Necessary Arrogance

In regards to the trait of gasus ruach, arrogance, the gemoro in Maseches Sotah (4b-5b) states various things. That a person who has this trait ultimately will be cut-down, they’ll err in the worst ways regarding promiscuity, and that they will not merit to have the dwelling of the Shechinah around them. By the end of page 5a though, R’ Chiya bar Ashi says that a talmid chochom needs to have an eighth of an eighth of arrogance. R’ Huna bar R’ Yehoshua says this serves as a crown for the talmid chochom like the tuft on a stalk of grain. Rava then says that if a talmid chochom is arrogant, he must be excommunicated, and if he doesn’t have any arrogance, he must also be excommunicated So what’s the pshat? Rashi says that he must be excommunicated if he isn’t arrogant because without some little amount of arrogance that leads to confidence, people won’t listen to him and take his advice and rulings seriously.

The whole concept that a talmid chochom should be arrogant seems to contradict the Mishnah in Avos, Perek 2, where it states if you were able to learn a lot of Torah, don’t take goodness from it, because this is what you were created for. Bartenura states this means he takes some sort of confidence and pride out of it, saying “Lots of Torah I have learned.” We can bring these two things together to find the proper path for a talmid chochom. Rather than saying “Look how much Torah I’ve learned, I’m so great, everyone has to listen to me,” he has to have the recognition that Hashem created him to do this particular avodah, and make it his mission to help others, and approach his position in this way. To have some amount of pride is necessary to show the power and beauty of Torah, because what would people think of the talmidei chachomim if they went around in sack cloth and were always obsessed with their shortcomings, unable to advise people in halocho and avodas Hashem? The key is balancing a touch of pride and confidence with true humility and thankfulness to Hashem.

Hashem should bless us with true humility, understanding of Torah, and happiness, and bring us to the days of Moshiach swiftly!

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