middot moderation daily living moderation in interaction

moderation in interaction

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-balanceI 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.”

At that point I was pretty sure the conversation had outlived its usefulness for either of us, but his comment did get me thinking. Is there any place to stand if you are constantly weighing both sides of the picture? Are political ideologies coherent enough to make any “mixing” incoherent? At the end of the day, is a moderate view one that trivializes convictions about right and wrong on very important matters? Ultimately, I came to a place where I answered in the affirmative for the first question, and with a resounding “no” to the other two. From my perspective, the world we live in seemed, and still seems to be too complex to come to any other conclusion.


I am not going to advocate people become political moderates like I am (I’m too moderate to do something like that :-). Nevertheless, in considering the middah of moderation some aspects of the values that produce moderate viewpoints can be useful. Moderation becomes important not only in determining how we relate to our own habits, but also in the way we relate to others. When encountering a person with intensely different viewpoints, it is being willing to listen to his/her perspective before making judgments that demonstrates moderation.  We become truly tolerant people when we are comfortable enough with the reality that the “right” response to a given situation may not be the same all the time. This is not to disparage appropriate zeal and conviction. However, when we let our pendulum swing exclusively in the direction of our own views we stunt growth, learning, and the possibility that God is bigger than all of us.  May we all learn to have moderation at the very core of our interactions with others.

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