The myth of the self-made man

It is in the nature of man, to think that by his strength and acumen, he has prospered - but that is hubris.

Danny Ginsbourg ,

Danny Ginsbourg
Danny Ginsbourg

In our parsha, the Torah warns:(8:11-18)’Take care lest you forget Hashem’ when you prosper in the Land, ‘and everything that you have will increase-and your heart will become haughty and you will forget Hashem’ who took you out of slavery in Egypt, and led you through the desert, and ‘ואמרת בלבבך: You will say in your heart:’My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth’. And, to overcome this, the Torah warns:’Then you shall remember Hashem..that it was He that gave you strength to make wealth’.

Rav Simcha Zissel from Kelm, comments:’The Torah does not say: ‘פן ואמרת: lest you say’, but ‘ואמרת בלבבך’: you WILL say in your heart, that ‘my strength made me this wealth’.

This is בטבע: in the nature of man, to think that by his strength and acumen, he has prospered’.

Rav Yechezkiel Levenstein warns:’This is עבודה זרה ממש: real idol-worship, since it is directly denies the fundamental tenet of our faith: אין עוד מלבדו: ‘there is nothing, but Hashem’.

Rabeinu Nissim expounds:’True there are people who are indeed gifted, and astute, in their business affairs, and in amassing wealth, can they not justifiably claim:’Our success is due to us?’.

‘They need to ask:’What is the source of these talents, and acumen?

‘The Torah gives the answer:’And remember Hashem, for He gave you the ability to prosper’.

Rav Eliyahu Dessler adds:’Cannot the successful man say:’At least the initiative and the acumen, were mine? The answer is: No, as Onkelos translates:’He who gives you the strength’: the idea to buy the asset from which you prospered: this too came from Hashem’.

‘Does a person truly ‘create’ new ideas, or build יש מאין: something out of nothingness? In truth, he ‘does nothing’: he only ‘clears his mind of other thoughts’, and Hashem, if He so decides, puts the idea that brings him success, into the ‘vacant’ mind.

‘We must instill in ourselves the אמונה: clear belief, that all that happens, is from Hashem; He is ‘the pen’ who ‘writes’ all that is ‘written’.

‘Most people are like the person who looks through a key-hole, and sees a pen writing, but does not see any person holding it, and, seemingly, the pen is writing ‘by itself‘.

‘This is the man who thinks that his might is the cause of his success. But, were he to open the door, he would see that it is a man that is writing, not the pen by itself.

‘The מאמין: the believer KNOWS, that Hashem is the ‘writer’, and man, in all that he ‘does’, is but ’the pen‘ with which Hashem writes, as He wills’.

Rav Eliyahu Shlezinger concludes:’Man feels that, in material things, he has complete independence, and that he is the ‘doer’; at the same time, he also thinks, that in רוחניות: in the spiritual realm, all is pre-determined, and ‘out of his control’.

‘The truth, the Torah teaches, is the opposite: man has complete freedom of choice in ‘spiritual’ matters, to be righteous, or ר׳ל to transgress, to do חסד, or to be self-centered.

‘However, in the material world, all is in the hands of Hashem‘- down to the ideas from which success sprung.

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.