Scholarly Arrogance (Haazinu)
In the same way that we need statesmen to spare us the abjection of exercising power, we need scholars to spare us the abjection of learning. -Jean Baudrillard
To learn Torah is one of the best and noblest tasks that a Jew can perform. It is to study and delve into the word and wishes of God. It is to get a glimpse of the divine will and to get a further understanding of God’s plan. Learning Torah can become the foundation of divine service, of refined character and elevated intellect.
Since the time of Moses, there were a select few who dedicated their lives to the study of Torah. They became the sages, the scholars, and the great rabbis of old. They were the religious leaders and spiritual giants of our nation. They constantly sought the good of the people, while always seeking to grow in their learning and understanding of the Torah.
However, the Chidushei HaRim on Deuteronomy 32:15 seems to take issue with individuals who indulge in full-time learning but haven’t used it as a source of either personal development or community service. He tells how the Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of the Hassidic movement, bewailed these arrogant scholars who were satisfied with themselves and their full-time learning schedule. The Baal Shem Tov attributed to these scholars the poetic verses:
“So Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—
You grew fat and gross and coarse —
They forsook the God who made them
And spurned the Rock of their support.
They incensed [God] with alien things,
Vexed [God] with abominations.”
A life devoted to learning can indeed be ennobling and lead to great contributions to people, communities, and the nation. However, when it is laced with arrogance and self-satisfaction, it is most unbecoming, and instead of being a blessing becomes a curse. Instead of being a beacon to others, it becomes alien and abominable.
May all our pursuits lead to blessings for us and those around us.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,
To the protests in Iran.