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Issue 5 | Parshat Chukat | Pride and Humility Part II

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How do we Balance the Two?
Part II

What heals the ill, but infects the healthy?

As a young Yeshiva student, Rabbi Avrohom Hecht, was encouraged by the Frierdiker Rebbe to deliver a talk in the shul of another community. Having never done anything like this before, the teenage Avrohom demurred, claiming that he is young and unqualified to speak in public. “Misplaced humility,” the Frierdiker Rebbe told him, “is rooted in arrogance.”

At times, when a job needs to get done, pride and confidence is necessary, not shrinking away in humility. Especially when a fire is burning, humility is not what is called for.

But too much pride can also be detrimental How do we determine when we need pride and when we need humility?

The Baal Shem Tov, finds an answer to this dilemma in a most unlikely place: The story of the Red Heifer in this week’s Torah portion! The Parah Adumah presents a paradox: It purified the impure and impurifies the pure. The offering purified those who became contaminated by the impurity of death, but in the process it impurified the officiating priest!

The Baal Shem Tov explains this paradox in psychological terms: Pride purifies the impure, but impurifies the pure. Humility (misplaced) is inappropriate for the impure but purifies the pure.

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