[1]

When considering Moshe Rabbeinu’s words, we must pair them with Rav Kook’s to ensure we understand the message. To forget Hashem, to forget that He is our Source and Sustainer, is to forget the truest essence of ourselves. We are a part of Hashem, and that is a truth that rests in the depths of our souls; arrogance makes sure it stays there. If we want a life of authentic self-love and self-confidence, then we must make room for Hashem in our lives.

[1] As translated by Rabbi Ari Ze’ev Schwartz in “The Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook,” p. 77

About the Author
Sruli Fruchter studied for one year at Yeshivat Orayta and is now studying International and Global Affairs at Yeshiva University. He enjoys writing on a spectrum of topics, specifically on the weekly parsha.
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