Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deot, Chapter 6, 1 & 2
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משנה תורה להרמב"ם הלכות דעות פרק ו
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א דֶּרֶךְ בְּרִיָּתוֹ שֶׁלָּאָדָם--לִהְיוֹת נִמְשָׁךְ בְּדֵעוֹתָיו וּבְמַעֲשָׂיו אַחַר רֵעָיו וַחֲבֵרָיו, וְנוֹהֵג בְּמִנְהַג אַנְשֵׁי מְדִינָתוֹ. לְפִיכָּךְ צָרִיךְ אָדָם לְהִתְחַבַּר לַצַּדִּיקִים וְלֵישֵׁב אֵצֶל הַחֲכָמִים תָּמִיד, כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּלְמֹד מִמַּעֲשֵׂיהֶם; וְיִתְרַחַק מִן הָרְשָׁעִים הַהוֹלְכִים בַּחֹשֶׁךְ, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִלְמֹד מִמַּעֲשֵׂיהֶם. הוּא שֶׁשְּׁלֹמֹה אוֹמֵר, "הוֹלֵךְ אֶת-חֲכָמִים, יֶחְכָּם; וְרֹעֶה כְסִילִים, יֵרוֹעַ" (משלי יג,כ). וְאוֹמֵר, "אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ . . ." (תהילים א,א). ב וְכֵן אִם הָיָה בִּמְדִינָה שֶׁמִּנְהֲגוֹתֶיהָ רָעִים, וְאֵין אֲנָשֶׁיהָ הוֹלְכִים בְּדֶרֶךְ יְשָׁרָה--יֵלֵךְ לִמְקוֹם שֶׁאֲנָשָׁיו צַדִּיקִים, וְנוֹהֲגִים בְּדֶרֶךְ טוֹבִים. וְאִם הָיוּ כָּל הַמְּדִינוֹת שְׁהוּא יוֹדְעָן וְשׁוֹמֵעַ שְׁמוּעָתָן נוֹהֲגִים בְּדֶרֶךְ לֹא טוֹבָה, כְּמוֹ זְמַנֵּנוּ זֶה, אוֹ שְׁאֵינוּ יָכוֹל לֵילֵךְ לִמְדִינָה שֶׁמִּנְהֲגוֹתֶיהָ טוֹבִים, מִפְּנֵי הַגְּיָסוֹת אוֹ מִפְּנֵי הַחֹלִי--יֵשֵׁב לְבַדּוֹ יְחִידִי, כְּעִנְיַן שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר "יֵשֵׁב בָּדָד וְיִדֹּם" (איכה ג,כח). וְאִם הָיוּ רָעִים וְחַטָּאִים, שְׁאֵין מַנִּיחִין אוֹתוֹ לֵישֵׁב בַּמְּדִינָה אֵלָא אִם כֵּן נִתְעָרַב עִמָּהֶן וְנוֹהֵג בְּמִנְהָגָן הָרָע--יֵצֵא לַמְּעָרוֹת וְלַחֲוָחִים וּלַמִּדְבָּרוֹת וְאַל יַנְהִיג עַצְמוֹ בְּדֶרֶךְ חַטָּאִים, כְּעִנְיַן שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר "מִי-יִתְּנֵנִי בַמִּדְבָּר . . ." (ירמיהו ט,א).
1: It is natural for man’s character to be drawn after the thoughts and actions of his friends and associates, and for him to follow the norms of the people of his country. Therefore, one must associate with righteous and be constantly in the company of the wise, so as to learn from their deeds. Conversely, he should keep away from the wicked who walk in darkness, so as not to learn from their deeds. This is what Shlomo said “He who walks with the wise will become wise; he who walks with the foolish will be destroyed (Proverbs 13:20); and what is said “Happy is the man…”(Psalms 1:1) 2: A person who lives in a place where the norms of behavior are evil and the inhabitants do not follow the straight path should move to a place where the people are righteous and follow the ways of the good. If all the places with which he is familiar and of which he hears reports follow improper paths, as in our times, or if he is unable to move to a place where the patterns of behavior are proper, because of [the presence of] bands of raiding troops, or for health reasons, he should remain alone in seclusion, as is said “Sit alone and be quiet” (Eicha 3:28). If they are wicked and sinful and do not allow him to reside there unless he mingle with them and follow their evil behavior, he should go out to caves, thickets, and deserts [rather than] follow the paths of sinners as it states: "Who will give me a lodging place for wayfarers, in the desert." (Jeremiah 9:1)
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Suggested Discussion Questions:

Maimonides (Rambam) states that a person is affected positivly and negativly by his social environment. Give an example of an environment you have been in that influenced your behavior.

If your community's social norms are negative, what should you do, according to this text? Do you agree?

If you are unable to leave the place and society imposes bad behavior -what should you do, according to this text? Do you agree?

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Time Period: Medieval (Geonim through the 16th Century)