(Permission is granted to print and redistribute this material
as long as this header and the footer at the end are included.)


brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld

Ask A Question about the Daf

Previous daf

Sotah, 5


QUESTIONS: The Gemara discusses at length the destructive power of the trait of Ga'avah, arrogance, and the importance of staying away from it. The RAMBAM records this as the Halachah (Hilchos De'os 2:3; see also Shemoneh Perakim, ch. 5; Perush ha'Mishnayos, Avos 4:4; and Moreh Nevuchim, ch. 59). The Rambam writes (Hilchos De'os 1:4), regarding "all Midos," that a person should follow the golden "path of the middle" and not lean towards one extreme or the other. This is how he understands the statement of the Gemara later (5b) that a person should always evaluate his ways. However, with regard to the Midah of arrogance, the Rambam (2:3) writes that one is prohibited from conducting himself in the manner of the middle path, but rather one must go all the way to the extreme and be not only humble (an Anav), but to be lowly of spirit (Shefal Ru'ach), which is the extreme manifestation of humility.

The Rambam seems to contradict himself in a number of ways regarding what he says about arrogance and about following the middle path for all other Midos. (See LECHEM MISHNAH, Hilchos De'os 1:4.)

(a) The Rambam writes that arrogance is an exception and one *should* go to the extreme in humility. This is implied also by what he writes in 1:4 and 1:5. In 1:4, the Rambam writes that the proper way is to take the middle path, and he gives examples of the middle path for all of the Midos that he mentions at the start of the chapter -- except for the Midah of humility. Then, in the following Halachah (1:5), he gives an example of taking a Midah to its extreme (which makes a person a "Chasid"), and he gives the example of Shiflus ha'Ru'ach. However, in the next chapter, the Rambam writes (2:2) that if a person sees that he is arrogant, he should conduct himself with self-effacement by dressing shabbily and humbling himself before everyone until he has uprooted the arrogance from his heart, and "he returns to the middle path which is the good path!"

In addition, the Rambam writes (1:3) regarding all of the Midos that he mentions at the beginning of the chapter, including the Midah of arrogance, that the extremes are not the correct path and a person should not follow the path of the extremes!

(b) There is a similar contradiction in the words of the Rambam regarding the trait of anger. In 1:4, the Rambam seems to group anger together with all other Midos (excluding only arrogance), in which the middle path is the best. In 2:2, he also writes that if a person finds himself easily angered, then he should follow the opposite extreme and act in a most placid, unemotional way, until he has totally uprooted the anger from his heart, and then he may return to the middle path. However, in 2:3, after explaining that one should take the opposite extreme of arrogance, the Rambam writes that "so, too, regarding anger, it is a very bad Midah, and one should go to the opposite extreme, and not become angry even about things for which it is fit to become angry!"

(c) There is a more general contradiction in the Rambam's description of these Midos. The Rambam begins (1:3) by saying that either of the two extremes of any Midah is not a proper path for a person to follow. However, in 1:5, the Rambam writes that if a person is overly careful and leans a bit towards the extremes and does not take the exact middle path, he is called a "Chasid," and he is considered to be conducting himself "Lifnim mi'Shuras ha'Din" (beyond the letter of the law) for leaning towards the extreme in a Midah. This implies that it is better to lean towards the extreme than to take the middle path!

(a) The Rambam himself gives us the key to understanding why he writes that a person should take the middle path regarding arrogance, while, at the same time, he writes that a person should conduct himself with an extreme of Shiflus ha'Ru'ach. In 1:7, the Rambam differentiates between external actions based on these character traits, and the actual traits themselves. A person can feel one way while he trains himself to act in another way. A careful examination of the words of the Rambam shows that when the Rambam discusses the actual, internal feeling that a person experiences, he calls it a "*Midah* Beinonis." When he discusses the action that a person performs, he calls it a "*Derech* Emtza'is," and he discusses "walking" (an external action) on that Derech. Similarly, with regard to anger, the Rambam writes (2:3) that although a person should conduct himself with an extreme of patience, meaning that he should *feel* an extreme of patience, nevertheless there are times when it is necessary to express anger -- without feeling real anger inside -- in order to rebuke those around him (such as his family members or his followers).

The same apparently applies to arrogance. It is obvious that the Rambam is not prescribing that a person dress in shabby clothes all the time in order to avoid arrogance. Rather, the Rambam means that a person should teach himself to feel very humble and lowly in his heart. However, his actions should not express that humility, but rather they should express a middle-of-the-path approach. That is why the Rambam (in 1:3 and 2:2) -- when discussing the *actions* that a person performs -- recommends that one should follow the middle path even with regard to humility.

However, in 1:5 and 2:3, where the Rambam writes that a person should take the extreme path when it comes to humility, he is discussing the way a person should *feel* internally, and not the path upon which a person should be "walking" (see Hagahos Mahar'i on the Rambam; see, however, EVEN HA'EZEL).

(b) Regarding the Midah of anger, the above answer explains why the Rambam (in 2:2) writes that a person should take the middle path when it comes to anger. In that Halachah, he is discussing the way a person should *act* externally and not the way a person should *feel* internally. This, however, does not answer why he writes (in 1:4) that the middle path is the preferable path for the Midah of anger, for there he is discussing the way a person should feel inside, which is why he does not mention humility in that Halachah! Why, then, does the Rambam write that the middle path is the best with regard to anger?

It seems that the Rambam does not put anger in the same category as arrogance. In 2:3, the Rambam writes that it is *prohibited* to follow the middle path with regard to arrogance/humility. In contrast, regarding anger he says it is an evil Midah and it is "fitting" for a person to follow the opposite extreme, but it is not *required* of him to do so. In 1:4, when the Rambam discusses taking the middle path with regard to anger, he means that it is an acceptable way (but not a preferable way) of conducting oneself.

(c) When the Rambam writes that a person who leans a bit towards one of the extremes is acting "Lifnim mi'Shuras ha'Din," he specifies that the person leans only "a *little*" to the extreme. When he writes earlier (1:3) that following an extreme is improper, the Rambam is referring to conducting oneself *entirely* in the extreme of the Midah (whether in action or in heart). (LECHEM MISHNAH)


Next daf


For further information on
subscriptions, archives and sponsorships,
contact Kollel Iyun Hadaf,