Chapter Four (Part 12)
Imagine you were an air traffic controller and you suddenly caught sight
of a speck off in the distance of the radar screen. Now, if you knew it
was nothing but the first appearance of a plane that was expected to show
up, then you'd clearly do nothing. But if it wasn't that, and the speck
started to wiggle just a little bit perhaps, or to make some other awkward
moves, then you'd certainly keep your eyes on it. And if the wiggle
widened after a while and was joined by another speck or two that wiggled
also -- then you'd undoubtedly take action. Because something was clearly
going on there; something was off.
In much the same way, Rambam warns us to always be introspective: to "keep
a steady eye on things" within -- on our inner screen. And to
never "neglect a symptom" or a sign of something gone off-kilter and
wiggling. And we're certainly not to "allow it to fester to the point
where we’d need the strongest medicines available" -- the direst means --
to deal with it.
He also counsels us, though, to always take appropriate measures when we
notice something wrong about our personalities. In fact, we'd be wiser yet
to "avoid things that would harm our Spirit" in the first place, but we're
to at least "favor things that would either help treat it or prevent it
from getting weaker yet".
For we're to "constantly scrutinize our character while we're healthy,
weigh our actions, and gauge our dispositions every single day" -- that
is, to keep our eyes on the screen all the time. And to then "quickly
treat ourselves" when a glitch comes up, "rather than allow a bad
disposition to develop". And we're to act just "as soon as we notice
ourselves inclining toward one extreme or another", that is, wiggling this
way or that.
After all, he warns us, "everyone has his flaws". For as Rambam notes,
it's been said that “it would be hard and hardly likely to find anyone
with all the virtuous intellectual and character traits”. And we're taught
that “There is no one so righteous upon this earth who (only) does good
and doesn't sin“ (Ecclesiastes 7:20). And that holds true of even the best
of us, as we'll see.
So as Rambam sums it up, "it’s important to favor balanced actions and to
only resort to an extreme in order to heal yourself or to counterbalance
another, opposite extreme", and that it's likewise important to make sure
that you don't come to that point.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org