It’s a Matter of the Heart
I was talking with a friend today, for whom I have written a pair of Shimusha Rabba tefillin(those worn by mekubalim, and many many Sephardim during Mincha). Somehow we got around to whether or not they should be worn when away from his primary minyan or a minyan of mekubalim. My response was, of course they should. His rejoinder is that it would be a prideful act.
I am sure that part of his statement is simply a reflection of Judaism’s increasing emphasis on external appearances, but I was in part taken aback by the statement. My reasoning, putting on Shimusha Rabba Tefillin even in a kollel filled with mekubalim could just as easily be a prideful act. If you think that you are somehow better than those who do not put them on, yes that is a prideful act. The donning of Shimusha Rabba Tefillin in and of themselves is quite a neutral act.
Whether it is a prideful thing(or conversely a humbling thing) is all entirely a matter of the heart. Ideally one would be convinced within themselves that this minhag is correct and appropriate for them, and thus feel a personal spiritual elevation through donning them. Again whether that leads to pride is a personal matter, not in and of itself connected with the actual act. In fact one could argue that not putting them on is also a prideful action, as you find yourself amongst a group of people that are beneath your spiritually exalted state and thus to cater to them, you decide not to.
Our Rabbis, as the Ramchal explains in his first chapter of Mesilat Yesharim, said that the reason the Torah did not stipulate actions or measure for positive middot is because it wouldn’t work. There is no action that could make a person humble or proud, it is strictly an internal matter of the heart. If we applied the same logic to say Moshe Rabbeinu, he would never have gone up the mountain to get the two tablets. He would have been too concerned that someone would think that he was acting in pride to think that he could be the prophet to the entire Jewish people, especially after they had all just heard the Ten Commandments. But instead he went up the mountain. Why? Because pride or in the case of Moshe Rabbeinu humility is just a matter of the heart.