Hat's off to Arutz 7. Where else could you find some of the classics of Jewish literature in serialized format? It is a great tribute to the people running Israel National News that they realize that a revived Jewish literature is a necessary ingredient in the Redemption of our Nation. Rabbi Kook teaches that it is precisely through a new literature of tshuva that the Nation will come to recognize and embrace the ancient spiritual treasures of Israel. So here's the next installment in "Heaven's Door" for your enlightenment and reading pleasure. Shavuah tov!
Chapter Eleven – The Golden Path
“Very well,” the old man said. “I believe we were discussing Maimonides – the Rambam. Many of the things that he teaches are simple everyday matters that a person can easily forget. The review will be good for me too.”
As if grasping an invisible throttle, he motioned with his hand for the Captain to slow down. The motor quieted, and the ride back to Tiberias became less hurried and smooth.
“The problem is I don’t have the book with me, so we’ll have to postpone our learning till later tonight.”
“Come on, Saba,” Baruch said. “You know the Rambam by heart.”
“Well, not really, but time is very precious, so let’s begin. The Rambam explains that people are characterized by many different traits. Some traits they are born with, and others they learn, due to the influence of friends and their surroundings. For instance, some people become angry easily, while others are mild mannered by nature. Some people are spendthrifts and others are frugal. One man is a glutton whose lusts are never filled, while another is so pure of soul that he doesn’t even long for what his body needs. And so forth. Are you with me?”
“Adopting either extreme is not the proper course for a person to follow. The proper path is the middle path, in between the extremes. This will insure mental, emotional, and physical health. Thus a man shouldn’t be quick to anger, yet not be so passive that he is like the dead. Chasing after all of one’s lusts is not proper, nor is denying oneself basic needs like a monk. Rather the healthy person will desire only the things that his body needs and cannot survive without, eating just what is necessary to safeguard his health, rather than stuffing his belly. He will only work at his occupation to obtain what he needs to get by, and not strive to pile up riches. He will not be a frivolous joker, nor walk around with a worried, melancholy look on his face, but be confident and cheerful in the face of whatever life brings him, trusting that everything comes from God in His goodness. This is the way of the wise.”
“OK,” I said. “It seems like common sense.”
“This is known as the golden path.”
“The golden path,” I repeated.
“Nonetheless,” the sage continued, “there are things that are beneficial to an extreme. For instance, the fervent cultivation of humility is praiseworthy, as is the scrupulous avoidance of all types of arrogance and pride. Furthermore, running after honor is folly. Our sages have said that envy, lust, and the craving for honor drive a man out of the world. Anger is also something which should be avoided to an extreme, for when a person gets angry, his Divine soul leaves him and an animal soul takes its place. This, for example, can be seen in the beastlike look on the face of a person who is gripped by wrath. Thus, it is taught that a wise man who gets angry loses his wisdom. Anger leads to numerous physical ailments as well, like stomach disorders, ulcers, skin abrasions, and heart attacks. Sometimes, it may be necessary to display an angry expression, like when disciplining children, or when condemning some moral wrongdoing, so that it shouldn’t happen again, but a person of elevated refinement should do so like an actor, using the display of anger only as a tool toward achieving his goal, while remaining calm inside. In summary, in every trait, a man should choose the middle path. This is what Solomon meant when he said, ‘Balance thy paths and all thy ways shall be steady.’”
“How do you go about altering a pattern of behavior that you’ve had all your life?” I asked.
“Through practice, by repeating over and over the proper way, until it becomes second nature. Thus if a person has a quick temper, he must rule over himself when he is abused or affronted, without reacting at all, until he extinguishes the fire in his blood. And if he is arrogant and always tries to be the center of attention, he must take his place at the back of a group, wear plain and even ragged clothing that bring him into derision, until his haughtiness is purged from his heart. From then on, he can proceed to walk in the middle path for the remainder of his days. The way of the righteous is to bear injury, and not cause pain to others; to hear reproach and not retort; and to rejoice if suffering comes one’s way, knowing that it has been sent by the Master of the Universe as an atonement for misdeeds.”
“That sounds like some kind of Buddhism,” I noted.
“After Abraham’s wife, Sarah, died, Abraham took another wife, who name was Ketorah. To their offspring, he bestowed gifts of knowledge, like the secret of mantras, yoga, and the martial arts. These children settled in the Far East, where these wisdoms spread amongst other civilizations.”
That was interesting. It all seemed straightforward and simple, but making it happen sounded like diligent, lifelong work. The Captain slowed the boat and gave its horn a blast to let the dock worker know that we were returning to the cove. I walked out on deck and watched as he expertly glided the boat past some old anchored schooners and maneuvered alongside the dock. A lone cloud passed in front of the moon, screening in its light. I thanked Saba Yosef for taking me out to Miriam’s Well as Baruch helped him climb out of the boat.
“We’ll meet again at the bar mitzvah,” he promised.
I can't wait to see what's going to happen - can you?