DAY 782: On Pride, Ego, and Doing What Matters

August 21, 2014
By bethmordecai
no comments.

DAY 782: On Pride, Ego, and Doing What Matters

Dear Hevreh,

I’m writing this journal a little later than usual because, I’m sure like many of you, returning from a vacation requires a lot of catch up time. Projects to check, emails and phone calls to answer, deadlines to reach, the world certainly doesn’t stop working even if you do. Before this summer’s breaks, there was an added level of stress that made returning to work difficult: the feeling that when I’m not working, not much happens; the feeling of desperately being needed.

While your stress level increases because of it, this feeling of desperately being needed may also fill you with a sense of pride. It may lead you to believe that you are so important that you are always in demand, and on one level that feeling of pride — that boost to your ego — is a good thing because it’s an indication that what you’re doing matters. As Genesis Rabbah (9:7) teaches us: “If it was not for one’s ego, no man would build a house, take a wife, or have children.” Doing something that matters seems to inherently mean that when you’re not doing it, people will miss you, and that feeling of being missed is food to the ego.

Yet, if you click on the link above, you’ll notice that the word “ego” is not the same in Hebrew. The Hebrew used is yetzer hara or “evil inclination,” as if to say that the sense of pride we get from doing something that matters has an evil side to it — a presumption that you are the only thing that matters; that you will only do what is in your best interest; that you only care about yourself.

I admit that before this summer’s breaks, I carried around some of that negative yetzer hara energy and it is something that I will think about as we enter the coming month of Elul and the forthcoming High Holidays when we focus on becoming our best selves.

But, after this summer’s breaks, I am filled with another sense of pride — the sense that comes when you see the place you love being strong enough to do the things that matter, to flourish without you. Whether it’s redo-ing Safran Hall and the hallway (see picture below), cleaning and clearing the upstairs classrooms (see picture below), or preparing for a MAJOR speaking event we are hosting on Sunday, September 7th (see journal tomorrow), our Jewish Home for the Soul is flourishing because the members of our community are taking the lead role in deciding on and acting on the things that matter.

And I couldn’t be prouder.

Kol Tuv,

Rabbi Ari Saks

Photo taken from —

Category : Rabbi Rabbi's Journal
Tag :