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Chapter 29: 1-3
Character Traits to Follow

1. People have different natural traits. Some are irritable and prone to anger. Other are stable and never become angry, or are rarely provoked to anger, only once every few yeas. Some people are very proud, while others are humble. Some are controlled by desire and will never be satisfied in their search for pleasure. Others have pure hearts and will not desire even their basic necessities.

Some are greedy and will not be satisfied with all the money in the world, as [Ecclesiastes 5:9] states: "One who loves money will never be satisfied with money." Others seek little. A small amount, less than required for their needs, is enough for them, and they will not go out to seek to earn their sustenance. There are miserly people who starve themselves in order to save; whatever they have to spend for their food is done begrudgingly. Others spend their money lavishly.

The same applies with regard to other traits. There are those who are lighthearted and those who are melancholy; hardhearted and easygoing, cruel and merciful, timid and courageous, etc.

2. The good and proper path which a person should train himself to follow is the middle way. He should not desire anything except those things which his body needs and can not exist without, as implies by [Proverbs 13:25]: "The righteous eat to satisfy their soul."

Similarly, he should be involved in his business only to the extent that is necessary to provide for his immediate necessities as implied by [Psalms 37:16]: "The little a righteous man possesses is good."

He should not be either overly tightfisted or overly generous. Rather, he should give charity according to his means, and lend an appropriate amount to those who need.

He should not be overly joyous or lighthearted, nor sad and melancholy. Rather, he should always be happy, gentle, and friendly. The same applies with regard to other traits. A person who follows the middle path is considered wise. *

* {This and the previous law are a summary of the first chapter of the Rambam's Hilchos De'os.}

3. Pride is an extremely wicked quality, and man is forbidden to display it even slightly. Rather, one should train himself to be humble, as our Sages [Ovos 4:4] commanded: "Be very, very humble."

How can one train himself to be humble? One should always speak gently. One's head should be bent over with one's eyes pointed downward, but one's heart should be directed upward.

One should regard everyone else as greater than himself. If the other person is a Torah sage of greater stature, one is obligated to honor him. If the other person is wealthier, he is also deserving of honor, as [Eruvin 86a] relates: "Rabbi Yehuda Hanosi would honor the rich." One should think that since G-d granted him this wealth, he is surely worthy of it.

If the other person is on a lower level, both with regard to wisdom and financial standing, one should consider him more righteous. Since, his is less learned, should he commit a sin, it is considered to be an inadvertent and involuntary act. However, when one commits a sin oneself, it is considered to be a willful violation.

If a person has these thoughts in mind, he will never be proud and will prosper.


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Halacha-Yomi, Copyright (c) 1999 Project Genesis, Inc.

 

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