Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Deios, Chapter 2: Mending ones character and learning a proper balance

Chapter 2: mending ones character and learning a proper balance

Halacha 1: The illness of desiring bad character and the doctors who treat it

  • Bodily illnesses: Just as there are people with physical illnesses and health problems, in which the sweet taste bitter and the bitter taste sweet, and a desire to eat foods that are inedible such as earth and charcoal and despise the good tasting foods such as meat and bread, so too there are similar such illnesses regarding character.
  • Character illnesses: An example of a character illnesses is a person who is attracted to and loves bad character traits and despises the good character traits and are too lazy to follow them due to their imagined difficulty.
  • The doctors who cure a person suffering from such illness: An individual suffering from the above illness in character should consult with the sages who are considered the healers of souls and to have the remedies to heal their bad character until the return to a good path.
  • Those who don’t consult the sages: Those who have bad characters and do not consult the sages for healing are considered fools.

Halacha 2: The remedy for bad temperaments

  • Anger: One who suffers from anger management issues is to be instructed to completely ignore and not retaliate for anything that is done to them by others, including getting hit and cursed. This should be done for some lengthy period of time until their anger gets under their control and is uprooted from their hearts.
  • Arrogance: One who suffers from arrogance is to be instructed to overly disgrace himself by wearing shameful clothing and the like. This should be done until their arrogance is uprooted from their hearts and they return to the proper path.
  • Remaining with a balanced approach: When one returns to the middle path in the above, he should remain this way for the rest of his life.
  • Other character traits: This order shall likewise be followed for all other character traits that if one sees that he is on the extreme of one side, then he should go to the opposite extreme for a lengthy period of time until he can return to the proper path. This is the middle road for each and every character trait.

Halacha 3: Temperaments that are proper for one to be extreme in their opposites-Arrogance and Anger

  • There are certain temperaments and character traits which are forbidden for a person to go in the middle path, and rather he is to go to the extreme. The following are some examples:
  • Arrogance: It does not suffice for a person to simply be humble but he must also be very lowly and small in his eyes in comparison to others.
  • Arrogance leads to heresy: Arrogance is a very severe character blemish, as the sages state that whoever has arrogance in his heart denies God.
  • Excommunication: One who has arrogance even of a small amount is befitting of excommunication.
  • Anger: Anger is a very bad trait and a person should distance himself from it to the opposite extreme, training himself not to get angry even when justified.
  • Showing anger at one’s household: Even when it is necessary to show anger towards a member of one’s household or one’s community for the sake of educating them in the right path, he should not truly become angry but only act as if he is angry, while remaining calm inside.
  • Like idolatry: The sages state that whoever becomes angry is considered to have served idols.
  • Losing wisdom and prophecy: If a wise man becomes angry, he loses his wisdom, and if a prophet becomes angry he loses his prophecy.
  • No life: Those who are constantly angry, having no life.
  • It is due to the above reasons at the sages instructed one to distance himself to the extreme from getting angry, to the point that he doesn’t even get angry or offended when justified and expected.
  • The way of the righteous to take insult and not insult back: This is the way of the righteous, to allow themselves to be shamed without shaming the person back, and to hear disparaging remarks against them without reply, and to serve God with joy and love and rejoice in their suffering.

Halacha 4: Speech versus silence

  • A person should increase in silence and not speak unless it is a matter of wisdom, or necessary for their bodily needs in which case he should only speak what is necessary.
  • Majority of people speak without limitation of all the nonsense in the world and doing so leads to sin.
  • There’s nothing better for the body than silence.
  • Torah talk: Even when speaking words of Torah and wisdom, he should be concise and to the point, including much content within his limited speech. One who does the opposite, and speaks a lot to convey a minor amount of content is considered a fool.

Halacha 5: Patiently responding

  • One of the character traits of wisdom is silence. Therefore, a person should not hurry to answer a question and speak.
  • Likewise, one is to teach students in a soft and calm tone without shouting and without lengthening in speech.

Halacha 6: Deceiving others

  • It is forbidden for a person to deceive others in his speech, and should not express things that are opposite of his true feelings in his heart.
  • Deceiving shoe sale: It is forbidden to deceive even a Gentile, such as to sell him a shoe from the hide of a Niveila under the pretense that it came from a slaughtered animal.
  • Deceiving invitation and presence: Likewise, a person is not to deceive another by inviting him to eat in his house when he knows that he will not eat, or by offering him gifts when he knows that he will not accept it.
  • The general rule is that a person should always be honest and act honestly and not deceivingly, to fool people to think in ways that are opposite of the truth.

Halacha 7: The temperaments of sad and depressed versus jolly and giddiness:

  • A person should not be constantly laughing and playing around, nor sad and depressed, but rather generally happy.
  • Giddiness: The sages taught us that giddiness and lightheadedness leads a person to sexual sin.
  • Laughter: A person should not laugh out of control or be sad and depressed and rather should accept people with a general friendly countenance.
  • Greediness: A person should not be greedy and chase after money.
  • Occupation: A person should not be unemployed and is rather to work for some time each day and study Torah.
  • Fighting and quarreling, jealousy, lust, and honor: A person should not be constantly fighting and quarreling with others, and should not maintain jealousy, lusts, or pursue honor, as the sages state that jealousy, lust and honor remove a person from this world.
  • The general rule is that a person should follow the middle path in all of these temperaments and characteristics.

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Leave A Comment?

You must be logged in to post a comment.