Tzemach Tzadik by Rabbi Leone di Modena Chapter 35 Pride


Back to chapter 34 about humility

Translated by Ralph Anzarouth and an anonymous friend


The trait of pride is antithetic to humility. According to the philosopher, it is the quest after arrogance and the pursuit of authority over others. It takes various forms, all of which stem from a failure to appreciate one's [real] status and from a craving for domination; it generates countless evils, which include the following:

  • contempt of one's superiors and the failure to heed one's masters and teachers;
  • wish for revenge for every little thing;
  • ungratefulness;
  • tendency to become involved in extraneous affairs.
Ultimately the proud person will be sickening, despised, detested and hated by everybody, as our Sages of blessed memory said (Talmud Bavli, tractate of Baba Batra, folio 98a): "Rav Meri said: The arrogant person will rejected even by own family, as it is said (Habakuk 2, 5): ‘The arrogant person is never tranquil’.”

This trait is found in the falcon, who continuously strives to dominate over all the other birds. It happened once that a falcon dared to attack even the eagle, which is considered the king of the birds. And it will not tolerate any other birds of prey in the place where it builds its nest and in all the surrounding area, because of its drive to dominate and acquire everything for itself.

King David said (Psalms 94, 2): "Exalt Yourself, O Judge of the earth, render to the haughty their recompense1." King Solomon said (Proverbs 16, 19): "It is better to be of humble spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoils with the haughty1." Job said (Job 20, 6-7): "If his height ascends to the heavens and his head reaches the clouds, like his dung, he shall perish forever; those who see him will say, 'Where is he?'1." It is said (Proverbs 29, 23): "A man's haughtiness will humble him, but one of humble spirit will grasp honor1." Our Sages of blessed memory said in the Talmud Bavli, in the first chapter of the tractate of Sotah (folio 4b): "Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochay: ‘Whoever is arrogant is considered as if he were an idolater, [since] concerning the arrogant it is written (Proverbs 16, 5) ”Everyone of haughty heart is an abomination of the Lord1" and concerning idol worship it is written (Devarim 7, 26): ”You shall not bring an abomination into your home".’”

There are numerous sayings of our Sages condemning this trait, as they said (Tractate of Sotah 5a): "Rabbi Elazar said: whoever is arrogant, his earthly remains will not be moved, [at the time of the resurrection of the dead] as it is said (Isaiah 26, 19): "Awaken and sing, you who dwell in the dust1," in other words, whoever in his lifetime humbled himself to the level of the dust of the earth. They further said (Ben Sira 25): "The reason cannot tolerate three types of person: a poor person who is arrogant, a rich person who lies, a depraved old man”.

Plato said: "Pride corrupts mankind and the more it grows, the less we are aware of it". Juvenal said: "If you do not possess humility, avoid making friends". Someone else said: "One should wonder about the arrogant since they can neither dwell with humans nor fly with the angels in the Heavens: they will fall to the fiery depths". Ben Sira said: "In the same way as war depletes finances, so pride destroys great palaces".

Socrates said: "There is nothing worse than ingratitude and nothing consolidates mutual friendship more than gratitude”.

King Solomon has already said (Proverbs 17, 13): "Disgrace will not leave the house of the person who repays good with evil". Therefore, one should put aside haughtiness and mix with one's fellow man and express appreciation for their acts of kindness, as our sages of blessed memory said (Pirké Avot 3, 12): "Be agreeable to your seniors and pleasant to your juniors and greet everybody with happiness".

Rabbi Shlomo ben Gvirol in his above mentioned book told about one of the kings, who one evening had in his presence many people, including his servants and attendants to wait upon him. The candle in his bedroom began to dim and the king himself got up and saw to it. His servants trembled at this, and asked his why he did not command them to do this. He told them: "I stood up a king and sat down still a king".

Note of the translators:
[1] Translation of this verse courtesy of Judaica Press and

The whole book Tzemach Tzadik in Hebrew (printed in Rashi characters) can be downloaded in PDF format and read online at Chapter 35 about Pride is found at pages 68-70.