route of mussar middot chart

middot chart

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Satanov has outline the 13 Middot (character traits) in his book Cheshbon ha-Nefesh[1].

Also added is some description of the middot by Rabbi Menachem Mendel and the Riverton Mussar team.




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Rise above events that are inconsequential - both bad and good for they are not worth disturbing your equanimity.  

For in equanimity, there is balance and level-headedness, the desire for equality.  This middah helps us to stay focused in the easiest and hardest of times. With this trait, we can rise above events that are inconsequential — both bad and good. To be even-keeled and have the ability to maintain composure is a powerful trait.





When something bad happens to you and you did not have the power to avoid it, do not aggravate the situation even more through wasted grief. Just as copper holds its heat well, consistently and equally, so too do people who have patience.  They possess the strength control their heat, or their temper.  They are able to hold their emotions in check and handle stressful or unexpected situations.  People strong in this middah can bring stability and strength to those around them.





All your actions and possessions should be orderly -- each and every one in a set place and at a set time. Let your throughts always be free to deal with that which lies ahead of you. Those who possess order in their lives are a beacon to those around them.  This trait is also coupled with faithfulness and the ability to stay on task. Those who embody order have actions/tasks all of an orderly nature – everything has a set place and at a set time.





All of your acts should be preceded by deliberation; when you have reached a decision, act without hesitating.

This middah is one which helps us in our daily walk by empowering us to accomplish things through directed action daily.  Mashiach Yeshua speaks against wavering and half-hearted observance . We need to learn how to be informed and courageous so that we are not indecisive - for this can cause others to go astray, missed opportunities or worse yet, tragedy.





Let no stain or ugliness be found in your possessions or in your home, and surely not on your body or clothes.

This middah does not merely speak of just physical cleanliness but of cleanliness on a larger scale - that of the soul.  A person of cleanliness also lets no stain or impurity be found in his/her possessions or home, and surely not in one's ethical walk.





Always seek to learn wisdom from every man, to recognize your failings and correct them. In doing so you will learn to stop thinking about your virtues and you will take your mind off your friend's faults.

People who possess this trait are conscientious in their relationships with each other and in their demeanor.  They seek neither to degrade nor puff up those around them, nor think to highly or lowly or themselves.  Mashiach Yeshua plainly says, "The greatest among you shall be to you as a servant. Everyone who lifts himself up will be brought low, but everyone who lowers himself will be lifted up."  (Matthew 23 : 11-12, DHE).  Those who have humility will always seek to learn wisdom from every person and seek to recognize personal failings and correct them. In doing so, one will learn to stop thinking about one’s own virtues and be less concerned with the faults of others.





Rabbi Hillel said: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor." Rashi comments that the women spun the goat's hair directly from the backs of the goats!  By not sheering the entire coat off, the luster remains and make it more wholesome and valuable.  By committing this righteous act, they spare the goat any discomfort by stripping all of its hair in the desert; for truly their hair provided a barrier from the heat and rays of the sun. By clothing ourselves with garments of righteous works and gemilut chasidim (acts of kindness), it is similar to the function of goat-hair in the Mishkan. Those who promote the garb of dignity may rise to a higher level and see the face of Hashem without deficiency, while at the same time bringing honor to those who need it most.?





Be careful with your money. Do not even spend a penny needlessly.

Those empowered with a healthy sense of frugality are concerned with resources of all types.  Their very ability to stretch resources and conserve is a testament to the respect they have for that which is endowed to them - either through ownership or management.  As frugality brings abundance, those who are able to manage with little reap much - here and in the Olam HaBa.  





Always find something to do- for yourself or for a friend and don’t allow a moment of your life to be wasted.

In our own pursuits of being light enough to be moved about in learning and positive growth, we are strong enough to pursue these goals without being shaken or giving up. One who is diligent is eager to learn and grow, persistently working to realize the next level - whatever that may be. The diligent person is never idle – always assessing, always reevaluating.





Before you open your mouth, be silent and reflect: 'What benefit will my speech bring me or others?

Silence is the ultimate purity in speech.  As the menorah in the Temple represented purity and brilliance, so too do we shine like a menorah when we guard our words.  When we exemplify silence so as to not commit lashon hara, we are using our speech in the purest way possible.   Before you open your mouth, be silent and reflect: "What benefit will my speech bring to me or others?"





The words of the wise are stated gently.  In being good, do not be called evil.

In the middah of calmness, we savor life in a very reflective way. We take in the sensory stimulation, process it, absorb it, and make it a part of us.  People who have calmness are able to be thoughtful and contemplative, allowing for creativity to permeate their very existence and help to bring to their community a new flavor, a new presence, an introduction to a new taste of Hashem and His creation.





Do not allow anything to pass your lips that you are not certain is completely true.

Anyone possessing truth is able to live a more conflict-free life; for as truth brings clarity, so too does it bring purpose and determination.  Do not allow anything to pass your lips that you are not certain is completely true.  Be a friend of truth and sponsor it.





Strengthen yourself so you can stop lewd thoughts.

People who are well-versed in this middah accept the appropriate responsibilities and seek to fulfill them and them alone. Those who are strong in this middah can also separate from the visual culture which seeks to overwhelm and draw us away from Hashem. If we draw close to those we are destined to draw close to, and separate ourselves from relationships that are forbidden, unhealthy or unsanctified,  then we will receive what separation has for us as its due reward: holiness. 

[1] Rabbi Mendel of Satanov. Cheshbon ha-Nefesh. (1812). Translated by Dovid Landesman. Feldheim Publishers, New York, 1995.  


Other Middot from Mussar sources:

  • gratitude
  • compassion
  • honor
  • simplicity
  • generosity
  • moderation
  • loving-kindness
  • responsibility
  • trust
  • faith
  • yirah - Fear of God


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