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Check it at the Door, Don’t Ever Bring it Into Your Home

on Thursday, August 2 2018. Posted by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
Mariano Rivera and the interfaith group visiting Israel, at the Michve Alon IDF base, in front of the Fitness Center donated by the FIDF Long Island Chapter, on July 31. Credit: Nir Buxenbaum Photography.

Mariano Rivera and the interfaith group visiting Israel, at the Michve Alon IDF base, in front of the Fitness Center donated by the FIDF Long Island Chapter, on July 31. Credit: Nir Buxenbaum Photography.

In 2001, Indra Nooyi was named president of PepsiCo.  Five years later, she was promoted to CEO, and in 2007 she would become chairman of the company as well.  She recently described the day she was appointed president and put in charge of running the $166 billion company.  Her parents happened to be visiting that night, as she describes:

“I’ll never forget coming home after being named President of PepsiCo back in 2001. My mother was visiting at the time.  ‘I’ve got great news for you,’ I shouted. She replied, ‘It can wait. We need you to go out and get some milk.’  “So I go out and get milk. And when I come back, I’m hopping mad. I say, ‘I had great news for you. I’ve just been named President of PepsiCo. And all you want me to do is go out and get milk.’

“Then she says, ‘Let me explain something to you. You may be President of PepsiCo. But when you step into this house, you’re a wife and mother first. Nobody can take that place. So leave that crown in the garage.'”

This week’s Parsha finds Moshe continuing his soliloquy to the Jewish people delivered in the final days of his life. In anticipation of their entering the land of Israel, Moshe sternly reminds them of their shortcomings, deficiencies and challenges.  But first, he assures them, Hashem will be with you; you have nothing to worry about.  He will protect and guard you from your enemies; He will deliver kings into your hand. When you are victorious against your adversaries, says the Torah, psilei Eloheihem tisrefun ba’eish, burn their idols in fire.  Moreover, v’lo savi so’eivah el bei’secha, you shall not bring an abomination into your home.

The word to’eiva, abomination, is very generic and can refer to many things.  The Torah describes inappropriate illicit relations as to’eiva.  Similarly, non-Kosher food, inexact weights and measures, and dishonest business practices are each called to’eiva, abomination.  So what does it mean here?  What exactly are we warned from taking into our house and into our lives?

The Rambam and Ramban understand that idols themselves are considered to’eiva, an abomination, and the Torah is prohibiting deriving any benefit from an idol or its accessories. The Sefer HaChinuch extends this prohibition to another form of idolatry, the worship of money, and says this is a Torah prohibition from earning any profit from funds that were obtained in an unethical manner.

The gemara (Sota 4b), however, has an entirely different interpretation of this pasuk and the prohibition it contains:

Kesiv – lo savi so’eiva el beisecha, don’t bring an abomination into your home, and kesiv to’avas Hashem kol g’vah leiv, the pasuk in Mishlei says a haughty heart is an abomination to God.  From here Rav Yochanan says, anyone who displays haughtiness it is as is they have engaged in idol worship.

According the Gemara, the to’eiva, the abomination that we cannot and must not bring into our homes, is ga’ava, arrogance, hubris or conceit.  You made a great business deal, gave a great shiur, had a killer workout, made world peace, no matter what you accomplished or achieved, don’t bring a sense of pride or arrogance into you home.  As Indra Nooyi’s mother said – leave that abomination in your garage.

Also in our parsha, Moshe warns us, “V’amarta bilvavcha kochi v’otzem yadi asah li es ha’chayil ha’zeh, and you may say in your heart, ‘my strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth.’  V’zocharta es Hashem Elokecha ki Hu ha’nosein lecha koach laasos chayil, then you shall remember Hashem, Your God, for it is He Who gave you strength to make wealth.”

When you find success, says Moshe to his people, you will be tempted by arrogance and conceit.  Your ego will entice you to feel that you and you alone are responsible for achieving and accomplishing greatness.  Moshe enjoins them strongly – remember, it is Hashem who gives ko’ach.

In numerous places, our parsha seeks to communicate a simple message.  Success is not the result of our talents, skills or wisdom.  It reflects the will of Hashem who grants us that success.

However, a few weeks from now we will read u’vacharta ba’chayim.  Clearly, we make choices in our lives and those choices matter and matter greatly.  The concept of bechira chofsis is axiomatic to our faith and indeed, gives purpose and meaning to our lives.  So which is it, are we responsible for our success?  Is it the result of our talents, skills, wisdom and judgment?  Or, did Hashem plant those ideas in our head and all of our success belongs exclusively to Him?

The Ran, Rabbeinu Nissim, is bothered by this very question in the beginning of the 10th derush of his derashos ha’Ran, and answers in a profound and deeply meaningful way:

The meaning of this is as follows: The truth is that people have different talents in different areas. For example, certain people are predisposed to receive wisdom, whereas others are predisposed to devise strategies to gather and amass wealth. On account of this, the wealthy man can truthfully say, from a certain angle, “My ability and the might of my hand made me this wealth.” Nevertheless, insofar as that ability was implanted within you, be sure to remember Who gives you the ability to make wealth.

Moshe did not say, “V’zacharta ki Hashem Elokecha nosein lecha chayil, Then remember that Hashem is the One Who gives you wealth,” for if he had said that, he would be minimizing the fact that the ability implanted within the person is an intermediate cause in the accumulation of that wealth – but this is not the case. Therefore he said: ‘Although your ability is what made you this wealth, you should remember Who gives you that ability.’

The Ran suggests a critically important principle that is fundamental to how we are to relate to our success.  In truth, it is our talents and skills that achieve the positive results.  We can be proud of our efforts, hard work, prudent judgment and wise decisions.  Parshas Eikev doesn’t demand that we deny what we are good at or that our being good matters.  The Ran explains that what our Parsha and what Moshe demand of us is to always remember who gave us those skills, talents and abilities.

There is nothing wrong with appreciating our intelligence, decision-making, or skills.  But we must recognize that those gifts are on loan from the Almighty and never owned by us.  Arrogance is thinking we control our gifts, they are part of a permanent collection.  It is thinking we are autonomous and we are the sole arbiters of our destiny. Transferring the deserved credit and recognition from God to us is essentially worshipping ourselves and denying God’s involvement in our lives.

Lo savi so’eiva el bei’secha, the Torah warns us this morning, do not bring that despicable, vile, abominable character trait into your home.  Check your ego at the door.  As you enter that door into the home you earned, with the possessions you purchased and with the family you created, you may be tempted to feel slightly arrogant, superior or proud.  Check it at the door! Do not bring it into your home.

Don’t bring your arrogance to the kitchen table and God forbid be condescending to your spouse or children.  Don’t bring your arrogance to the phone and have conversations that disregard or diminish others.  Don’t bring that arrogance to your Shabbos table and sit in judgment of your neighbors, your family members and your community leaders.  And don’t bring that arrogance to the keyboard of your computer and express definitive, authoritative opinions about issues you likely don’t know everything about. Lo savi so’eiva el bei’secha, check it at the door, don’t bring your ego, your superiority, your judgment into your house.

Never stop being mindful that whatever gift, talent or skill you enjoy, is only a gift from above and it could be withdrawn as quickly as you discovered it.

Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all time, said in an interview as he was retiring:

“Everything I have and everything I became is because of the strength of the Lord, and through Him I have accomplished everything…Not because of my strength. Only by his love, his mercy, and his strength.”

V’zocharta es Hashem Elokecha ki Hu ha’nosein lecha koach laasos chayil!

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