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The line between arrogance and necessary self-confidence is indeed a thin one. Yet we find throughout Torah and Talmud that arrogance is a grievous character trait, so much so that one is allowed to go to the opposite extreme of abject humility in order to avoid being ensnared in behaving arrogantly.

A person, even one who strives for humility must nevertheless possess self-confidence and self-worth. Though this is true for all human beings generally it is especially true regarding Jews individually. Assimilation and alienation from Judaism and the Jewish people and its destiny is oftentimes occasioned by this lack of self-confidence and self-worth.
In an overwhelmingly non-Jewish world population and cultural system, only the self-confident person can truly remain loyally Jewish. One of the problems that beset our educational system is, to a certain extent, that it destroys the self-confidence and self-worth of the student due to its competitive nature, graded exams and selective awards.
From the Torah it seems that one-on-one education – father to child – was the optimum system of education. However the practicalities of our existence make this one-on-one scenario to be a rare and unlikely one. Yet somehow, even in large classes with pronounced and visible competitiveness obviously present, steps should be taken not to shatter the feeling of self-worth of every individual student.
I have always felt that accomplishing this was and is the mark of the master teacher much more so than the objective test scores achieved by one’s students. Many a so-called scholastic underachiever has risen to greatness because one still had the capacity to believe in one’s self and act in life under that belief.
The Talmud teaches us that the Lord, so to speak, cannot abide with the arrogant person. Unless one learns how to control one’s own ego and deal with one’s self and others fairly and realistically one shuts God out, again so to speak, from one’s life no matter how superficially observant and pious one appears to be.
The relationship to God is built on recognition of one’s own human qualities, failures, foibles and successes. A realistic self-evaluation will always occasion a feeling of humility and subservience to the Divine.
The person who always knows better and more than anyone else, who demands that others always bow to his will, is considered to be an evil person in the eyes of the Torah. Such a person is so full of himself and hubris that there is no room left within his heart and soul for Godliness to enter and reside. If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions it is also strewn with the debris of human arrogance and unwarranted hubris. Just ask Haman!
An “I know better” attitude towards all problems, personal, societal or national, will undoubtedly lead to error and even disappointment and tragedy. The ability to listen to others, to consider others’ opinions and sensitivities and to reconsider one’s own previously held ideas and solutions constitutes the foundation step on the heavenly ladder of humility and holiness. Arrogance provides no avenue of escape for the angst of the human soul.
The Torah warns us that arrogance leads to forgetfulness, especially the bitter forgetfulness of the Creator. We recite in the Rosh Hashanah prayers: “Fortunate is the person who has not forgotten You and the human being who has strengthened one’s self through You.” Arrogance is a disease that distorts and can even destroy memory. It occasions overwhelming pride in one’s own accomplishments whether they be deserved or not and warps one’s vision of one’s true place and purpose in the Godly scheme of things.
It is interesting to note how uncharitable the rabbis of the Talmud were towards the arrogant. Other character defects are much more easily tolerated but arrogance remains a cardinal fault. The rabbis emphasized this by stating in Avot: “Be very, very humble.” Apparently “humble” or even one “very” is insufficient.  One must be “very, very humble!”
Maimonides who rails against extremism and advocates the golden mean of moderation in all of life’s issues and traits nevertheless encourages such extremism when it comes to the trait of humility. There no possibility of moderation exists, for once arrogance creeps into a person’s behavior and psyche the damage done becomes almost irreparable.
From Maimonides it appears that arrogance is also the ally if not the cause of anger, the other unpardonable sinful character trait in his written works. Anger stems from not having one’s way all the time. Without arrogance present one would be able to easily deal with not having everything go one’s way all of the time. Humility brings one to even-temperedness.
Shabat shalom
Berel Wein   

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