I have to admit that I approach the Days of Awe with some ambivalence. Unlike any of you, I’m a bit melancholic by temperament and I don’t look forward to the somber, gloomy, endless-confession aspect of these days.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates. --Devarim 6:5-9
I was once having a conversation about politics with a gentleman who was quite extreme in his views. At one point he took a break from his discourse to ask me about my political views. When I told him I considered myself to be a moderate his response was, “Oh…so you don’t believe in anything.”
Yeshua is a unique case study for moderation. On the one hand, he is fairly extreme. This is the man who taught his disciples to leave behind everything and follow him.
Sh'vil HaZahav שְבִיל הַזָהַב, the golden middle or mean path, is the Hebrew concept of moderation. And a famous quote to help us with this middah is:
"Keep a mid course between two extremes." – Ovid (43 BCE–18 CE), Roman poet
Use these questions to evaluate your day:
"When one engages in business or in an occupation to earn money, one should not be motivated by desire for gain alone, but by the necessity of supplying his basic requirements, such as food, drink, habitation, and marriage." -- The Ways of the Tzadikkim, The Gate of Love, pg 119
"One should not eat and drink as much as he wishes, but only as much as is necessary to insure the well-being of his body and no more." -- The Ways of the Tzadikkim, The Gate of Love, pg 121
"The righteous eat to their hearts' content, but the stomach of the wicked goes hungry." -- Mishlei 13:25
"Who is mighty? He who subdues his passions, as it is written (Mishlei 16:32) 'One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.' " -- Avot 4:1
Rabbi Eleazar ha-Kappar used to say: "Jealousy, lust, and ambition remove man from the world." -- Avot 4:28
"If a person who withholds himself from wine is called a sinner, how much more so is one a sinner who withdraws from all of life's enjoyments." -- Taanit 11a, 11b
"Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city." -- Mishlei 16:32
"If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please." -- Epictetus
"It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to search out matters that are too deep." -- Mishlei 25:27
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." -- Galatians 5:22-23
Sometimes, when people say “time flies,” or comment on how quickly it goes by, I think, “Compared to what?” We’ll say how quickly a year goes by, but it was a year, whatever it might feel like, so what are we comparing it to when we’re surprised at how short it is?
Once Rabbi Israel [Salanter] and his friend Rabbi Mordecai Meltzer were walking through the narrow sidestreets of Vilna. They stopped and entered a synagogue to join in the minchah service. Rabbi Mordecai poured a copious stream of water over his hands while Rabbi Israel [Salanter] by contrast, merely moistened his, hardly using any water at all.
Astonished Rabbi Mordecai blurted out:"Do you not, sir, observe the custom of washing before praying?"
"Indeed, I do," replied Rabbi Israel [Salanter]. "But I see here that the synagogue is frequented by a limited number of worshippers. Visitors do not usually come here. The shamash certainly intended to provide just enough water for the regular worshippers. If we waste a large quantity, the deficiency will be felt by one of the congregants. He will upbraid the shamash and withhold the few pennies he normally gives. And so we will be guilty of denying the shamash his livelihood."
-- The Mussar Movement Volume 1, Part 2, pages 219 - 220