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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Creating wise moderates

By Rabbi Moshe Grylak




The key to staying on the straight path


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In Pirkei Avos (Ethics of the Fathers 2:1) we find a question posed by Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, known as "Rebbi": "What is the upright way that man should choose for himself?" And the answer: "Whatever is harmonious for the one who does it, and creates harmony with his fellow man".

The commentators ask: Is the choice of the proper path in life left to man? Surely Rebbi didn't subscribe to the popular falsehood that "every person has his own truth," which offers every individual the option of adopting rules of morality to suit himself and his desires. Obviously not.

Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi was a shining exemplar of living by the one and only Truth, the only correct way --- the way of the Torah (Bible). Would he even entertain the thought of an alternative? What, then, did Rebbi mean by raising a question about which path a man should choose?

Here is how the great philosopher and legalist Maimonides (d. 1204) understood the teaching:


"It becomes clear that the upright way refers to good acts, which means the median measures, for through them a person may acquire worthy attributes, and his conduct will be good with people, and this is the meaning of 'harmonious for the one who does it, and creates harmony with his fellow man.' "


That is to say, in Maimonides' view — and the other great commentators concur — this teaching encapsulates the philosophy of the Golden Mean, the proper mode of behavior to strive for in order to attain happiness.

Maimonides elaborates on the concept of the Golden Mean in his Mishneh Torah, as follows:


"The human psyche varies very much from one person to another, and one person's character is far removed from another's. Some people are highly prone to anger; others are calm and perhaps get mildly angry once in many years. Some people are very arrogant; others are very meek. Some are dominated by strong cravings they are always seeking to satisfy; others are very pure of heart and do not crave even their physical necessities. Some are greedy and won't be satisfied with all the wealth in the world; others deprive themselves; and still others squander all their wealth deliberately. And so it goes with all the other traits of character" (Hilchos Dei'os 1:1).


Maimonides is showing us a map of the human psyche, and it hasn't changed a bit since his times. For better or worse, every one of us partakes of these traits in varying degrees and combinations.

Maimonides then goes on to describe the proper way that a person is obligated to choose for himself:


"The proper path is the median measure in each trait; that is, the way that is equidistant from the two extremes. Accordingly, the early Sages directed that a person always aim for the middle way in order to attain perfection. How? He should not be an angry person whose temper is easily triggered, nor should he be like a dead man who feels nothing, but in the middle. He should not get angry except over an important matter that is worth getting angry about so that such a thing should not occur again…. Any person whose traits are at the midpoint is called wise." (ibid. 2-4)



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This middle way, in Maimonides' view, is the "upright path" that Rebbi speaks of in Pirkei Avos, the way that is harmonious for the person himself and creates harmony with others. Others will surely admire his well-moderated conduct, based on inner balance between his various personality traits. Surely they will consider one who acts so wisely to be the perfect man.

Yes, the Torah is the one and only way for a person who wants to achieve perfection of character. But a person is given great freedom of action, and a broad field within which he must find his own personal Golden Mean.

According to his own individual tendencies, he must strive for balance, always directing his conduct toward the middle, moderate way. Thus, in Maimonides' view, our teaching implies condemnation of extremism in personal and social behavior, while of course upholding the obligation to adhere to Torah principles.

So now we understand the theoretical explanation of the teaching. A mode of conduct that strikes a moderate note is the wise and upright way that a person should strive for. But one problem has not yet been addressed, namely, how is a person to apply this principle of the Golden Mean in real life?

To illustrate the problem, let's take one of the examples used by Maimonides himself. A person should not get angry, except in very rare instances. We all know that anger is a bad trait, including those of us who are subject to it. At the same time, however, Maimonides instructs us not to be like dead people, devoid of emotion. So to a certain extent, one must use the trait of anger and become angry when the situation requires it.

For instance, when one is in a parental role, or when one is a community leader who needs to restrain dangerous tendencies that are developing in society. Maimonides is saying, therefore, that no trait is to be beaten down completely, but rather each trait is to be used intelligently.

This is where the difficulty begins. How can a person know where to set the limits? We know how we operate. We're on the road, and a driver passes us recklessly at a crossing. Angry words pop out of our mouth automatically, and we call him one of our favorite names. Is this the kind of situation Maimonides meant when he said that sometimes anger is the proper response? We don't know. All we know is that our defense mechanism will kick in to rationalize our outburst. ("Did you see what that idiot did? He almost caused a serious accident!") We're sure we're right, of course, but is this the upright, middle way that Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi teaches in Pirkei Avos?


Let's be honest with ourselves. If we take a good look without distorting the truth, we'll see how we justify whatever we do. It's part of human nature. Anyone who is accused of any shortcoming has an answer. Whatever we do, we're okay with it. This capacity for "being okay with it" comes from our ability to find justification for every act in the values accepted by society. And therefore, any path we feel like taking becomes the "upright way."

I think, though, that Rabbi Yehudah's words also contain an answer to this difficulty. How can a person truly discern whether the way he is acting is indeed the proper way, explained so well by Maimonides? I think the answer is found in Rebbi's words. A proper deed is "harmonious for the one who does it, and creates harmony with his fellow man."

A spontaneous reaction to a stimulus, such as the insult to the reckless driver, is not "harmonious for the one who does it." This is clear from the fact that afterward, he seeks justification for his coarse little outburst, something to hide behind, a rational explanation for having "lost it," in order to quiet his troubled conscience and get on with business as usual. But these defense tactics serve only to blind the person himself; they don't fool the onlookers.

And this is why Rebbi puts each act through two tests to determine if it is truly right. First, the doer must feel at peace with the deed, without needing to rationalize it. It must be "harmonious for the one who does it."

And second, if he is not quite sure that he acted properly, let him see how a neutral observer views it. If the deed also "created harmony with his fellow man," then there is a good chance that he acted properly.

These are the parameters by which to judge our actions. We should pay attention to them if we wish to stay on the straight path all our lives.

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Rabbi Moshe Grylak is editor-in-chief of Mishpacha magazine, an international glossy, from where this article is reprinted. He is the author of several books on Judaic themes.

© 2014, Mishpacha magazine

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