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30 MIDOS AND EXPLANATIONS (CLICK ON A MIDOH). Note the list of virtues which are directed to others versus to oneself.
2. FEAR OF HEAVEN (YIRA),
3. KINDNESS (CHESED),
4. ZEAL (Z'REEZUS),
5. CONSISTENCY (AKAIVIYUS),
6. SUBMISSION TO G-D (HACHNA'A),
7. PURE-HEARTEDNESS (TEMIMUS),
8. JUST (TSEDEK),
9. SELF-CONTROL/DISCIPLINE (GEVURA),
10. GOOD-HEARTED (LAIV TOV),
11. HONOR/RESPECT (KAVOD),
12. MERCY/COMPASSION (RACHMANUS),
13. LOVE (AHAVA),
14. BESTOWAL OF GOOD (HATAVA),
15. BENEFIT OF DOUBT (KAF Z'CHUS)
16. APPRECIATION/GRATITUDE (HAKARAS TOVA),
17. WILL (RATZON),
18. HOLINESS (KEDUSHA),
19. PATIENCE (SAVLONUS),
20. TRUTHFULNESS (MODEH AL HA'EMMESS),
21. KEEPING ONE'S WORD (OMAID BIDIBURO),
22. SLOW TO ANGER (KASHEH LICHOSE),
23. NEVER INTERRUPT (NICHNAS BISOCH DIVRAY CHAVAYRO),
24. SOFTNESS (RACH KIKONEH),
25. OVERLOOKING TRANSGRESSION (MA'AVIR AL PESHA),
26. LETTING GO OF HAVING ONE'S WAY (MA'AVIR AL MIDOSOV),
27. RESPONSIBILITY (ACHARAYUS),
28. MODESTY (TZNEEYUS),
29. HAPPINESS (SIMCHA),
30. PEACE (SHALOM).
1. HUMILITY (ANAVA) - the Talmud says that humility is the greatest of all good midos. The Orchos Tzadikim says that humility is the good mida from which all other good midos stem (conversely, its opposite, gaiva [arrogance-haughtiness] is the principle bad mida from which all other bad midos stem). Humility is removal of barrier between yourself and another, whether G-d or other people. Humility lets your mind and heart "make room and let the other in." Conversely; arrogance, impatience and anger let no one into your mind and heart but yourself. Humility is canceling of ego and self-centeredness (regardless of whether psychology says this is "good" or "healthy"). Only with humility can you relate to, identify with and have empathy for another. Only with humility in both partners can there be a fulfilling, functioning, stable and "barrier free" relationship. Humility is the trait which entitled Moshe to be the one who brought the Torah from Heaven to earth. G-d called Moshe the most humble person who ever lived. Moshe could be the most perfect instrument for the faithful delivery of the Torah which, by definition, has to be pure, without any adulteration or pollution that arises out of ego. Torah and humility go together.
2. FEAR OF HEAVEN (YIRA) - use of free-will stands or falls on one's fear of sin. Not everyone arrives at the level of "love of G-d," so the basic, common imperative for the proper use of one's free-choice decision-making powers is fear of misusing free choice and getting punished. One's choice to fear or not to fear the will of Heaven is the only thing which one truly owns. Everything else is a gift from G-d: e.g. money, power, looks, intellect, talent, achievements, spouse. These are exclusively given as a test by and for the service of G-d, as expressed through your kindness, charity, justice and mitzvos. Fear of doing wrong is the only "red flag" with which to stop oneself from sin and from wronging people; and in a relationship context, from neglecting your commitments and responsibilities. Fear is one of the few midos openly required right in the Torah, which says (Deuteronomy 10:12), "And now, Israel, what does G-d ask of you but to fear G-d, to go in all of His ways and to love Him and to serve G-d with all your heart and with all your personality." We see that fear should be a steppingstone to the higher mida of love and that the goal, whether motivated by fear or the higher motivation of love, is to go in G-d's ways and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your personality. The next verse (Deuteronomy 10:13) follows smoothly, "Keep all of G-d's commandments that you understand, and all of His commandments that you don't understand, that I command of you this day that it be good for you." In the Siddur we say each morning, "A person must ALWAYS fear Heaven."
3. KINDNESS (CHESED) - an active and giving state. It is driven by continual wish to help, benefit, care, do. Each Jew is created: * in the image of G-d, * with a good and spiritual capabilities. If you allow these to dominate, these drive you to model your midos and behaviors after the benevolent midos and behaviors that are attributed to G-d. Further, these will be what you perceive in the other person, together with their attributes. And, you will recognize that the other is a soul of infinite and incalculable worth and value. You will seek to bring out in yourself more and more G-dliness at all times through meaningful and benevolent giving. You will relate more and more to the G-d given soul in the one to whom you meaningfully give.
4. ZEAL (Z'REEZUS) - it is not enough to do something you should do. Do it with speed and motivation. Laziness, the opposite of zeal, is an extraordinarily evil trait (Orchos Tzadikim). It is one of the favorite tools of the yaitzer hora [evil inclination], and is one of the most effective obstacles to doing what is necessary and to preventing the negatives that must be guarded against. The Mesilas Yesharim refers to laziness as love of comfort, rest and pleasure and disdain for inconvenience or bother. One should run from laziness like one runs from a house on fire (Rabbi Nachman of Breslav). The lazy person will never meaningfully accomplish with his life (some people are lazy in "selected" areas which they wish to avoid, while others are lazy in all ways). Rather, one must be swift and enthusiastic to do mitzvos, to grow and to be engaged in meritorious activities. Zeal must be applied both to doing the things that should be done and undoing/stopping the things that should not be done (Orchos Tzadikim).
The Talmud (Pesachim 4a) says, "The zealous are quick to do mitzvos." When G-d commanded Avraham in the binding of Yitzchok (to test Avraham's devotion), "Avraham rose early in the morning (Genesis 22:3)." Even though the prospect of sacrificing his son was painful and crushing, Avraham was zealous to do the will of G-d. This is the way the righteous do the will of G-d (Orchos Tzadikim). Don't put off something which must be done - not even for a day, for a moment, until you feel less lazy, or until a more convenient time. Zeal is the beginning of all good midos (Avoda Zara 20b). Act as if you must do it now and as if you will not get another chance. Rabbi Yisroel Salanter made a point to daven mincha early in the afternoon. On the day he died, he davened mincha early and passed away later that afternoon. Because of zeal, he had one more mitzva in his lifetime.
Do all mitzvos quickly and with enthusiasm, including fulfillment of all their details, and tshuva [return] from any improper behaviors, and work to improve as a person, with rapidity and zeal (Orchos Tzadikim).
The very first law in the Shulchan Aruch (Code Of Jewish Law) is, "Strengthen yourself like a lion to wake up in the morning to serve the Creator." This must be with zeal (Ramo, Tur). You can't even start to look at Torah law without a "zeal mind-set."
5. CONSISTENCY (AKAIVIYUS) - uniformity of actions, standards, religious faith; and relationship between mental concepts or ideals and behavior. Consistency is vitally important for trust in a relationship and to growing as a human being. Rabbi Dessler (Michtav Me'Eliyahu, vol. 4) describes "consistency" as a mida which, when practiced, will build other good midos.
6. SUBMISSION TO G-D (HACHNA'A) - the ability to submit your will to higher authority, to the will of G-d. This is fundamental to growth, spirituality, to conquering ego or arrogance, to elevating behavior and to developing as a human being.
7. PURE-HEARTEDNESS (TEMIMUS). Whole, straightforward, simple, honest, uncomplicated, sincere - from your innermost depth. One of the few midos whose obligation comes from an open verse in the Torah (Deuteronomy 18:13), "You will be perfect with your G-d." You accept everything that comes as being from G-d, as being purely for the good and as G-d's supervision of every slightest detail in your life and in the world, whether you like it or not. You don't change from what you have to do to obey the will of G-d. You don't add or subtract. This mida is somewhat a measure of your spiritual integrity, in that the more you apply it, the more precisely you fulfill the Torah. The more that one develops pure-heartedness, the more G-d's providence in your life becomes closer, more revealed and more evident to you. You're watching the Torah more precisely, so G-d watches you more precisely. You don't convolute, dilute or add with personal modifications. You leave improvising to jazz musicians. You view G-d and all that happens as emanating from Him and as perfect.
8. JUST (TSEDEK) - always striving to be fair, right and considerate. Aggressive pursuit of justice is a Torah obligation stated in Deuteronomy 16:20, "Justice, justice you will pursue". Related to fair judgement (mishpat) and honest straightness (yosher).
9. SELF-CONTROL/DISCIPLINE (GEVURA). The true test of strength is the inner strength to control and discipline oneself for the will of G-d. Without this, one's personal emotions gush freely forth, rule him and he is but a weakling who is slave to his impulses. Shows of alleged strength in life at others' expense, especially in human relations, are merely tyranny and bullying. Gevura is especially important (in conjunction with humility and submission) for the conquest of anger, arrogance, jealousy, impatience, physical desire, pursuit of honor or power, or any intense or emotional shortcoming. Chapter four of Pirkei Avos puts it as follows: "Who is truly strong? The one who subdues his inclinations, as it is said (Proverbs 16:32), 'Better is the one who is slow to anger than the strong hero, and the one who rules his spirit is better than the one who conquers a city.'" Gevura is also a counterbalance for excessive or misplaced kindness. A mother refuses to give her little son much candy because it will rot his teeth. The pleasure of the candy would be outweighed by the suffering from tooth decay, loss of teeth or the dentist's drill. The mother would have to know to hold back (with gevura) when the child screams, demands nosh or calls mommy "mean." Balance and moderation, in general, are central to midos and to emotional health.
10. GOOD-HEARTED (LAIV TOV) - giving, cheerful, pleasant, soft, adaptable, warm, positive, wise. A good-hearted person feels for and gets along with all others, whether family, friends, neighbors, in business, folks on the street. Every opportunity for kindness or giving is joyous. The one with a good heart is happy for the good of others and feels heartened by good coming to everybody. He wants to actively do as much good (or shielding from bad) for others as he possibly can. Pirkei Avos says that a good heart contains all other good attributes.
11. HONOR/RESPECT (KAVOD) - high regard and esteem; attributing weight ("kavod" is related to "kavaid," weighty), value, importance, credibility, trustworthiness, merit, quality; willful, active and responsive adaptation of your behavior to always demonstrate and deliver these uncompromisingly in the most reverent and dignified fashion. No marriage can have peace unless each partner gives enormous kavod to the other. The Torah requires kavod for fellow Jews and especially Torah scholars, parents, older siblings, older-generation relatives (often including related through marriage), spouse and the elderly.
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.
20. TRUTHFULNESS (EMMESS, MODEH AL HA'EMMESS) - a sign of your wisdom and character is your ability to speak truth, which includes * saying, "I don't know," regarding that which you don't know about, * refraining from saying what you know to be false, * refraining from offering what you are not able to do or give, * refraining from offering something for the purpose of making yourself seem nice - when in your heart you don't really want to do it (e.g. offering a gift or invitation that you hope or expect the person will refuse to take), * having the courage to say, "I admit it, you are right, I am wrong, I'm sorry," * saying G-d's "true truth," not "flesh and blood truth," such as not saying that you "truly" believe there is a fault in another [e.g. "You are/so-and-so is ugly, fat, stupid, clumsy"] in a way that hurts the other person's feelings (because hurting feelings is a Torah prohibition - and hurting people is NOT G-D'S TRUTH), * scrupulously and uncompromisingly keeping your word and monetary obligations - at all times.
A Jew must be ready, willing and able to say and acknowledge truth, even when it will be painful or against one's ego. Without the ability to speak and admit truth, human relations and society cannot endure (Pirkei Avos chapter one). G-d hates the person who speaks one thing with his mouth and another thing in his heart (Pesachim 113b). In the Siddur we say each morning, "A person must ALWAYS acknowledge the truth and speak truth in his heart."
21. KEEPING ONE'S WORD (OMAID BIDIBURO) - one's word is very serious. A Jew must always be honest and never be false or deceitful (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, chapter 62). When you say you are going to do something, you are obligated to do it, and do it fully as stated, in a timely and pleasant manner. One must speak with * the understanding that one is committing himself to fulfillment of his words, and * intent to fulfill those words. Generally, the more the issue (the subject matter of your word) means to the other person/the recipient, the more serious your obligation is to fulfill your word to him/her.
So strong is the Torah value of fulfilling one's word, that even if you only * partially express that you will do something or * give a signal or hint that you will do something or * decide silently in your heart to do something, you should do it.
Even though some cases may not be legally enforceable should you retract (e.g. making a non-damaging mark on an article as a signal to a merchant that you will buy the article, or deciding in your heart to do a good deed), the Talmud requires extra stringency when one's word pertains to: * a spouse, * one's children, * peace, * any person in need or trouble, * any mitzva and * matters of money or business; and the Talmud negatively characterizes a person who retracts from his word (even in a case that isn't legally enforceable - depending on the precise conditions) as being repugnant, cursed, lacking faith, etc.
This all applies when it involves another person or involves a Torah obligation or concerns any kind of vow or oath.
In a case that involves only oneself AND does not involve a Torah obligation (e.g. "I will buy myself ice cream") AND it was not an oath or vow of any kind, one is generally not obligated to keep his word (although it would be good practice).
Whenever you say that you will do something, always use the phrase "blee nedder (literally: without a vow)." "Blee nedder" means to say that you fully and sincerely intend and agree to do a given thing, but if something beyond your control or unforeseen prevents you from doing it, you are not considered as having broken your word. One should never use any oath-type language (e.g. "promise" or "swear" or "vow" to do something). Any non-fulfillment would count as a serious sin. One should always say, "I will do such-and-such, BLEE NEDDER."
If you took on commitment for something too big, or if something unforeseen came about which blocked you from keeping your word (in a way that was beyond your control), or if you expressed anything and need to know the implications, take all such matters as a question to a competent rov.
22. SLOW TO ANGER (KASHEH LICHOSE) - maintain self-control, gentleness, management of your behavior from what your intellect knows and from your awareness of what is for the greatest long-run good. Behaving in accordance with G-d's will is imperative at all times (no exceptions) and anger is an impenetrable barrier to doing so. A midrash compares anger to idolatry. Rambam calls anger "evil to the utmost." As a practical matter, anger is a behavior that people in a relationship will (immediately or eventually) cease to tolerate. People in relationships sooner or later abandon the angry person. The angry person is viewed as crazy (Orchos Tzadikim) and is left with nothing in the end except his anger (Kidushin 41a). For practical matters to be worked out in relationships, there should be an atmosphere of calm, stability, trust, "two-sidedness" and emotional security.
23. NEVER INTERRUPT (NICHNAS BISOCH DIVRAY CHAVAYRO) - Pirkei Avos calls a person who interrupts an idiot. Not interrupting is a sign of a wise person and of respectful relating. This applies all the moreso if someone is expressing a Torah thought or their part in a discussion with you or someone else.
24. SOFTNESS (RACH KIKONEH) - be bendable as a reed (Ta'anis 20b); don't be pushy (Eruvin 13b); don't be rigid, angry or stubborn (except when there is danger to life or assault on Torah); don't do things that indicate abrasiveness or hardness of spirit. Always remain calm, relaxed, gentle, courteous, sweet, easy-going and thoughtful. When one is hard, stormy situations in life can tear him apart. The one who is soft and adaptable, flows better with adverse situations and remains standing when the storm is over.
25. OVERLOOKING TRANSGRESSION (MA'AVIR AL PESHA) - the Talmud (Megilah 28a) tells us that the person who overlooks another's transgressions against him (alternatively: waives his right to retribution) is forgiven all of his sins. The prophet Micha (7:18) tells us that G-d pardons iniquity and passes over transgression. The Talmud asks whose sins are thus forgiven by G-d (as referred to by Micha)? The person who overlooks another's transgression against him.
Rabbi Huna Ben Yehoshua became deathly ill. From his ruach hakodesh [Divine knowledge], Rav Papo said it was his time to die. However, he recovered. Rav Papo asked how he survived. Through his ruach hakodesh, Rav Huna saw that because he was not strict with others, G-d was not strict with him (Rosh HaShana 17a).
26. LETTING GO OF HAVING ONE'S WAY (MA'AVIR AL MIDOSOV) - don't require that things have to be one way or "my way." Don't be strict, precise, exacting or picky. The internal power to give way is key to emotional and spiritual growth, health and repair. Similar to "mivater (gives in)." "Giving in" and "letting go of one's way" never implies compromise of any Torah principle. These are applied to FULFILL Torah principles! G-d loves the person with this mida (Pesachim 113b).
27. RESPONSIBILITY (ACHARAYUS) - the internalized personal quality of making certain that things that have to happen, do happen (as appropriate or necessary) and making certain that things that have to not happen, do not happen (as appropriate or necessary). This applies in obligations to other people (family, creditors, employees, employers, neighbors, one's community, etc.) and to G-d (mitzvos, spiritual growth, prayer, etc.). Pirkei Avos (chapter two) says, "In a place where something is needed and there is no one [doing it], strive to be the needed person [i.e. strive to get the needed thing done]."
Included in practical responsibility are punctuality, delivering all that you owe to others (in every context), guarding against damaging or bothering other people, giving others peace of mind about your doing or producing what you are responsible for and conveying to them clearly that you can be relied upon, and doing everything in a mature and effective fashion.
The Hebrew word for "responsibility" is "acharayuss," from the word "acher (after)." The meaning is that true responsibility is "follow-up" - staying with something "after" - making sure that what should be is, and that what shouldn't be isn't - in practical and complete terms.
A good test that one is responsible is: do RESPONSIBLE PEOPLE rely on you? How much of a long-term, consistent track record do you have? When they are expecting something of you or are depending on you, do they have no second thoughts that the thing will be done (so much so, that if you don't manage to deliver, they KNOW it is beyond your control [heavy traffic, you got seriously sick, etc.]). What is your reputation with responsible people? Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevits z'l, former Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, said, "An irresponsible person is a fool. Responsibility is the foundation of being a human being."
28. MODESTY (TZNEEYUS) - a Jew must always operate so as to be consistent with the prophetic injunction (Micha 6:8), "walk modestly with your G-d." Modesty is one of the main ingredients in achieving sanctity and holiness. When men and women carry themselves in a "comprehensively modest" manner, in their clothes and demeanor for example, and by keeping quiet and out of the "limelight" in the background, they are promoting their achievement of the Torah's goals.
29. HAPPINESS (SIMCHA) - defined by Orchos Tzadikim as "calm in the heart without any sense of wound." Happiness is key to functioning in life and in a relationship. "Who is truly rich? The one who is HAPPY with what he has (Pirkei Avos, chapter four)." Appreciation of all benefits that you have is important, particularly when you appropriately express appreciation to G-d or to a person to whom you owe it. However, appreciation, without happiness, does not alone assure that you are happy with what you have. When what you have makes you happy, it reflects the inner capacity to be happy. When you need external things to seem to feel happy, it reflects the absence of intrinsic, genuine happiness. Life comes with myriad demands, difficulties, pressures and obligations. To deal and cope with the world optimally, the Jew should be fully happy - in plain normal life, without dependency upon externals. Then, one will be able to interchange on a happy basis in all dealings, challenges and relationships. From my counseling experience, I consistently see that one who is unhappy and looks to others for happiness will only spread unhappiness. One can only make others happy if he is happy inside, and one can only be made to be happy by others if he is happy inside. And, being happy, one can fulfill the scriptural imperative to "Serve G-d with happiness (Psalms 100:2)."
30. PEACE (SHALOM) - the highest value and goal of all; there is nothing more important than ongoing, optimal harmony, peace, calm, unity, tranquility. Peace is the most important trait for human relations. Shalom is the only pipeline through which blessing comes down to earth from Heaven (Bamidbar Raba). G-d hates and punishes fighting, anger, hate or separation. If you have to back-off, keep quiet or give in; peace is more important. You have to spend money, impose upon yourself, strive actively and relentlessly - to bring and maintain peace. If you ever have a question of "principle," ask a competent and experienced orthodox rabbi for Torah instruction and for establishment of TRUE priorities. [The Torah's] "ways are sweet and all of its paths are peace" (Proverbs 3:17). Everything must be directed towards, and be consistent with, shalom, so that Hashem will direct blessing to where peace is found, and to where unity is achieved for the long-run.
Psalms 34:15 says, "Love peace and pursue it." Based on this verse, the midrash (Vayikra Raba) cites that peace (shalom) is different from other mitzvos. Other mitzvos apply when they come to you. If I find a lost article, it is a mitzva to return it to its owner. Before the mitzva applies, I have to find the property. If I don't happen to find lost property, there's no mitzva. I can't hurry and keep shabos on Tuesday. I have to wait till it comes to me.
Peace is different. Every Jew is obligated to actively seek, promote, build and maintain peace. You don't wait for it to come. You make it happen. You exhibit character and courage. You get obstacles or inhibitions out of the way. You forgive. You travel to another place to bring about peace. You exert yourself actively and creatively...in your own relationships and in those of any other Jews. You appease a person in a quarrel (whether his quarrel is with you or another).
Whenever Moshe's brother Aaron heard that there was any argument between Jews, he ran to make peace between them (Sanhedrin 6b). When Aaron died, the Torah (Numbers 20:29) says that the entire Jewish nation mourned for 30 days. Why such nationwide tribute and grief? Because when two people would quarrel, Aaron would quickly run to one and say, "Your friend feels so badly to be in a quarrel with you. He is ashamed for wronging you. He told me he loves you so much but doesn't know the words with which to make up." He would stay with the person until all enmity was gone from the person's heart. Aaron would then quickly run to the second friend and say the same. Both would say, "How can I remain in a fight with such a beloved friend?" Both would go to the other and meet and, without saying a word, each would hug the other and be best of friends (Avos DeRebi Noson, chapter 12). Aaron did this to make peace all of his life. Israel loved him.
The Torah (Leviticus 26:6) tells of the bounty of the land of Israel (rain, crops, fruit, wealth) and G-d says, "And I will give the land peace." Rashi writes, "Perhaps you will say, 'I have what to eat and drink, but without peace there is nothing.' So the verse teaches, 'And I will give the land peace,' from which we know that peace is EQUAL TO ALL other blessings combined together."
"Learned people increase peace in the world (Brachos 64a)." By definition, if someone decreases peace (arguing, being adversarial, insulting, instigating, etc.), no matter how much "book learning" he has, he does not know Torah. "Great is peace and hated is fighting (Sifri Naso 42)."
"If a person cannot afford to buy [both] a candle for shabos and wine for kiddush, a shabos candle takes precedence; and, similarly, if a person cannot afford to buy [both] a candle for shabos and a candle for Chanuka, a shabos candle takes precedence; because of PEACE in the house, for there is no PEACE without light [which the relatively larger shabos or yom tov candle provides; Orech Chayim, Hilchos Shabos, 263:3]."
"A pauper who sustains himself from charity must sell his clothing, or must borrow or must rent himself [as a hired worker] in order to have wine for the four [Passover seder] cups" [Orech Chayim, Hilchos Pesach, 472:13]. "And the [yom tov/holiday] candle for the house is a higher priority than the four cups [if he can't obtain money for both wine and candle] because of PEACE in the house" (Mishna Brura #41, commenting on the above Passover halacha].
The fifth chapter of Pirkei Avos tells us, "Every argument which is for the sake of Heaven, will, in the end, endure. Every argument which is not for the sake of Heaven, will not, in the end, endure. Which controversy was for the sake of Heaven? The debates of Hillel and Shammai. Which controversy was not for the sake of Heaven? The rebellion of Korach and his group."
The commentaries explain that a key differentiating point between arguments which are or aren't for the sake of Heaven is whether it is only a quest for G-d's truth in the question at hand. Hillel and Shammai analyzed Torah law and came to differing conclusions. But they always were gentle and at peace with each other, so much so that the students from both schools married each other's families. Their only controversy was establishing G-d's truth so that they could determine His law and perform His will. There was no other "agenda," no personality battles, no quest for victory over the other. To this day, every day, the words of Hillel and Shammai are studied in the Talmud.
Rabbi Shnayur Kotler z'l of Lakewood had an extremely busy schedule. He once had to run into a chasuna, having time only to say "mazal tov." He told his driver that he would be back immediately. After ten minutes, the driver started getting nervous. When the Rosh Yeshiva returned, he understood the driver would be concerned over the delay. "I had a machlokess [dispute] in halacha [Torah law] with another rov who was at this chasuna. I spent ten minutes speaking with him in a friendly manner, so that he and the public would know there is no personal animosity."
"Great is peace between husband and wife (Chulin 141a)."
Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel (in the Talmud, Avos DeRebi Noson 28:3) says that a person who brings peace into his house is considered by G-d as if he brought peace on the entire Jewish people. Consider that this means: the merit for making peace in your home is as if you made EVERY Jewish individual or group in any argument with another come to peace. The reward is unfathomably huge!
In Parshas Noach, we see that G-d destroyed the world with a flood for the crime of "chomos," which Chazal define as "petty theft." For example, if a person owned a rice store, everyone in town would steal one piece of rice. The store owner would not sue thieves for stealing one piece of rice but since everyone in town was stealing in "cute" ways that were technically not a basis for suit, everyone got away with it while they drove each other bankrupt. For this, mankind had to be destroyed. except righteous Noach and his family. At the end of the Parsha, mankind declares war on G-d, builds a tower in Bavel and seeks to kill G-d. Idolatry is one of the three sins for which man must give his life rather than violate. Since the whole world was committing the worst level of idolatry: to "kill" G-d, you would think that Hashem would have wanted to destroy the world for building the tower to Heaven and universal rebellion against Him, but all G-d did was "invent" languages, so that they could not communicate and consummate their plot. Why was the severe punishment doled out by G-d for petty stealing while the major sin of universal idolatry, at its worst level, was merely responded to by the "invention" of different languages? Because by stealing, people were hurting one another while with their rebellion, people had universal shalom. So great is peace that G-d will not let Soton punish people for as serious a sin as idolatry when they have peace, because "peace is the greatest thing [gadol hashalom, Midrash Raba]."
There is no merit for saying mourner's Kaddish without shalom. The purpose of Kaddish is a public Kidush HaShem as a merit for the deceased. If there is argument, this is chilul HaShem [profanation of G-d], which defeats the purpose. If more than one are saying Kaddish, they must do so with unity. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein z'l said that if someone argues in a minyan over who should say Kaddish, the merit is taken away from the soul related to the person who argued and goes to the soul related to the person who kept shalom.
All major parts of prayer, and Shas, conclude with peace. For example, the Birkas Kohanim ends with peace. We culminate the Shmoneh Esray with the prayer for peace. If one does not truly want peace with every one, he says G-d's name in vain there - every time he davens! The last Mishna in Shas ends speaking about peace. Everything must culminate in peace.
Don't wait for peace to come on its own. Love it and chase it. At all times, "gadol hashalom," the greatest thing in human relations is peace.