Golden mean (Judaism)

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In Jewish literature, the golden mean (Hebrew: "שביל הזהב", "דרך האמצע", "דרך האמצעיה", "דרך האמצעית") is primarily associated with the philosopher Rambam, and was influenced by the Greek philosopher Aristotle.[1][2][3][4] In Mishneh Torah, Rambam attributes the method to the first scholars (Chazal) and to Abraham. Similar concepts exist in the Rabbinic literature, Tosefta, and the Yerushalmi. Rabbi Yitzhak Arama also finds references in the Bible.

Rambam determined that a person needs to take care of the soul as well as the body, and just as a sick person turns to a doctor, a person with mental illness must turn to the doctor of the soul, which is the philosopher or the sage. Rambam opposed the deterministic approach, arguing that a person has free will and the ability to shape his or her life.

The concepts are part of a system which aims to improve the mental and moral qualities of a person. The hallmark of this method is its simplicity, presented as a part of Rambam's perception about the nature of the soul in the fourth chapter of his introduction to Pirkei Avot in the Mishnah (also known as the "Eight Chapters").

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  1. ^ Soloveitchik, Elijah Zvi (2019). The Bible, the Talmud, and the New Testament: Elijah Zvi Soloveitchik's Commentary to the Gospels. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 98 n 59. ISBN 978-0-8122-5099-2. This rabbinic depiction of the "middle path" is Soloveitchik's adaptation of the Maimonidean "golden mean." Maimonides adopts from Aristotle's Ethics refracted through the Islamic theology of 'Al Farabi and others.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Michael; Harris, Howard, eds. (2020). War, Peace and Organizational Ethics. Emerald Group Publishing. ISBN 978-1-83982-778-5. According to Heschel (1982), Maimonides took this idea of the middle way from Aristotle - but with some specific variations.
  3. ^ Lagerlund, Henrik, ed. (2010). Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy: Philosophy Between 500 and 1500. Springer. p. 332. ISBN 978-1-4020-9728-7. Maimonides adopts the Aristotelian notion that to become morally virtuous humans must practice the middle way (Weiss and Butterworth 1975)
  4. ^ Zimmerman, Binyamin (17 January 2016). "Shiur#24: The Uniqueness of Jewish Character and Ethics". Etzion Virtual Beit Midrash. Many have searched for the exact sources of the Rambam and have found that the Rambam bases much, if not most, of his explanations regarding the proper character traits and the golden mean on the works of Aristotle’s Ethics and Al-Farabi’s Fusul al-Madani (See Raymond L. Weiss’s Maimonides' Ethics: The Encounter of Philosophic and Religious Morality, p. 23, for comparisons of the works.)