Page:Eight chapters of Maimonides on ethics.djvu/88

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68

THE ETHICS OF MAIMONIDES

words, "Ye (Israel) have rebelled against me" are, however, to be explained as follows. Moses was not speaking to ignorant and vicious people, but to an assembly, the most insignificant of whose women, as the sages put it, were on a plane with Ezekiel, the son of Buzi.[1] So, when Moses said or did anything, they subjected his words or actions to the most searching examination.[2] Therefore, when they saw that he waxed wrathful, they said, "He has no moral imperfection, and did he not know that God is angry with us for demanding water, and that we have stirred up the wrath of God, he would not have been angry with us". However, we do not find that when God spoke to Moses about this matter He was angry, but on the contrary, said, "Take the staff ... and give drink to the congregation and their cattle".[3]

We have, indeed, digressed from the subject of this chapter, but have, I hope, satisfactorily solved one of the most difficult passages of Scripture concerning which there has been much arguing in the attempt to state exactly what the sin was which Moses committed. Let what others have said be compared with our opinion, and the truth will surely prevail.

Now, let me return to my subject. If a man will always carefully discriminate as regards his actions, directing them to the medium course, he will reach the highest degree of perfection possible to a human being, thereby approaching God,[4] and sharing in His happiness. This is the most acceptable way of serving God which the sages, too, had in mind when they wrote the words, "He who ordereth his course aright is worthy of seeing the salvation of God, as it is said, 'to him that ordereth his course aright will I show, will I show the salvation of God!'[5] Do not read wesam but wesham derek".[6] Shumah means "weighing" and "valuation". This is exactly the idea which we have explained in this chapter.

This is all we think necessary to be said on this subject.


  1. Mekilta to בשלח‎ (Ex. XV, 2).
  2. See Moreh, I, 4, on the interpretation of Ex. XXIII, 8.
  3. Num. XX, 8.
  4. See below, c. VII, n. 5a. On nearness to God (התקרבות‎), see Cohen, Charakteristik, etc., in Moses b. Maimon, vol. I, pp. 106, and 124.
  5. Ps. L, 23.
  6. Sotah, 5b; Mo'ed Ḳaṭan, 5a.