17 Cheshvan 5782 / Saturday, October 23, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayeira
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Lesson About Arrogance    

Lesson About Arrogance

Have you ever wondered why two farmers feed their cows the same diet, yet one farmer receives more and better quality milk than his counterpart?...


We continue with Chapter Two in exploring the two main causes of anger: arrogance and lack of spiritual awareness.
* * *
Let's now look at deer. You're correct in thinking that the slightest rustle frightens deer away - that's in a place where people hunt deer. In a place where the county doesn't allow deer hunting, our fawn friends are fearless. They'll walk right up to your back porch, and eat leftovers from a dinner plate just like a house pet. A deer has a keen sense of smell, and if the wind is right, he can smell a grizzly bear or a mountain lion from almost a mile away. So, wherever we see deer, we know that there are no predators in the vicinity.
Predators usually roam around at night. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says that if a person fears God, he doesn't have to fear anything else in the entire universe. The predators themselves are afraid of a God-fearing person. Later, in Chapter Three, I'll explain why. I've seen righteous people out in the woods at night many times, without even a penknife in their pockets.
The average person doesn't believe that one can communicate with plants and animals. Dovid HaMelech (King David) could, and so could his descendant Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (The Arizal), the father of Kabbala, not only understood the birds and the animals, but could discern which human was reincarnated in a particular bird or animal, and why.
Have you ever wondered why two farmers feed their cows the same diet, yet one farmer receives more and better quality milk than his counterpart? Or, have you ever wondered why your neighbor's African violets look so much healthier than yours?
Plants and animals have spirituality. They can differentiate between love and hate, or between respect and disdain. A sensitive farmer or gardener can feel the need of a plant or animal. Sensitivity to another being is a form of communication, almost like talking.
Insensitive people don't know how you feel, usually because they're too preoccupied with themselves.
An avid houseplant enthusiast can look at your African violets, and tell you that they lack iron - not by virtue of any horticultural background, but by understanding and feeling the needs of the plant. I can't understand an African violet, but I do comprehend an apple tree, a peach tree, or a grapefruit tree. Some say that deer are easier to understand than fruit trees.
Not far from our point of embarkation on our allegorical journey up the trail to tranquility, we come to an area with an abundance of deer; we'll soon see the unforgettable lessons of life that we can learn from observing those very special creatures:
The Prancing Buck: A Lesson about Arrogance
Old Isaac's Inn and farmstead are in the foothills of Mount Patience. The eighteen-mile trail up the mountain begins at the eastern border of Isaac's apple orchards, and works its way through a forest known as Deer Haven, because of the large deer population. After a mile-long walk into the forest, you reach a clearing by a spring. This is the home of Zachary's clan.
The big buck with the stubs of broken antlers on his head is the patriarchal king of the herd. His name is Zachary. Zachary is thirteen years old - ninety-one by human equivalent - well exceeding the average life span of a deer. Zachary couldn't have reached such a ripe old age in the face of constant challenges from all sides - from the clan within and from enemies without - were it not for his wisdom and strength of character.
"Ohuuuuuuuuuu!" That's the call of a king buck. Whenever Zachary and the herd reach the spring, no one dares take a drink until the venerable patriarch tilts his head back, raises his voice to the Heavens, and thanks God for the water. When Dovid HaMelech first saw this same moving sight twenty-nine centuries ago, he was inspired to compose Tehillim 42: "Like a deer's yearning call by the stream, my soul yearns for the Lord."
Quietly, in perfect order with no pushing or shoving, the deer move forward to drink - first the fawns, then the does, and finally the young bucks.
"Ahh-hooooooe!" What's that call from the opposite bank of the stream? Zachary raises his head and perks his ears. He nods in understanding, and paws the gravel deliberately with his right front hoof. Sure enough, another challenger; Zachary encircles the herd, delineating an imaginary boundary and warning the challenger that trespassing is a declaration of war.
The challenger is a robust four-year-old buck, twenty-eight by human equivalent, with the largest, most impressive antlers you've ever laid eyes on. The young does in the herd - despite their respect for their patriarchal king - can't restrain their awe at this handsome stag, and gasp in admiration.
The challenger's name is Dandy. Rather than crossing the line and risking a direct confrontation with the time-weathered Zachary, the cocky stag prances in wide circles around the herd. He flaunts his antlers and attempts to humiliate the king in front of his own clan.
Dandy is a marvelous specimen of deer. Not only is he attractive, he's a superb athlete. He takes a running jump, and leaps six feet high in the air while traversing a distance of over fifteen feet, to the delight of the goggle-eyed does. Dandy sprints to and fro, exhibiting speed of over forty-five miles per hour. Zachary doesn't seem to be impressed, and observes the spry young challenger with extraordinary tolerance.
Dandy stops his antics. With a few short leaps, he climbs to a ledge that serves as his stage, so that the entire herd can view him with ease. "Grandpa Zach", he calls out with insolence, "your time is up. Relinquish the herd to me, and retire peacefully to the mountains. You're an old deer, and I don't want to disgrace you in front of the clan."
Zachary smiles. "Where did you learn ethics, young stag? After your ridiculous display of theatrics, you're suddenly concerned with my honor? Spare the needless rhetoric; you've impressed the fawns but you don't impress me. State your challenge - a fight or a race!"
Dandy stammers at the old buck's candor and quiet confidence. "Maybe I had better not fight", he muses. "Who knows what tricks the old warhorse has? A race is the better idea! I'm definitely three times faster than he is. If he doesn't die of embarrassment at defeat, he'll disappear in the hills and the herd will be mine."
"A race it is!" declares Dandy, "from here in the clearing, up the trail, through the forest, to the finish line at Beaver Creek - a total of eight miles. Agreed?"
To be continued…
(The Trail to Tranquility is available in the Breslev Store.)   


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