Monday, November 17, 2014

Taking the middle path


"There are many traits in each human being; this one is different from that one, and extremely distant from him. Some are people of rage, always angry. Some have settled minds, never angry – and if they are ever angry, it is once in many years. Some are extremely arrogant, and some are extremely humble, and some are desirous, never satisfied from pursuing desire, and some are of very pure heart, not desiring even the little that the body needs. And some have a broad spirit, unsatisfied even with all of the world's wealth, like Ecclesiastes 5:9, 'One who loves silver will never have enough silver.' And some reduce their spirit, sufficing with even a little that isn't actually enough for them, and not pursuing all of their needs…

"Between each trait and its extreme opposite are intermediate traits, equidistant from each end. And in the set of all traits, some traits are congenital, per the nature of one's body, and some are traits toward which a person's nature is directed and which he will acquire more quickly than other traits, and some traits are lacking in a person from birth, but he learns them from others, or he turns himself to them independently due to a thought in his heart, or he hears that this is a good trait, worthy of following, and he habituates himself to it until it is established in his heart.

"The two extremes in each trait are not a good path; one should neither follow them nor teach them to himself. Should he find that his nature is inclined toward one of them or prepared for them, or he has already learned one of them and practiced it, he should bring himself back to the good and travel the path of the good, the straight path."

(Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deiot 1:1-3)

Have a great day,

1 comment:

  1. See the metaphor in the haqdamah of Orchos Tzadiqim. It makes an interesting contrast.

    ויש דומה לעושה תבשיל, וצריך ירק ובשר ומים ומלח ופלפלים, וכל אלו המינים צריך לקח מכל אחד כשעור: מזה מעט ומזה הרבה. אם ימעט הבשר - יהיה רזה, אם ירבה מלח - לא יהיה נאכל מחמת מלחו. וכן כולם, אם ימעט במה שצריך הרבה וירבה במה שצריך מעט, יהא המאכל מקולקל. אבל הבקי, אשר ייקח מכל אחד משקל הראוי, אז יהא המאכל ערב ומתוק לאוכליו.

    (I would also note that both use the word dei'os where we today would say "middos". Instead they use "middos" more literally -- the amount of each dei'ah.)