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The Rambam uses an unusual word in Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah 5:11: ולא ישתומם, which is translated on Sefaria as "and does not act so ridiculously".

I am not criticizing this translation, rather I am asking on what basis it was made, and are there alternative interpretations?

וְיֵשׁ דְּבָרִים אֲחֵרִים שֶׁהֵן בִּכְלַל חִלּוּל הַשֵּׁם. וְהוּא שֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה אוֹתָם אָדָם גָּדוֹל בַּתּוֹרָה וּמְפֻרְסָם בַּחֲסִידוּת דְּבָרִים שֶׁהַבְּרִיּוֹת מְרַנְּנִים אַחֲרָיו בִּשְׁבִילָם. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינָן עֲבֵרוֹת הֲרֵי זֶה חִלֵּל אֶת הַשֵּׁם כְּגוֹן שֶׁלָּקַח וְאֵינוֹ נוֹתֵן דְּמֵי הַמִּקָּח לְאַלְתַּר. וְהוּא שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ וְנִמְצְאוּ הַמּוֹכְרִים תּוֹבְעִין וְהוּא מַקִּיפָן. אוֹ שֶׁיַּרְבֶּה בִּשְׂחוֹק אוֹ בַּאֲכִילָה וּשְׁתִיָּה אֵצֶל עַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ וּבֵינֵיהֶן. אוֹ שֶׁדִּבּוּרוֹ עִם הַבְּרִיּוֹת אֵינוֹ בְּנַחַת וְאֵינוֹ מְקַבְּלָן בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת אֶלָּא בַּעַל קְטָטָה וְכַעַס. וְכַיּוֹצֵא בַּדְּבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ הַכּל לְפִי גָּדְלוֹ שֶׁל חָכָם צָרִיךְ שֶׁיְּדַקְדֵּק עַל עַצְמוֹ וְיַעֲשֶׂה לִפְנִים מִשּׁוּרַת הַדִּין. וְכֵן אִם דִּקְדֵּק הֶחָכָם עַל עַצְמוֹ וְהָיָה דִּבּוּרוֹ בְּנַחַת עִם הַבְּרִיּוֹת וְדַעְתּוֹ מְעֹרֶבֶת עִמָּהֶם וּמְקַבְּלָם בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת וְנֶעֱלָב מֵהֶם וְאֵינוֹ עוֹלְבָם. מְכַבֵּד לָהֶן וַאֲפִלּוּ לַמְקִלִּין לוֹ. וְנוֹשֵׂא וְנוֹתֵן בֶּאֱמוּנָה. וְלֹא יַרְבֶּה בַּאֲרִיחוּת עַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ וִישִׁיבָתָן. וְלֹא יֵרָאֶה תָּמִיד אֶלָּא עוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה עָטוּף בְּצִיצִית מֻכְתָּר בִּתְפִלִּין וְעוֹשֶׂה בְּכָל מַעֲשָׂיו לִפְנִים מִשּׁוּרַת הַדִּין. וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא יִתְרַחֵק הַרְבֵּה וְלֹא יִשְׁתּוֹמֵם. עַד שֶׁיִּמָּצְאוּ הַכּל מְקַלְּסִין אוֹתוֹ וְאוֹהֲבִים אוֹתוֹ וּמִתְאַוִּים לְמַעֲשָׂיו. הֲרֵי זֶה קִדֵּשׁ אֶת ה' וְעָלָיו הַכָּתוּב אוֹמֵר (ישעיה מט ג) "וַיֹּאמֶר לִי עַבְדִּי אָתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר בְּךָ אֶתְפָּאָר":

There are other things included in blasphemy, although they are not of themselves either among the mandatory or prohibitive commandments, as for example, when a great man, famed for his learning and piety, will do something that the public will suspect him on account thereof, even though such deeds be not transgressions, yet he has committed blasphemy, as for example: if he makes a purchase and does not pay for it at once,10 although he has the money and the vendors are claiming it and he delays them; or if he indulges in frivolity, or doth eat and drink with and among the ignorant,11 or if his speech with his fellow men be not polite, or if he does not receive them pleasantly, but acts as one looking for strife and shows anger. In such and like matters, all measured by the standard of the greatness of such scholar, he must take particular care, and act exceedingly better than the law requires. Conversely, if the scholar restrains himself, speaks politely to his fellow men, and when among them acts like one of them, and receives them pleasantly, takes abuse from them but never gives abuse to them in return, respects them, even those who do not respect him, acts in business honestly, does not remain in company with the unlearned, nor visits their assemblies, and is rarely seen otherwise than to be engaged in the study of the Torah, wrapt in the prayer-garment and adorned with phylacteries, and performs his duties exceedingly more than the law requires, provided he does not go to extremes and does not act so ridiculously, so that all praise him and love him and crave to imitate his actions, behold he doth sanctify the Lord, and concerning him, the verse speaks, saying: "And He said unto me, thou art my servant, Israel, in whom I am glorified." (Is. 49.3).

  • It's worth keeping in mind that the Rambam wrote in Judeo-Arabic and so the Hebrew itself is in fact a translation. – Josh K Jan 21 at 15:54
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    @JoshK Pretty sure the Yad Hachazaka he wrote in Hebrew. – Loewian Jan 21 at 15:56
  • Are you asking for what his source might be? Or how to better translate the word, regardless of what it implies? I don't follow, especially with the answers being posted. – Dr. Shmuel Jan 22 at 7:16
  • I was asking for answers like the ones that were posted. They are excellent answers, IMHO. – shmu Jan 22 at 19:02
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The text of Rambam paraphrases a verse in Kohelet 7.16

אַל תְּהִי צַדִּיק הַרְבֵּה וְאַל תִּתְחַכַּם יוֹתֵר לָמָּה תִּשּׁוֹמֵם

Metsudat David

למה תשומם. למה תעשה כזאת לשבת משומם מבלי בוא מי להתחבר עמך בעבור מרבית הפרישות ותהיה מובדל מן האנשים

Why will you stay isolated, and nobody comes to bind with you, because of your excessive deprivation. You will be separated from people.

Metsudat Tsion:

תשומם. מלשון שממון

As the vocable shimamon, désolation.

This is exactly the context of the Rambam

> והוּא שֶׁלֹּא יִתְרַחֵק הַרְבֵּה וְלֹא יִשְׁתּוֹמֵם

So he needs not too far away....

I think that the isolation from people is caused by an atypical behavior, that didn't permit to leave with common people. Further, this man lives in a kind of desert. On the other hand, his strange behavior leads people to stay away from him. This second aspect is highlighted by the translation you quoted and is congruent with the Metsudat David comment on the verse in Kohelet.

If you ask about the difference between Tishomem and Tishtomem, we can easily answer that Tishomem is also an hitpael, sometimes, the chirik on the first syllabe is accentuated and the Tav is "swallowed". I'm not sure it's right because here we have a small dog chirik, without the letter yud. I may see an indirect allusion to this pshat in the Ibn Ezra.

....תסור מדרך הישוב כמו שיעשו הר"ומיטי בארץ אדום וישמעאל וכן אם בקשת להתחכם יותר מדאי

You will move away from the society, as did hermits in Edom and Yishmael countries.

"You will make" this, so, Tishomem is not a passive form, but rather an active form, without object complement. And because "you do it to yourself", this is a transitive form, an hitpael.

In conclusion the right understanding of the Rambam is a paraphrase of the verse from Kohelet, following the pshat of Ibn Ezra, not as the English translation that follows the pshat of metsudot, the translator identified the paraphrase but he didn't use the a translation adapted to the intent of the Rambam.

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וְלֹא יִשְׁתּוֹמֵם can mean:

To be numb or silent. In this context: He shouldn't sit around idly; it should always look like he's doing something productive.

To do strange things that make other people wonder. In this context: He should act normally and not do strange acts.

This is basically the Sefaria translation you quote: provided he does not go to extremes and does not act so ridiculously.

Have a look at the Mezudos and Rashi on Tehilim 133:4 on the verse תִּתְעַטֵּ֣ף עָלַ֣י רוּחִ֑י בְּ֝תוֹכִ֗י יִשְׁתּוֹמֵ֥ם לִבִּֽי׃

רש"י על תהילים קמ״ג:ד:א‏
ישתומם. לשון אוטם ותמהון כמו ואשב שם שבעת ימים משמים בתוכם (יחזקאל ג׳:ט״ו) ותשב תמר ושוממה (שמואל ב י״ג:כ׳):‏

מצודת ציון על תהילים קמ״ג:ד:א‏
ישתומם. ענין תמהון ומושתק כמו ואשב וגו׳ משמים בתוכם (יחזקאל ג׳):‏

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