Elan Javanfard, L.M.F.T.
Arrogance: Parsha’s Cautionary Tale
By: Elan Javanfard
Parshat Korach presents a compelling narrative that delves into the destructive nature of arrogance and the problems it can cause. Korach, a member of the tribe of Levi, challenges the leadership of Moshe and Aharon, driven by his own pride and desire for power. His story serves as a cautionary tale, teaching us the importance of humility and the perils of unchecked arrogance.
Arrogance is a problem that comes from an inflated sense of self-importance. Arrogance is characterized by an exaggerated belief in one's own abilities, superiority, or entitlement. It blinds individuals to their own flaws and prevents them from recognizing the value and contributions of others. Arrogant individuals tend to have an inflated view of themselves and may belittle or dismiss others. Abraham Maslow, American Psychologist who is best known for his theory of human motivation and the hierarchy of needs, once wrote, "Arrogance stems from an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement."
In the case of Korach, his haughtiness led him to question the authority of Moshe and Aharon, two individuals who were chosen by Hashem to lead Bnei Yisrael. He failed to acknowledge the wisdom and appointment of their positions by Hashem, blinded by his own desire for power and recognition. Korach used his natural abilities of confidence and oration in a corrosive matter to rally others towards his cause. The Parsha forces us to confront something about ourselves – How much of Korach is within each of us?
The consequences of Korach's self-importance was severe. The ground opened up and swallowed Korach and his followers, demonstrating the grave consequences of such behavior. This serves as a powerful reminder that arrogance not only harms the individual but also has far-reaching effects on our families and those around us.
The Torah teaches us that humility is a fundamental virtue that we should strive to cultivate within ourselves. Humility allows us to recognize our limitations, acknowledge the contributions of others, and maintain healthy relationships. It opens the door for personal growth and learning, as we become more open to different perspectives and ideas.
Psychologically, humility fosters self-awareness and empathy. It helps us to understand and appreciate the unique qualities of those around us, promoting harmonious relationships and a sense of unity within the community. By contrast, arrogance hinders personal growth and prevents us from connecting with others on a deeper level. It isolates us and damages the fabric of our relationships, as demonstrated by Korach's rebellion.
Parshat Korach invites us to reflect on our own tendencies towards arrogance. Do we allow our accomplishments to inflate our egos and blind us to the contributions of others? Do we seek power and recognition at the expense of unity and harmony? Do we step on others around us to reach our needs or goals? These questions challenge us to examine our motivations and attitudes, encouraging us to cultivate humility and work towards personal and communal betterment.
In Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Father, it states, 'Jealousy, desire, and seeking honor drive a person out of the world,'" (Pirkei Avot 4:21). While not directly mentioning arrogance, this quote highlights the destructive nature of seeking honor and recognition. Arrogance goes hand in hand with self-entitlement and superiority over others. This quote seemingly directly relates to Korach who was swallowed by the earth, to be completed driven out from the world.
As we navigate our lives, let us remember the lesson from Parshat Korach: the importance of humility and the destructive nature of unchecked arrogance. We can learn how they have a reciprocal relationship with each other as stated in Mishlei, Proverbs, "The reward for humility is honor," (Mishlei 15:33). True humility, like Moshe, leads to everlasting honor and recognition. Author C.S. Lewis wrote, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less." By thinking of yourself less, you naturally have more opportunity to think of others, provide care to those around you, and give less power to that bit of Korach within all of us.
The story of Korach reinforces the importance of self-awareness, embracing humility, and fostering unity within our communities. By doing so, we can contribute positively to the world, build meaningful relationships, and create a harmonious society rooted in the values of humility and respect.
Elan Javanfard, M.A., LMFT Elan.Javanfard@gmail.com
Elan Javanfard, M.A., L.M.F.T. is a Consulting Psychotherapist focused on behavioral health redesign, a Professor of Psychology at Pepperdine University, & a lecturer related to Mindfulness, Evidence Based Practices, and Suicide Prevention. Elan is the author of Psycho-Spiritual Insights: Exploring Parasha & Psychology, weekly blog. He lives in Los Angeles Pico Robertson community with his wife and two children and can be reached at Elan.Javanfard@gmail.com.