Which is the proper path that one should choose for oneself? That which is honorable to the one who adopts it and also merits the admiration of others (Ethics of the Fathers 2:1).

At first glance, this statement is bothersome. Right and wrong are, we know, absolute and not subject to public opinion. “The admiration of others” should have no place in determining morality.

The statement is not referring here to what is right versus what is wrong. Rather, it is discussing the mode of conduct within the realm of what is right.

The Midrash relates that Rabbi Shimon ben Shatach bought a mule from an Arab, and when his students discovered a precious gem in the saddlepack, they congratulated him on his good fortune. Rabbi Shimon responded, “I bought a mule, not a precious gem.” He sought out the Arab and he returned the gem to him. The Arab said, “Blessed be the God of Rabbi Shimon ben Shatach.”

Ethical behavior elicits admiration and serves as an example for others.

Today I shall …
… try to behave in a manner that goes beyond right and wrong, and make my “right” into a “true right.”


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