||MIDOS - THE ESSENTIAL JOB OF LIFE, PART THREE: THIRTY GOOD MIDOS EXPLAINED [12 Through 19]
- Friday, February 1 '02 - Parshas Yisro 5762
12. MERCY/COMPASSION (RACHMANUS) - the capacity to be fully emotionally in contact with the other person, to feel so much and so richly that you are spontaneously impacted by and responsive to the needs, feelings, pain and/or situation of another person, that the depth and richness of emotional connection prompts compassionate, extensive and on-target action. Also, it is patient suspension of strict judgement (including of punishment or demanding what is strictly due from another), suspension of meanness or cruelty, giving more than the other may deserve, forgiving, excusing, overlooking, giving another chance, patient forbearance, presuming or seeking the presence of extenuating circumstances. Related to this is pity (chemla, chas).
13. LOVE (AHAVA) - powerful emotional state that breaks all barriers to any sense of separateness or to holding self back from giving. Brings a sense of oneness and of concern for the happiness and well-being of the one loved. You see and appreciate the other's positives and overlook the negatives. You have drive to care for, please and to be responsive to the beloved in the kindest and fullest possible way. To give on behalf of and to appreciate the other is your pleasure.
14. BESTOWAL OF GOOD (HATAVA) - to live to do good for others at all times; perceiving yourself to stand for and exist for the other's good...only good, to the exclusion of bad. It is not enough to be good sometimes, bad other times; good with some people, bad with others. Be an instrument for the exclusive, consistent bestowal of good; a goodness-producing "machine" that doesn't break-down.
15. BENEFIT OF DOUBT (KAF Z'CHUS) - the ability to view and judge others favorably, with positivism, a kind eye, understanding, awareness that there is a total situation or fuller context, the ability to put yourself into the other's situation (including: asking yourself, "If I were in the other's situation, what recognition of extenuating circumstances and what consideration would I want the other person to favor me with?" - now be the one to favor the other with such patient recognition and consideration). Ask yourself, "What DON'T I know about the situation? Are my facts complete and in context? Is the information I have defective or unreliable in any way?" so that you refrain from negative judgement. Under what circumstances would the objectionable act that you see be permissible or positive? The gemora (Kidushin 70b) says that all who delegitimatize, criticize in the other person that which is actually their own blemish. Rabbi Elimelech of Lezensk said to always see the other person's positive attributes and to never see his shortcomings.
16. APPRECIATION/GRATITUDE (HAKARAS TOVA) - recognizing the good in another person (or G-d) and the good and nice things that the other person (or G-d) gives/does/offers/is; acknowledgement of the gift that you have in having the relationship in your life. Appreciate how much more you have and how you are better off than if you did not have the relationship with its benefits, qualities and attributes. There is no actual Hebrew word for "appreciation," because the idea alone is too shallow and incomplete. The literal meaning of "hakaras tovah" is "recognition of the good." The goal is the not mere lip-service of a heartless or mechanical, "Thank you, I appreciate it." Your HEART must fully feel the sense of gratitude. One of the biggest obstacles to this is not wanting to feel indebted or obligated. This is rooted in selfishness; being "a spoiled child" (regardless of age!); or having a sick ego that needs to feel independent and can't accept being incomplete as a person and, therefore, needing another. Hakaras tova intrinsically requires paying back good for good. As Proverbs 27:19 says, "Just as water reflects a face, a heart replies to another person."
Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer (chapter seven) says that if one fails to give appreciation to people, the person will come to deny that there is a G-d. If one can be so selfish, so reluctant to owe good to another, one will be able to attribute all good to himself. Or HaChayim says that one who lacks appreciation can come to idolatry, because he sees himself and his abilities, not G-d, as the source of his own benefits. "My strenth and ability made this achievement for me" (Deuteronomy 8:17) and "It's coming to me," are his slogans. He holds G-d to be somewhere between owing him and non-existent.
So great is the obligation to recognize and appreciate good that one may not "throw a rock into a well which you drank water from (Bamidbar Raba 22)." One must have appreciation for inanimate objects that give you benefit! How much moreso G-d and human beings! Two people who are both mutually generously giving AND appreciative will have a beautiful, fulfilling and attached relationship.
17. WILL (RATZON) - to have the will to want to be able to be meritorious; to be driven to constructive, strong and diligent action; to pass tests and to overcome obstacles; to persevere; to have the will to do all it takes, to make the necessary efforts to achieve the goals that G-d wants for all areas of life. In daily life it means keeping your word, fulfilling your obligations and behaving as a mentsh. In business this means honesty. In marriage, this means keeping peace, responsibility, unity, faithfulness, devotion, unselfish giving, commitment, love, respect, compassion and oneness. It requires being capable of deserving, protecting and sustaining the relationship, according to what G-d wants in a marriage.
The Vilna Gaon wrote, in a letter to his son, that no spiritual goal is out of reach when there is will - nothing stands in the way of good, sincere and firm will ("ain hadovor omaid lifnai haratzon"). The verse in Psalms 145:16 [in "Ashray"] says of G-d, "You open up Your hand and satisfy, to every living thing, ratzon (will)." You would think the verse should have added the possessive "O" and said "ratzonO" (its will). The message is: before G-d can satisfy your will, YOU FIRST HAVE TO HAVE WILL to work for what you want. That is up to you and you alone. Until you resolve to have will, there is nothing for G-d to satisfy. This does NOT just mean to want things free on a "silver platter." TRUE WILL IS DEMONSTRATED BY ACTIONS, EFFORT AND STEADFAST PERSEVERANCE.
The Orchos Tzadikim refers to ratzon (will) as a character trait that makes people want you because of your personal qualities. It also includes having willing acceptance of things in life. It is an exceptionally good mida, found in generous and precious people. Such a person is removed from anger and is removed from seeking of glory or honor. He is a gentle, responsive, sincere person who has a happy disposition. Such a person causes people and G-d to want and like him. He is genuine, not an actor. G-d causes him to have no enemies...all people, including spouse and kings, will be at peace with such a person.
18. HOLINESS (KEDUSHA) - is a Torah mitzva; to elevate oneself above one's physical aspect, drives and inclinations. The entirety of life in general and marriage in particular is for a higher spiritual purpose, subjugated to the will and wisdom of the higher and absolute authority of G-d. Holiness requires separation from sins in general and from out-of-marriage relationships in particular (Rashi to Leviticus 19:2). The creation of a marriage is called "kidushin [holiness]." An entire marriage relationship is spiritual as a practical matter, pure and holy. Rachel's father Lavan was a swindler and the custom in his place was for the woman to be veiled at her wedding ceremony. When Yakov was about to marry Rachel, they arranged signs to identify her (when Lavan switched Leah for Rachel, Rachel gave the signs to Leah out of compassion to save Leah from public humiliation). The signs were reference to where the Kohain is anointed on the head with oil when he is inaugurated into holy service. This teaches that marriage is a relationship of holiness and is a central part of one's relationship with G-d. Related to spiritual cleanness (tahara).
19. PATIENCE (SAVLONUS) - opens up the heart to enable you to let another person into your heart (Sefer Alufainu Misubalim). Moshe was the foremost prophet who brought the Torah from Heaven to earth and was our foremost leader and the first rabbi. One of the qualifications that enabled him to carry these unique historical distinctions was his mida of patience (Rashi to Numbers 12:3). This is particularly noteworthy in light of 40 years of complaining and badgering from the people whom he lovingly led. One of the most richly rewarded forms of kindness are those which involve waiting for another person who is doing something that he needs to do, particularly if leaving the person alone may subject him to risk of danger (Brachos 5b-6a). Even if there is no danger, it is proper to wait; use the time to do something productive (e.g. read a Torah book) while you are waiting for the person (Tosfos). The Talmud (Eruvin 54b) tells of saintly Rabbi Praida, who worked as a Torah tutor. One of his students was slow to learn the lesson. Rabbi Praida gently and patiently repeated the lesson four hundred times, until the student got it. A voice came from Heaven and told him that for being so unselfish Rabbi Praida merited a longer life in this world and a larger portion in the eternal world. He gave patience generously. Heaven gave him patience generously. Patience is especially valuable when used to avoid sinful or selfish behavior, fights, anger and differences - especially when preserving peace with all people, staying calm, pleasing your spouse and refraining from sin. Humility is a key good mida, and patience is a measure of your humility. We can see how much you truly can cancel your ego. Patience has practical application in every day life: don't park in front of someone's driveway, don't push in front of someone on a line, don't blow your car horn the split second a light turns green, don't rush a minyan because you are in a hurry, don't yell at your spouse for taking longer than you expect to do something, etc. To be continued.