Aug 22 2019 DVAR TORAH

Rabbi Ceitlin 270x306
Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin

On the green backdrop of New York's Catskills, 50 Torah scholars from around the world gathered at the annual Yarchei Kallah summit this week, which I have the privilege to coordinate.

During their discussions, it was asked why didn't Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, the Rambam) include a prohibition against boasting in his general count of commandments as recorded in his digest of Jewish law, Mishneh Torah.

When a person boasts, our sages say that "Concerning any person who has arrogance within him, G-d said, "He and I cannot dwell together in the world." This statement singles out hubris as a severe transgression because by aggrandizing oneself, no space is left for G-d. As some like to point out, the word 'ego' stands for "easing G-d out."

The Rebbe explains (Toras Menachem 9, page 116) that Maimonidies didn't include boasting as a separate prohibition because it was essentially already included in the prohibition against believing in a false G-d. Serving idolatry and self-serving pomposity are one and the same.

That said, self-aggrandizing is to be distinguished and separated from people competing with or trying to "best" each other in spiritual pursuits such as the study of Torah. the Talmudic sage Rav Dimi reminds us that a healthy competitive drive for wisdom and knowledge is welcomed. "Jealousy among teachers increases wisdom," he stated (Bava Batra 21a).

That is why when I see the passionate scholarly debates during the Yarchei Kallah summit, it is clear to me that G-d is very present. These arguments aren't about self-promotion - they are about the Divine. G-d is present whenever the Torah is studied for the right intentions.