Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pirqe Abot 2:2, Rabban Gamliel vs. Intellectual Arrogance

"Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehuda the Prince, said: The study of Tora is good combined with the good ways of the world (derekh eretz), when one endeavors in both of them, sin disappears." 

Rabbi Ytzhaq Magriso, the author of the commentary of me'am lo'ez to Pirqe Abot, explains in his words what we call today "intellectual or academic arrogance".   

This Mishna is addressing those who might "think highly of themselves because they are learned and consider themselves to be above the general populace at large. This attitude leads to arrogance, which is a very bad trait.  When a scholar studies he must do so with humanitarian outlook. Together with his studies he must learn to be humble and able to get along with people.  When a scholar sees someone doing wrong and wishes to correct him, he should not do so with strong language and disrespectful tone. rather, it should be with a sweet language and in a calm tone". 

On the same note, in August 2012, a teacher confesses her mishaps in this field: "The philosopher Foucault pointed out that knowledge and power are so intimately related that we cannot really think about them separately. .. Arrogance is the Dark Side of knowledge and students, no matter how old, can become scared of you because you have power just from being a teacher." (see the rest of the article here ).

Rabbi Magriso concludes that a humble teacher or rabbi will make sin disappear: "Since he shows respect for the public and speaks to them in kind terms, they hold him in regard and esteem him. Then, when he admonishes them for some error,  they will heed him and respect his views. Thus, the study of Tora and good manners can allow the scholar to banish sin" 

READ here, when Israel paid the price for British academic arrogance. From NYTIMES (2006)

Pirqe Abot   English translation online, by
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