Yuhara is an expression of religious arrogance and showiness. Chazal emphasized how yuhara is inappropriate and forbidden.
What is Yuhara?
- Sometimes, it is forbidden to do something that is a midat chasidut which draws attention even if one’s intent is completely for the sake of heaven, since it appears as a show of arrogance. This is called mechzi k’yuhara.
- Some examples that poskim discuss include:
Yuhara When There is a Halachic Imperative
- If one is doing a certain practice because one got a certain pesak from one’s rav or because it is to fulfill the basic halacha, it isn’t considered yuhara even if it isn’t the minhag. Nonetheless one can only do so with the intent for the mitzvah and not to be arrogant.
Accepted in a Location
- If it is accepted in your place that some people do this midat chasidut, then it isn’t considered yuhara.
Well-Known for Piety
- If someone is known for his chasidut, then it isn’t yuhara to do so for the sake of heaven.
- Maharshal (B"k 7:41) based on Bava Kama 81b writes that anyone who is publicly strict about something that is permitted should be excommunicated for yuhara, unless he is well known for being l’shem shamayim. That is codified by the Magen Avraham 63:2, Mishna Brurah 63:6, and Kaf Hachaim 63:5. Shulchan Aruch Hamidot v. 1 p. 125 writes that the explicit implication is that even if one has pure intent, if one isn’t known for his piety he isn’t allowed to be strict in public.
- Gemara Brachot 17b records the opinion of Raban Shimon ben Gamliel that it is forbidden for a chatan the night of the wedding to say that he can say kriyat shema with kavana because of yuhara. Also, Bava Kama 59b records a story in which the rabbis punished someone who wore a black hat to mourn over yerushalayim since that wasn't the practice. The concept of yuhara can be found in Shulchan Aruch (17:2, 34:3, etc).
- Rabbi Schachter ("Inyonei Krias HaTorah" min 55) stated that standing for kriyat hatorah where the shul Rabbi doesn’t do so is yuhara. He explained that it is yuhara to be stricter than one’s rabbi in his presence. In this vein, Mishna Brurah 63:6 writes that it is yuhara to be strict about something which is accepted as permitted and it is even worse to do so in front of one's rabbi. Halacha Brurah 141:4 cites Kol Eliyahu 1:5 who holds that standing for kriyat hatorah when the entire congregation doesn't do so is yuhara, but quotes Petach Dvir 146:3 who disagrees that it isn't yuhara since it is a dispute if one should stand. Halacha Brurah concurs with the Petach Dvir.
- Rav Schachter stated ( Halachipedia Article 5780) that wearing tefillin during mincha in a place where that isn’t the practice is not right. Igrot Moshe OC 4:34 writes that someone who comes from a place where they do wear tefillin at mincha and goes to a shul where they don’t it isn’t yuhara since people know he is from another community. He implies that if the person comes from a community that doesn’t wear tefillin at mincha it is yuhara. Also, Biur Halacha 37:2 s.v. mitzvatan cites the Gra that wearing tefillin all day could be yuhara but one could wear just the tefilin shel yad under one's sleeve so it isn’t noticeable. See Keter Rosh n. 15 who quotes the Gra as saying that it isn’t yuhara to wear tefillin all day since it is the primary halacha. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Mesoret Moshe v.1 p. 24) thought that quote of the Gra wasn’t accurate.
- Shulchan Aruch O.C. 34:3 writes that it is forbidden to wear tefillin of Rashi and Rabbenu Tam because of yuhara. That is also the opinion of Mishna Brurah 34:16 even if some people do it; however, Aruch Hashulchan 34:5 writes that since in some countries it is common to wear them it isn’t yuhara anymore. Rav Schachter ( Halachipedia Article 5780) agrees with the Aruch Hashulchan. Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 1:3:6, Halacha Brurah 34:1) similarly holds that once the world was exposed to the Arizal’s torah who bolstered the importance of Rabbenu Tam tefillin it isn’t yuhara anywhere. Additionally, some poskim say that it is only an issue of yuhara if one wears both simultaneously. See the Rabbenu_Tam_Tefillin#Who_Should_Wear_Rabbenu_Tam_Tefillin.3F page for details.
- Shulchan Aruch Hamidot v. 1 p. 130. He is based on numerous examples of where doing a strange behavior in Shemona Esrei is yuhara (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 90:24, 95:3, 123:3, 127:1).
- The Mordechai (Brachot n. 1) writes that since Rabbenu Tam held that if one said Shema after Plag Hamincha one fulfilled his obligation if one does repeat it later it appears as yuhara. Bet Yosef 235:1 argues that it isn’t yuhara to repeat Shema since according to many rishonim one didn't fulfill one's mitzvah. This is also his opinion in Shulchan Aruch 235:1 and Mishna Brurah 235:15. Maharil (Mezuzah 1) writes that one should put up a mezuzah in every room in one’s house and it isn’t yuhara even though the minhag was to only put up one for the front door, since that minhag is completely incorrect. Geonim responsa emanuel 161 reiterates this point stating that it isn’t yuhara to wear tefillin since it is a mitzvah even though many people fail to do so.
- Shulchan Aruch Hamidot v. 1 p. 123 explains that it is always forbidden to do something to show off, as that is a biblical prohibition of having גאוה even while doing a mitzvah. See Shulchan Aruch O.C. 565:6 who writes that someone who publicizes that he keeps voluntary fasts is punished.
- Rav Schachter ( Halachipedia Article 5780, Ginat Egoz Siman 2) explained that since wearing techelet is halachically mandated due to safek deoritta lchumra, there is no reason to consider wearing it yuhara.
- Bet Yosef 24:2 cites Rav Neturai Goan that it is yuhara to hold one's tzitzit during kriyat shema since there is no need to do so. The Bet Yosef points out that today there's no yuhara to do this since some people have the minhag to do it. Chida (Chaim Shaal 1) and Shulchan Aruch Hamidot v. 1 p. 128 agree. However, Shvut Yakov 2:44 argues that there is yuhara to wear Rabbenu Tam tefillin even if some people do it unless most do it. Mishna Brurah 34:16 cites the Shvut Yakov. Daat Yisrael 2:211 by R’ Yisrael Schwartz distinguishes between tzitzit which is only a minhag so having some people do it is sufficient, as opposed to Rabbenu Tam tefillin which is a question of actual halacha so only if many people do it is it permitted.
- As an example of being strict about something that is permitted in that community, Igrot Moshe YD 1:62 wrote about himself that privately he was strict not to drink blended sherry cask scotch but if he was in a company that was having it he would as well so as not to violate yuhara. The implication of that statement clearly seems to be at odds with the Vdarshta Vchakarta YD 5:10 based on the Satmer Rav writes that those chasidim and briskers who don't rely on any hechsher aren't violating yuhara since there are real halachic concerns.
- Rashi Brachot 17b, Shulchan Aruch 34:3 citing the Maharil 137, Shulchan Aruch Hamidot p. 127