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March 10, 2022

03/10/2022 04:27:23 PM

Mar10

Rabbi Hearshen

Pride is a really big problem. We certainly want our children to be proud. We want to be proud of our own accomplishments and all we’ve attained. But at the same time, it’s clear and easy to see that pride can be, and often is, a large problem. People end relationships because of wounded pride. People can’t sleep at night because of wounded pride. People allow their sense of self to dictate the ways they interact with the world and how they see themselves in the mirror. With this line of reasoning, we can see pride is in fact very damaging to our world.

The Book of Esther and the holiday of Purim have a great deal to do with pride and the dangers of judgements being made because of pride. From the very beginning of the Book, we have an example of good and bad pride. Queen Vashti was proud of who she was and thus did not allow herself to be mindlessly paraded around. This is a positive part of pride. The king and his counselors’ responses were the complete opposite. Through her refusal, she somehow damaged their sense of pride and due to that damage, they demanded she be banished. (BTW, the text does not say he demanded she come naked nor does it say she was executed.) When I read these words every year, I think of the childish attitude and viewpoint of the king and the other men and how their pride was so injured. I think of the small-mindedness of them. The very basic idea that all people act independently of each other in the world is a core value in humanity. We don’t exist to boost another person’s sense of self. We aren’t here as actors in another person’s life movie.

The second atrocious example is much clearer and that would be Haman. Boo all you want but we need to discuss this person and look at the depravity that was his vision of existence. Haman was the second most powerful man in one of the most powerful empires in the world. In many ways, he was the most powerful, in large part due to the king’s love of partying and thus lack of attention to governance. In spite of this absurd amount of power, it was not enough. Haman had such an inflated sense of self he felt it necessary to demand complete obedience from all other people. His over inflated sense of self meant he needed the love and adoration of others to be okay. Through Haman, we see that when we have such an overgrown sense of self… too much pride… we actually become weaker and less reliant on ourselves.

If someone was truly filled with pride in their accomplishments and their status, they wouldn’t need titles, accolades and unmitigated obedience from those in their midst. True self pride is realized by the individual who remains uninjured by those who do not listen to them or do not care for them. In Pirkei Avot 2:4, we learn a great teaching of Hillel: Do not trust in yourself until the day of your death. What this means is that we learn about ourselves over our lifetimes. We grow over our lifetimes. We develop a sense of self. That sense should change with the years and thus Hillel told us to not be sure of ourselves until the end. That’s what it means to develop a healthy sense of self.

Each of us should be proud. Each of us should take pride in our accomplishments and in our friends and family. That pride must not ever be to the detriment of others. That pride must only be to the amplification of our own self-love. It’s impossible not to draw parallels to the real-world issues around us today. The Russian invasion of Ukraine comes in large part from a modern-day Achashverosh and Haman. It comes from an overly inflated view of self by one - Vladimir Putin. It comes from the idea that he matters and others do not. It comes from his warped sense of history and what’s right and wrong is more important than the views of others. It also comes from his immense need to have others validate his every whim. We’ve seen this disaster in the past and will see it in the future as well. Nevertheless, we should be able to recognize that Haman is no longer, and his acolytes who adhere to his errant vision of the world will find themselves in the dustbin of history.   

Sun, June 26 2022 27 Sivan 5782