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Does the Torah require a person to

1- uproot and change the source of bad middos (and not simply to deny and suppress his desires)

or

2- deny and suppress his desires and behavior (but not necessarily to uproot the source)?

(I know that I'm simplifying what should be a more subtle and nuanced concept(s), and my question might be setting up a false dichotomy, but I'm asking the question this way anyways for the sake of simplicity.)

  • When you say the Torah, are you asking about Chumash and Tanakh, or any rabbinic literature? There are certainly chassidic teachings that 1) discuss the elimination of particular desires (see azamra.org/Advice/understanding.html and azamra.org/Advice/eating.html, for example), or 2) see certain things (like a lack of emunah broadly conceived) as the source of bad middos and advocate eliminating them through achieving that thing (see the works of R' Lazer Brody and R' Shalom Arush, for example). – Kordovero Jan 22 '15 at 20:55
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    I think your attempt at simplicity makes the question more confusing. Could you give an example of a bad midah and how options one and two apply? – Daniel Jan 22 '15 at 21:13
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This is an attempt at an answer from the Rambam and does not purport to provide all the Torah views that may exist.

See Maimonides on Life who quotes Rambam's famous middle way from Hilchos Deos Ch 1

Law 3 "The two extremes of each quality are not the proper and worthy path for one to follow or train himself in. And if a person finds his nature inclining towards one of them or if he has already accustomed himself in one of them, he must bring himself back to the good and upright path."

Law 4 "The upright path is the middle path of all the qualities known to man. This is the path which is equally distant from the two extremes, not being too close to either side. Therefore the Sages instructed that a person measure (lit., estimate) his character traits, directing them in the middle path so he will be whole.

The article discusses the concept in depth and explains that:

We must not gauge ourselves based on our surroundings. If we follow what appears the middle path today, we will lead a mediocre existence indeed.

It seems therefore that the Rambam sees middos as not necessarily being all bad (even anger for example) or good but as a continuum in which we must position our behaviour appropriately.

Therefore it seems that he does not seek to uproot and change the source of bad middos.

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