Thursday, May 13, 2004

Ambition, Rabbis, Blogging, etc.

I had a nice AIM chat with AB yesterday. (God it's so difficult to find good conversation these days. If you want to talk and can hold up your half of a discussion please IM me.)

Essential points of discussion:
Ambition is viewed with ambivalence in many circles, among them academia, Rabbinic, Yeshivas.

One of the best books on ambition and intellectual life is Norman Podhoretz's Making It, which does a fairly good job of presenting this ambivalence.

A couple of highlights from the discussion:
Blogging is all about ambition or valuing oneself. One can delude oneself into thinking that what one has to say is important and needs to be out there, but that is usually intellectually dishonest.

In Yeshivos (based upon my experience), personal ego driven ambition is looked down upon, as learning should be completely lishmah. YU/RIETS shares this culture of anti-ago, anti-ambition. However, practically everyone needs ambition to get ahead. Working hard is almost never enough. Whether it's ambition to get a top job or position (Kollel Elyon, Rosh Yeshiva, Rav of a Big Shul, etc.) or to publish or give Shiurim.

Now, this ambition does not have to come from oneself. One can have a wife who is ambitious on her husband's behalf (pushing him), or a Rebbe or Rabbi pushing him. But someone has to be ambitious and this ambitious is often ego-driven.

Now, as this did not come up in the chat, most Mussar texts treat Ambition and Ego as very bad and the source of human failings. So people have to be ambitious while pretending not to be.

Comments-[ comments.]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give me a break! There's a difference between being self-aware and being egotistical. There's a difference between knowing that all the talents that you possess and should chanel effectively come from G-d, and from thinking that you are the be all and end all. Yes, you need to be motivated to succeed. But motivation need not stem solely from an inflated ego...

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


There is a difference between healthy self-confidence and egoism.

Unfortunately, blogging is most likely a sympton of the latter, in alot of cases.

The very nature of blogging seems to flirt with all sorts of issues of defamation and lashon hara in a very strange way.

Someone should do some posting on that.

12:57 AM  
Blogger Nisht said...

Granting that using one's talents for serving God is not ego. But to seek the power and the glory (e.g. Kollel Eylon, top Rabbinic or teaching positions) or lecture jobs requires a tremendous amount of self-confidence which often crosses into Ego.
Furthermore, to really succeed you have to have your name be noticed in public whether it be in having connections, in published aricles, or in lectures. This requires a certain ambition. Those who think that one can succeed in Rabbanus without anyone tooting their horn are often mistaken.

10:10 AM  

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