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.אמת – שלא להוציא מן הפה דבר שאין הלב מעיד על אמיתותו
Truth- Never speak a word unless your heart can testify to its truth.
Do the words we speak to others clearly reflect the feelings in our heart? It is vital that when we talk with our
friends or family members we open up ourselves and show them who we really are. Our heart serves as a
witness to what we say and who we are. The gemara in Yoma 69b states that Hashem's “seal” is אמת, truth.
By committing to speak the truth in all matters, we are connecting to Hashem in a very powerful way.
. כן לעשות מה שדרוש לעשות.שלא לבטל רגע לבטלה-זריזות
Alacrity- Never waste a single moment; do what has to be done.
Do you grab moments in life or do they slip away? This middah is about grabbing the opportunities that
Hashem puts in front of us when it comes our way. When it comes to doing what has to be done, it's all about
priorities. Some things are clearly not as important to do as others. The sefer Orchos Tzaddikim says that we
learn alacrity from Avraham. Before the Akeida, he "woke up early in the morning" (Bereishis 22:3). We are
not just talking about mitzvos, though. We have to approach daily tasks with this same energy. It can be
emails in your inbox, dishes in the sink, an assignment in school, or laundry. Things need to be accomplished
in a timely fashion.
.חריצות – לעשות מה שהוחלט לעשות בשקידה וברגש
Diligence- Do what you have determined to do and do it with feeling.
How long is your “to do” list? If you are like most people, just when you take one thing off your list, two more
are written down. While the previous middah dealt with doing what has to be done in a timely manner, this is
different. This middah is more about actualizing your decisions by following through. We can make plans to
exercise, start dieting, or even to learn more Torah, but for many these are just “plans”. Making up my mind is
only step one. Step two is to make it happen. Rabbi Yisrael teaches us the secret to following step two. He
says, “Do it with feeling.” To take an idea or make a decision and bring it into this world is a powerful thing.
When we are passionate about what we try to do, we are that much closer to success.
.כבוד – להיזהר בכבוד כל אדם ואפילו של זה שאין אנו תמימי דעה עמו
Honor: Be careful to treat all people with honor, even those with whom you have little in
Do you treat everyone you know with honor? The idea behind this middah is that everyone is created in the
image of Hashem, even if we don’t like them. This means that we have to recognize that their neshama (soul)
is connected to Hashem. We all know sometimes it’s easier to be nice to strangers in a store than it is with
those that we live with. To be known as a nice person on the street isn’t a big deal. Being a nice person
when we enter the front door of our homes is much more difficult. There are people you meet in life that you
simply find it difficult to connect with or even get along with. They might be more or less observant than you,
daven somewhere else, or have totally different values than you do. We can’t forget that they are also
created by Hashem.
. לבלי היות מבוהל ולעשות כל דבר במנוחה,מנוחה – מנוחת הנפש
Tranquility: Find an inner calmness; do not be overwhelmed; always act with deliberation.
Do you find time to relax and chill out? The middah of menucha, or tranquility, is an important and overlooked
trait. We are all so concerned about staying connected and running from place to place that it’s easy to forget
that we need to have a feeling of calmness within us. Rabbi Salanter urges us not to get overwhelmed with
life, especially with problems that arise. If I start out with a sense of balance within me, then it's easier not get
overwhelmed and panic stricken. When we feel the pressure of having too much to do, we find it difficult to
make decisions. This is why it’s suggested to “always act with deliberation.”
. ולכן השתדל לדבר כן,נחת – דברי חכמים בנחת נשמעים
Gentleness: The wise speak in a gentle manner; always try to speak softly.
When do find yourself shouting? The Ramban, in his famous letter, instructs his son to, “Get into the habit of
always speaking calmly to everyone.” Speaking to others gently allows you to not only be heard, but to listen
to another person. When we get aggravated and raise our voice, usually someone will do the same. We end
up yelling so loud that we can’t even hear the other person or their side of the story. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter is
teaching us that that our words are powerful. Everyone has been hurt by something that someone has said to
them. While physical abuse is outwardly more apparent, verbal abuse hurts us on the inside. Sharp words
hurt. Softly spoken words can hurt too, but might be better received.
.ניקיון – ניקיון וטהרה בגופו ובבגדיו
Cleanliness: Attain cleanliness and purity in body and clothing.
How do you appear to other people? This isn’t a lesson in my hygiene and appearance. It's about how the
outside world views me. If I recognize that my neshama was given to me my Hashem, then that needs to be
reflected in how I present myself in the world. If we look in the mirror and are happy with what we see, it
means something. Our outer appearance needs to reflect our inner appearance. The type of Jew we are at
home should also be the type of Jew we are when we are not at home. If we really are children of the King of
Kings, then how we carry ourselves and dress should reflect that honor.
.סבלנות – לסבול במנוחה כל מקרה וכל פגע בחיים
Patience: Calmly confront every situation and absorb each occurrence in life.
Is there someone that eats away your patience? The root of the Hebrew word for patience means load or
burden (based on Alei Shur by Rabbi Shlomo Volbe zt’l). Being a patience person means seeing the whole
picture, the parts we like and parts we don’t like. We might not like the person we are dealing with or a
specific situation, but we carry that with us. Sometimes I'll notice myself getting impatient and just stop what
I'm doing and count backwards from 30 to 1. That usually helps me. We have to remember that challenges
and difficulties are a computer virus. If you stop them early, you can save your operating system.
.סדר – לעשות כל מעשה ועניין בסדר ובמשטר
Orderliness: Carry out your responsibilities in all aspects in an orderly fashion.
What happens when you don’t follow your GPS directions in order? We all know it is important to follow the
correct directions or we’ll get lost. No matter if it’s a school report, project for work, a recipe for dinner, or the
way to perform a mitzvah, there’s an order that has to be followed. It’s easy to get frazzled quickly when
responsibilities stack up. This is why we have to have to know what needs to be done first. Pirkei Avos (5:7),
it states that one of the seven characteristics of a wise person is that, “He responds to first things first and to
latter things later.” This is a simple, yet practical application of the middah of orderliness.
.ענוה – להכיר חסרונות עצמו ולהסיח דעת ממומי חברו
Humility: Recognize your own shortcomings and disregard those of your fellow man.
Do you know anyone that things they are always right? According to Rabbi Salanter, the first step in attaining
humility is realizing our own strengths and weaknesses. We all excel in certain things and there are other
areas that we need to work on. It’s important to remember this when dealing with others. We all need to
learn to see the positive things in others. Each time we deal with someone, we need to stop looking at their
shortcomings and see the positive things that we can learn from others. By doing this we can grow into the
person we are meant to be.
.' 'וותר משלך:צדק – כפשוטו וכדרשתו
Righteousness: In its most basic form; and also to be to “forgo your own interests”.
Are justice and righteousness the same thing? Both can only be measured by a set standard. In our lives,
that standard is Hashem’s Torah. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter says that we
have “to be willing to even give up things that can benefit us. This could include: a parking spot, your seat in
shul, the last delicious brownie, giving a smile or a kind work to another person. Rabbi Salanter’s greatgrandson, Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler zt’l, took this concept of giving and taught that there are two types of
people in the world, givers and takers. Being a giver is truly a righteous thing.
.קמוץ – שלא להוציא פרוטה שלא לצורך
Thrift: Do not spend even a penny unnecessarily
Do we purchase what we need or what we want? This is a very different middah than the previous ones,
because it directly related to so something material. How we spend our money gives us is an indication of
what we value. We need to realize that every dollar and every penny is ultimately given to us by Hashem and
we should be careful about how we spend it. There is nothing wrong with working hard and owning thing that
you feel you deserve. However, affluence isn’t everything. It’s what we do with our money that demonstrates
the quality of who we are. As it states in Eruvin 65b: A person is recognized through three things - his Kos
(how he acts after drinking), his Ka'as (anger), and his Kis (wallet or how he spends).
.שתיקה – יחשוב את התועלת שבדבריו קודם שידבר
Silence: Think about the benefit of your words before you say them.
How often do you say something without really thinking about it? Words reveal our thoughts and allow us to
connect with others. We talk, text, email, constantly, connecting with others. We need to think about what we
say and how those words can help another person. A kind word or show of thanks is an extremely powerful
force. When praying, we also are using the power of speech. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s final middah
challenges each of us to think about the gift of speech. When we communicate with someone, we need to
realize that we are revealing part of our neshama, that which is connected to Hashem, the source of all truth.
This publication was written in merit of a complete recovery for Reuven ben Tova Chaya
and Miriam Orit Bas Devorah and in conjunction with the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisrael
Salanter zt’l (25th of Shevat)
The Hebrew text for the 13 middos is based on written accounts about Rabbi Yisrael Salanter
printed in the sefer Mikor Baruch by Rabbi Baruch Epstein zt”l, page 1111.
My thanks to Rabbi Micha Berger for his essay and chart regarding the 13 middos. Available
For additional copies or a pdf file, please send an email to email@example.com
© 2012 Neil Harris