No middoh is as dangerous and ugly as the middoh of ga’avoh – haughtiness. Seforim refer to it as the very strongest source of tumoh. It is responsible for the downfall of even the greatest of men. Even though one should follow the middle road in all of one’s middos, yet when it comes to this one middoh of ga’avoh one must go to the other extreme. The midpoint is not good at all. One must be extremely careful to stay as far away from it as possible. It is such a horrible middoh that even just a bit of it leads to disaster (see the Rambam in Hilchos Dei’os).
The gemorrah in meseches Sotah tells us that the Schechina cannot be found in the vicinity of a ba’al ga’avoh. Holiness and haughtiness do not mix together. They stay miles apart. Torah cannot remain with a person who is boastful. That is because Torah is compared to water, which always flows to the lowest point. It runs off any high point.
Avrohom Avinu compared himself to earth and. Moshe Rabbeinu was the greatest anuv in existence. He felt himself a total zero. Dovid Hamelech compared himself to a lowly worm.
The source for tzora’as is haughtiness. It is the cause of loshon hora. When we think we are better than others, then we are quick to criticize others. We only see thier bad points. We think we have the right to talk about others behind their backs. We constantly have a bad word when we see how they act. Rarely do we find equal fault in what we ourselves do. This is all caused by a feeling of superiority. We think we’re better than everyone else.
To be cured of our sickness, we must take a piece of cedar wood, which comes from the tallest of all trees. Then we tie it together with the lowliest of grasses. We use a red thread to tie them both together. Red is the most attractive of all colors. It is a dye made from a tola’as – a type of worm which supplies us with this beautiful royal color. Yet, does the worm get haughty just because of its special ability to give us this magnificent dye? Of course not! It knows, that despite its important contribution to the world, it still remains nothing but a lowly worm. The power is not of its own doing but something given to it by Hashem. A silkworm may be the world’s supplier of the most delicate and expensive silks, but it still remains nothing but a lowly worm. This is the way Hashem created it. It is certainly not of its own doing.
So, too, a human must realize that no matter how great his skill or knowledge, it is absolutely nothing of his own. It is a G-d given gift for which he can be no more boastful than a lowly worm. If one takes any credit for himself then he is nothing but a fool. In fact, by taking the credit for himself he is denying that it is Hashem who gives it to him. No wonder the Shechina does not want to be close to him.
Perhaps one can compare it to a person using a computer to figure out the answer to many difficult questions and then taking all the credit for oneself. Little does he realize that it was only through the help of the computer that he was able to find the answer to the difficult question. How dare man take credit for his wisdom when every bit of it is G-d given! We are no different than the worm who is given the ability to make silk or give us the beautiful red dye. Hashem gives each creation certain powers and abilities. The beaver has the natural ability to make a complex dam without going to architecture school. The bee can make honey without studying chemistry. The lion is mighty without taking karate lessons. The deer runs swiftly without daily practice runs. Each one is only using the gift that Hashem gave him.
Man was given the gift of speech. He must use it wisely. If he uses it for his self-aggrandizement and to speak badly of others then it will lead to his eventual downfall. This is what happened to the snake. One must at all times remember to be extremely modest and humble. Even the least bit of ga’avoh is self-destructive. So watch out!