The Golden Median by Rabbi Yosef Adler


            Our parsha begins with arrival of three מלאכים at Avraham's tent.  Rashi states that each angel was assigned a specific task, one to inform Sarah of her impending birth, the second to destroy Sedom and Amorah and the third to heal Avraham having just performed the mitzvah of Brit Mila.  As the destruction of Sedom was about to unfold, Hashem says in Perek יח Pasuk יז: המכסה אני מאברהם אשר אני עשה - "Will I hide my intentions concerning Sedom from Avraham?"  The actual dialogue begins in Pasuk כ.  The interim two Pasukim are editor's [God] comments about Avraham.  ואברהם היו יהיה לגוי גדול...כי ידעתיו למען אשר יצוה את בניו ואת ביתו אחריו ושמרו דרך ה' לעשות צדקה ומשפט.  "Avraham will be a great nation for I realize that he will guide his children to follow the way of God to engage in צדקה ומשפט."

            Rambam in Perek א of הלכות דעות claims that this Pasuk is the basis for the requirement to follow the דרך האמצעי or more frequently referred to as שביל הזהב, the golden median.  Rambam writes וכיצד ירגיל אדם עצמו בדעות אלו יעשה וישנה וישלש במעשים שעושה על פי הדעות האמצעיות... וזה נקרא דרך ה' והיא שלמד אברהם אבינו לבניו שנאמר כי ידעתיו למען אשר יצוה את בניו. וההולך בדרך זו מביא טובה וברכה לעצמו - "A person ought to train himself to conduct himself in the middle path.  This is called the way of God."  It is this that Avraham communicated to his children.  Following this path will bring blessing and good fortune to all.

            The traditional understanding of this directive is that for each characteristic trait one should never pursue the extremes but rather find themselves somewhere in the middle.  When faced with a provocative situation don't be too passive and let it slide, but on the other hand, do not overreact.  However, the Rav זצ"ל believed that this was not the correct interpretation of this cardinal rule.  He did not believe that Rambam wanted you to be a perfectly predictable person that in any given scenario we could know exactly how you would respond.  This is not what Rambam has in mind.  The שביל הזהב is called the דרך ה', God's way.  God is not always predictable.  At times he appears as the ארך אפים all merciful and compassionate and at other times as קל קנא God seeking vengeance.  הקב"ה is identified as the עושה שלום but at other times he is the איש מלחמה.  The שביל הזהב, then, is a process.  A person must evaluate each situation and decide whether this particular one demands a battle cry to war or peace negotiations.  We are not to accept any of the extreme positions.  We should not declare war at all turns nor should we always adopt the policy of appeasement.  If one were to analyze one's responses over the years, he then would fall somewhere in the middle.  Upon occasion you are generous, forgiving, willing to tolerate and on other occasions you demand accountability and react appropriately.  This represents the דרך ה' and one who follows this path will generate ברכה and טובה for himself and his surroundings.


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