Mishneh Torah, Human Dispositions
Chapter 1א׳
1 א

דֵעוֹת הַרְבֵּה יֵשׁ לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מִבְּנֵי אָדָם וְזוֹ מְשֻׁנָּה מִזּוֹ וּרְחוֹקָה מִמֶּנָּהּ בְּיוֹתֵר. יֵשׁ אָדָם שֶׁהוּא בַּעַל חֵמָה כּוֹעֵס תָּמִיד. וְיֵשׁ אָדָם שֶׁדַּעְתּוֹ מְיֻשֶּׁבֶת עָלָיו וְאֵינוֹ כּוֹעֵס כְּלָל וְאִם יִכְעַס יִכְעַס כַּעַס מְעַט בְּכַמָּה שָׁנִים. וְיֵשׁ אָדָם שֶׁהוּא גְּבַהּ לֵב בְּיוֹתֵר. וְיֵשׁ שֶׁהוּא שְׁפַל רוּחַ בְּיוֹתֵר. וְיֵשׁ שֶׁהוּא בַּעַל תַּאֲוָה לֹא תִּשְׂבַּע נַפְשׁוֹ מֵהָלֹךְ בְּתַאֲוָה. וְיֵשׁ שֶׁהוּא בַּעַל לֵב טָהוֹר מְאֹד וְלֹא יִתְאַוֶּה אֲפִלּוּ לִדְבָרִים מְעַטִּים שֶׁהַגּוּף צָרִיךְ לָהֶן. וְיֵשׁ בַּעַל נֶפֶשׁ רְחָבָה שֶׁלֹּא תִּשְׂבַּע נַפְשׁוֹ מִכָּל מָמוֹן הָעוֹלָם, כָּעִנְיָן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (קהלת ה ט) "אוֹהֵב כֶּסֶף לֹא יִשְׂבַּע כֶּסֶף". וְיֵשׁ מְקַצֵּר נַפְשׁוֹ שֶׁדַּיּוֹ אֲפִלּוּ דָּבָר מְעַט שֶׁלֹּא יַסְפִּיק לוֹ וְלֹא יִרְדֹּף לְהַשִּׂיג כָּל צָרְכּוֹ. וְיֵשׁ שֶׁהוּא מְסַגֵּף עַצְמוֹ בְּרָעָב וְקוֹבֵץ עַל יָדוֹ וְאֵינוֹ אוֹכֵל פְּרוּטָה מִשֶּׁלּוֹ אֶלָּא בְּצַעַר גָּדוֹל. וְיֵשׁ שֶׁהוּא מְאַבֵּד כָּל מָמוֹנוֹ בְּיָדוֹ לְדַעְתּוֹ. וְעַל דְּרָכִים אֵלּוּ שְׁאָר כָּל הַדֵּעוֹת כְּגוֹן מְהוֹלֵל וְאוֹנֵן וְכִילַי וְשׁוֹעַ וְאַכְזָרִי וְרַחֲמָן וְרַךְ לֵבָב וְאַמִּיץ לֵב וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן:

Each and every one of the sons of man has many innate tendencies which differ one from the other and which are extremely afar. There is one man of a feverish temperment, constantly vexed, and there is another man of a calm disposition, without angry moods whatever, and if he does show anger it is but one bit of anger in many years; one man is overmuch supercilious, and another man is extremely unobtrusive; one is sensual, whose being is never stilled by the pursuit of propensity, and one is so pure-hearted that he feels no craving even for the barest necessities of the body; one's being is so greedy that the world's money will not satisfy him, as the subject is spoken of: "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver" (Ecc. 5.10); and one's being is so restrained that he considers enough even part of the little which is insufficient for his need and he will not pursue to attain all needs; one suffers hunger in his effort of hoarding and does not eat a cent's worth of his own without great torture to himself, and another wastes his money with his own hand deliberately. And of such ways are all the rest of the tendencies, as the optimist and pessimist, miser and philanthropist, cruel and merciful, coward and stout-hearted and the like.

2 ב

וְיֵשׁ בֵּין כָּל דֵּעָה וְדֵעָה הָרְחוֹקָה מִמֶּנָּה בַּקָּצֶה הָאַחֵר דֵּעוֹת בֵּינוֹנִיּוֹת זוֹ רְחוֹקָה מִזּוֹ. וְכָל הַדֵּעוֹת יֵשׁ מֵהֶן דֵּעוֹת שֶׁהֵן לָאָדָם מִתְּחִלַּת בְּרִיָּתוֹ לְפִי טֶבַע גּוּפוֹ. וְיֵשׁ מֵהֶן דֵּעוֹת שֶׁטִּבְעוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם זֶה מְכֻוָּן וְעָתִיד לְקַבֵּל אוֹתָם בִּמְהֵרָה יוֹתֵר מִשְּׁאָר הַדֵּעוֹת. וְיֵשׁ מֵהֶן שֶׁאֵינָן לָאָדָם מִתְּחִלַּת בְּרִיָּתוֹ אֶלָּא לָמַד אוֹתָם מֵאֲחֵרִים אוֹ שֶׁנִּפְנָה לָהֶן מֵעַצְמוֹ לְפִי מַחֲשָׁבָה שֶׁעָלְתָה בְּלִבּוֹ. אוֹ שֶׁשָּׁמַע שֶׁזּוֹ הַדֵּעָה טוֹבָה לוֹ וּבָהּ רָאוּי לֵילֵךְ וְהִנְהִיג עַצְמוֹ בָּהּ עַד שֶׁנִּקְבְּעָה בְּלִבּוֹ:

And there are between each and every extreme tendency of an opposite vein mean tendencies one distinct from the other. Pertaining to tendencies in general, there are such tendencies which a man acquires at his birth, in keeping with the nature of his body; and there are particular tendencies to which a particular person is by nature prepared to acquire them more aptly than other tendencies; there are among them such which do not come naturally to a person at his birth, but which he learns from others, or by leaning towards them as a result of a thought invented by his heart, or by having heard that this particular tendency is good for him and proper to follow it, and he did follow it until it was set in his heart.

3 ג

שְׁתֵּי קְצָווֹת הָרְחוֹקוֹת זוֹ מִזּוֹ שֶׁבְּכָל דֵּעָה וְדֵעָה אֵינָן דֶּרֶךְ טוֹבָה וְאֵין רָאוּי לוֹ לָאָדָם לָלֶכֶת בָּהֶן וְלֹא לְלַמְּדָן לְעַצְמוֹ. וְאִם מָצָא טִבְעוֹ נוֹטֶה לְאַחַת מֵהֶן אוֹ מוּכָן לְאַחַת מֵהֶן אוֹ שֶׁכְּבָר לָמֵד אַחַת מֵהֶן וְנָהַג בָּהּ יַחֲזִיר עַצְמוֹ לַמּוּטָב וְיֵלֵךְ בְּדֶרֶךְ הַטּוֹבִים וְהִיא הַדֶּרֶךְ הַיְשָׁרָה:

The two extremes in each and every tendency is not a good way, and it is not proper for a man to follow them, nor to have himself instructed in them. If one finds his nature leaning toward one of them, or susceptible to one of them, or if he already acquired one of them and followed it, he should turn himself toward goodness by following the path of the good which is the straight path.

4 ד

הַדֶּרֶךְ הַיְשָׁרָה הִיא מִדָּה בֵּינוֹנִית שֶׁבְּכָל דֵּעָה וְדֵעָה מִכָּל הַדֵּעוֹת שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ לָאָדָם. וְהִיא הַדֵּעָה שֶׁהִיא רְחוֹקָה מִשְּׁתֵּי הַקְּצָווֹת רִחוּק שָׁוֶה וְאֵינָהּ קְרוֹבָה לֹא לָזוֹ וְלֹא לָזוֹ. לְפִיכָךְ צִוּוּ חֲכָמִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים שֶׁיְּהֵא אָדָם שָׁם דֵּעוֹתָיו תָּמִיד וּמְשַׁעֵר אוֹתָם וּמְכַוִּן אוֹתָם בַּדֶּרֶךְ הָאֶמְצָעִית כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּהֵא שָׁלֵם בְּגוּפוֹ. כֵּיצַד. לֹא יְהֵא בַּעַל חֵמָה נוֹחַ לִכְעֹס וְלֹא כְּמֵת שֶׁאֵינוֹ מַרְגִּישׁ אֶלָּא בֵּינוֹנִי. לֹא יִכְעֹס אֶלָּא עַל דָּבָר גָּדוֹל שֶׁרָאוּי לִכְעֹס עָלָיו כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יֵעָשֶׂה כַּיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ פַּעַם אַחֶרֶת. וְכֵן לֹא יִתְאַוֶּה אֶלָּא לִדְבָרִים שֶׁהַגּוּף צָרִיךְ לָהֶן וְאִי אֶפְשָׁר לִהְיוֹת בְּזוּלָתָן כָּעִנְיָן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי יג כה) "צַדִּיק אֹכֵל לְשֹׂבַע נַפְשׁוֹ". וְכֵן לֹא יִהְיֶה עָמֵל בְּעִסְקוֹ אֶלָּא לְהַשִּׂיג דָּבָר שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לוֹ לְחַיֵּי שָׁעָה כָּעִנְיָן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהילים לז טז) "טוֹב מְעַט לַצַּדִּיק". וְלֹא יִקְפֹּץ יָדוֹ בְּיוֹתֵר. וְלֹא יְפַזֵּר מָמוֹנוֹ אֶלָּא נוֹתֵן צְדָקָה כְּפִי מִסַּת יָדוֹ וּמַלְוֶה כָּרָאוּי לְמִי שֶׁצָּרִיךְ. וְלֹא יְהֵא מְהוֹלֵל וְשׂוֹחֵק וְלֹא עָצֵב וְאוֹנֵן אֶלָּא שָׂמֵחַ כָּל יָמָיו בְּנַחַת בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת. וְכֵן שְׁאָר דֵּעוֹתָיו. וְדֶרֶךְ זוֹ הִיא דֶּרֶךְ הַחֲכָמִים. כָּל אָדָם שֶׁדֵּעוֹתָיו דֵּעוֹת (בֵּינוֹנִית) [בֵּינוֹנִיּוֹת] מְמֻצָּעוֹת נִקְרָא חָכָם:

The straight path is the mean disposition found in each and every tendency of all the human tendencies. Such tendency is removed from both extremes an equal distance, and is not nearer to one than to the other. Therefore have the wise men of yore commanded that man should ever review his tendencies,1Sotah, 5b. C. estimate them, and direct them toward the middle-path so that he will be sound in body. How may one do it? He should not be an excitable person, easily angered; nor like the dead without feelings, but adopt a middle-course, not to become indignant, save only at something big which is worthy enough to be angry at, so that the like should not be done another time. Likewise shall he not crave for aught save the things which the body requires, and without which it is impossible to be, as the subject is spoken of: "The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul" (Pro. 13.25). Likewise shall he not continue to fatigue himself in his affairs, save to acquire what is necessary for him to live on for the time being as the subject is mentioned, saying: "A little that a righteous man hath is better" (Ps. 47.16). He should not be too close-fisted, nor yet squander his money, but give Z'dakah within the means of his hand, and lend accordingly to the needy. He should not be too optomistic and playful, nor too pessimistic and mournful, but spend all of his days in good cheer and with a pleasant countenance. So should he measure all the rest of his tendencies. And this path is the path of the wise men. Every man whose tendencies are mean tendencies of the middle-course, is called wise.

5 ה

וּמִי שֶׁהוּא מְדַקְדֵּק עַל עַצְמוֹ בְּיוֹתֵר וְיִתְרַחֵק מִדֵּעָה בֵּינוֹנִית מְעַט לְצַד זֶה אוֹ לְצַד זֶה נִקְרָא חָסִיד. כֵּיצַד. מִי שֶׁיִּתְרַחֵק מִגֹּבַהּ הַלֵּב עַד הַקָּצֶה הָאַחֲרוֹן וְיִהְיֶה שְׁפַל רוּחַ בְּיוֹתֵר נִקְרָא חָסִיד וְזוֹ הִיא מִדַּת חֲסִידוּת. וְאִם נִתְרַחֵק עַד הָאֶמְצַע בִּלְבַד וְיִהְיֶה עָנָו נִקְרָא חָכָם וְזוֹ הִיא מִדַּת חָכְמָה. וְעַל דֶּרֶךְ זוֹ שְׁאָר כָּל הַדֵּעוֹת. וַחֲסִידִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים הָיוּ מַטִּין דֵּעוֹת שֶׁלָּהֶן מִדֶּרֶךְ הָאֶמְצָעִית כְּנֶגֶד שְׁתֵּי הַקְּצָווֹת. יֵשׁ דֵּעָה שֶׁמַּטִּין אוֹתָהּ כְּנֶגֶד הַקָּצֶה הָאַחֲרוֹן וְיֵשׁ דֵּעָה שֶׁמַּטִּין אוֹתָהּ כְּנֶגֶד הַקָּצֶה הָרִאשׁוֹן. וְזֶהוּ לִפְנִים מִשּׁוּרַת הַדִּין. וּמְצֻוִּין אָנוּ לָלֶכֶת בַּדְּרָכִים הָאֵלּוּ הַבֵּינוֹנִים וְהֵם הַדְּרָכִים הַטּוֹבִים וְהַיְשָׁרִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כח ט) "וְהָלַכְתָּ בִּדְרָכָיו":

One who controls himself with increased restrictions, and distances himself even from the mean tendency,2Shabbat, 30-31. G. a little one way or a little the other way, is called devout. How may one do it? One who will distance himself from the extreme point of arrogance and become exceedingly humble is called devout for, this is the tendency of piety. If one distances himself to the mean point only and practices meekness he is called a wise man for, this is the tendency of wisdom. A like pathway exists in all the rest of the tendencies. The ancient devotees diverged their tendencies from the middle-path facing the two extremes; some tendency they bent opposite to the last extreme and some tendency they bent opposite the first extreme. This is more than being within the limits of the law.3Baba Mezi’a 30a. G. As for us, we are charged to walk in these middle-paths, which are the good and straight paths, even as it is said: "And thou shalt walk in His ways" (Deut. 28 9).

6 ו

כָּךְ לָמְדוּ בְּפֵרוּשׁ מִצְוָה זוֹ. מַה הוּא נִקְרָא חַנּוּן אַף אַתָּה הֱיֵה חַנּוּן. מַה הוּא נִקְרָא רַחוּם אַף אַתָּה הֱיֵה רַחוּם. מַה הוּא נִקְרָא קָדוֹשׁ אַף אַתָּה הֱיֵה קָדוֹשׁ. וְעַל דֶּרֶךְ זוֹ קָרְאוּ הַנְּבִיאִים לָאֵל בְּכָל אוֹתָן הַכִּנּוּיִין אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב חֶסֶד צַדִּיק וְיָשָׁר תָּמִים גִּבּוֹר וְחָזָק וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן. לְהוֹדִיעַ שֶׁהֵן דְּרָכִים טוֹבִים וִישָׁרִים וְחַיָּב אָדָם לְהַנְהִיג עַצְמוֹ בָּהֶן וּלְהִדַּמּוֹת אֵלָיו כְּפִי כֹּחוֹ:

In explaining this commandment the sages taught thus: Even as He is called gracious, be thou gracious; even as He is called merciful, be thou merciful; even as He is called holy, be thou holy.4Shabbat, 133b.; Sotah, 14a. C. In this wise did the prophets attribute to God all such terms as long-suffering, abundant in benificence, just and right, perfect, mighty and powerful and others like these, to proclaim that they are good and straight paths, and that man is obligated to lead himself in them, and to be like unto Him in proportion to his power.

7 ז

וְכֵיצַד יַרְגִּיל אָדָם עַצְמוֹ בְּדֵעוֹת אֵלּוּ עַד שֶׁיִּקָּבְעוּ בּוֹ. יַעֲשֶׂה וְיִשְׁנֶה וִישַׁלֵּשׁ בַּמַּעֲשִׂים שֶׁעוֹשֶׂה עַל פִּי הַדֵּעוֹת הָאֶמְצָעִיּוֹת וְיַחֲזֹר בָּהֶם תָּמִיד עַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ מַעֲשֵׂיהֶם קַלִּים עָלָיו וְלֹא יִהְיֶה בָּהֶם טֹרַח עָלָיו וְיִקָּבְעוּ הַדֵּעוֹת בְּנַפְשׁוֹ. וּלְפִי שֶׁהַשֵּׁמוֹת הָאֵלּוּ נִקְרָא בָּהֶן הַיּוֹצֵר וְהֵם הַדֶּרֶךְ הַבֵּינוֹנִית שֶׁאָנוּ חַיָּבִין לָלֶכֶת בָּהּ. נִקְרֵאת דֶּרֶךְ זוֹ דֶּרֶךְ ה'. וְהִיא שֶׁלִּמֵּד אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ לְבָנָיו שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית יח יט) "כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה" וְגוֹ'. וְהַהוֹלֵךְ בְּדֶרֶךְ זוֹ מֵבִיא טוֹבָה וּבְרָכָה לְעַצְמוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית יח יט) "לְמַעַן הָבִיא ה' עַל אַבְרָהָם אֵת אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר עָלָיו":

And how may a man inure himself in these tendencies so that they be permanent with him? He should try once, repeat it, and do a third time the things he is called upon to do in harmony with the tendencies of the middle-course, and repeat the practice continuously until the doing it will be accomplished with slight effort, and they will not be burdensome upon him, then will the tendencies be a fixed part of his being. And because the Creator is termed by these attributes which are the middle-way, this way is called the Lord's way. And, it is even in this that Abraham our father instructed his sons, saying: "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, that they shall keep the way of the Lord" (Gen. 18.19). And he who walks in this way brings goodness and blessing upon himself, even as it is said: "In order that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken concerning him" (Ibid.).