The Haughty Spirit

In our attempts to elevate ourselves by stepping on others, we inevitably lower ourselves.

(Image: © Bigstock/Gustavo Frazao)


Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Tazria-Metzora (תזריע/מצורע | She will conceive/Leper)
  • Torah: Leviticus 12:1-15:33
  • Haftarah: 2 Kings 7:3-20
  • Gospel: Luke 2:22-35; Mark 1:35-45

Regular readings above are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the current Torah Portion Schedule for all these variations, and special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Leviticus 12:1 | Purification of Women after Childbirth
    • Leviticus 13:1 | Leprosy, Varieties and Symptoms
    • Leviticus 14:1 | Purification of Lepers and Leprous Houses
    • Leviticus 15:1 | Concerning Bodily Discharges
  • Prophets
    • 2Ki 7:3 | The Arameans Flee

Portion Summary


The name of the twenty-seventh reading from the Torah is Tazria (תזריע), which means "she conceived." The name is derived from the words of Leviticus 12:2, where the LORD says to Moses, "When a woman [conceives] and bears a male child ..." Leviticus 12 discusses the laws of purification after childbirth. Leviticus 13 introduces the laws for diagnosing and quarantining lepers. Except in biblical calendar leap years, Tazria is read together with the subsequent Torah portion, Metzorah, on the same Sabbath.


The twenty-eighth reading from the Torah is Metzora (מצורע), a word that means "leper." The word appears in the second verse of the reading, which says, "This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing" (Leviticus 14:2). Leviticus 14 spells out the complex purification rituals for the cleansing of a leper and a leprous home. Leviticus 15 briefly covers the laws regarding ritual unfitness stemming from bodily emissions. Except in biblical calendar leap years, Metzora is read together with the previous Torah portion, Tazria, on the same Sabbath.

The Torah prescribes an elaborate ritual for the cleansing of a leper after his symptoms have abated. The ritual involves several components including two live birds, scarlet wool, living water, and cedar wood. Jewish tradition provides meanings for each of the symbols.

Why did the cleansing of the leper require cedar wood? The sages believed that biblical leprosy resulted from evil speech. Rashi suggested that the purification ceremony employed cedar wood because the cedar, as a tall and lofty tree, represents the haughty spirit. The metaphor of a cedar as a haughty person comes from the words of the prophet Isaiah.

The LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased. And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up. (Isaiah 2:12-13)

A haughty spirit finds it difficult to tolerate other people's character flaws. The haughty person fails to recognize his own shortcomings. Instead, he focuses on the shortcomings of others. Most often, when we speak ill of others, it is because we are defending our own pride. People elevate themselves by stepping on other people. By putting someone else down, we think we are lifting ourselves up. The Proverbs contrast two kinds of people: a person who guards his words and a person with a haughty spirit:

He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles. "Proud," "Haughty," "Scoffer," are his names, who acts with insolent pride. (Proverbs 21:23-24)

The Psalms also equate haughtiness with evil speech. Psalm 101 warns that God punishes the slanderer and does not endure haughtiness:

Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; no one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure. (Psalm 101:5)

The big, tall, haughty cedar is the most likely tree in the forest to be cut down. As the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling" (Proverbs 16:18). The Bible says that God's "eyes are on the haughty to bring them low" (1 Samuel 22:28).

In our attempts to elevate ourselves by stepping on others, we inevitably lower ourselves. This is part of what Yeshua meant when He taught that if a man lifts himself up he will be humbled, but if he humbles himself he will be lifted up.

Imagine yourself at a Sabbath table with friends from your community when your friends raise the topic of a person known to be an adversary of yours. Your friends begin to criticize your adversary's faults. How do you respond? It feels good to have your friends on your side, and the temptation is to join them in pointing out your adversary's flaws. It makes you look better. Or does it? The higher path is to come to the defense of the person and quiet the criticisms. When you show that kind of integrity and humility, it not only makes you look better; it makes you better.

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Unrolling the Scroll. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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