48 Steps (מ״ח מַעֲלוֹת)

One of the earliest Mussar texts is Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers (פרקי אבות/PEER-kay ah-VOTE) which is a Tractate in the Mishnah, the earliest Jewish commentary on the Torah. 

Pirkei Avot 6:6 presents a list of 48 Steps. (The Hebrew is מַעֲלוֹת/ma'alot, comes from the verb to ascend עלה/alah, and means steps, stages, or levels.) The list begins by stating that Torah is greater than the priesthood or kingship because these offices are acquired by 24 and 30 steps but the Torah is acquired by 48, which it then goes on to list.

This text doesn't explicitly use the word middah and many of these 48 aren't technically middot as they're quantifiable actions and not abstract qualities, but this list has nonetheless become popular as a list of Mussar middot. (The Mussar Center also offers a separate list of 48 of the most famous Mussar Middot here.)

This list is also available as a printable PDF. And one more thing. If you enjoy our resources would you drop us a tip to keep us going? Thank you!


1.  Talmud   tall-MOOD


שְׁמִיעַת הָאֹזֶן

2.  Shmiat Ha'Ozen   SHMEE-it ha-OWES-enn

Active listening (literally listening of the ear)

עֲרִיכַת שְׂפָתַיִם

3.  Arichat Sfatayim   ARE-ee-chat sfa-TIE-eem

Orderly, articulate speech (literally arranged lips)

בִינַת הַלֵּב

4.  Binat Ha'Lev   bee-NUT ha-LEV

Deep comprehension (literally understanding of the heart)

שִׂכְלוּת הַלֵּב

5.  Sichlut Ha'Lev   seech-LOOT ha-LEV   

Deep perception (literally intelligence of the heart)


6.   Eimah   ey-MUH

Awe, fear


7.   Yirah   year-UH

Reverence, respect


8.   Anavah   ah-nuh-VUH

Humility, modesty


9.   Simchah   seem-CHAH

Joy, celebration


10.   Taharah   tah-RAH

Purity, cleanliness

שִׁמּוּשׁ חֲכָמִים

11.   Shimush Chachamim   she-MOOSH cha-cha-MEEM

Ministering/being useful to the Sages

דִקְדּוּק חֲבֵרִים

12.   Dikduk Chaverim   deek-DOOK chav-air-EEM

Careful choice of friends; Critical give-and-take with colleagues

פִּלְפּוּל הַתַּלְמִידִים 

13.   Pilpul Ha'Talmidim   PILL-pool huh tall-me-DEEM

Exacting debate with students

יִשּׁוּב בַּמִּקְרָא בַּמִּשְׁנָה

14.   Yishuv Ba'Mikrah Ba'Mishnah   yee-SHOOV bah-meek-RUH bah-meesh-NUH

Calm, clear thinking in Written and Oral Torah (literally seatedness in Scripture and Repetition)

מִעוּט סְחוֹרָה

15.   Miut Skhorah   mee-OOT s-chor-AH

Limited business

מִעוּט דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ

16.   Miut Derech Eretz   mee-OOT DARE-ech AIR-ets

Minimal secular engagement

מִעוּט תַּעֲנוּג

17.   Miut Taanug   mee-OOT tah-NOOG

Limited sexual activity

מִעוּט שֵׁינָה

18.   Miut Shenah   mee-OOT shea-NAH

Minimal sleep

מִעוּט שִׂיחָה

19.   Miut Sichah   me-OOT see-CHAH

Limited chatting

מִעוּט שְׂחוֹק

20.   Miut Skhok   mee-OOT s-chok

Minimal frivolity

אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם

21.   Erech Apayim   AIR-ech up-EYE-eem

Patience, slowness to anger

לֵב טוֹב

22.   Lev Tov   lev TOVE

Being positive (literally a good heart)

אֱמוּנַת חֲכָמִים

23.   Emunat Chachamim   emm-oo-NOT cha-cha-MEEM

Faith in the Sages

קַבָּלַת הַיִּסּוּרִין

24.   Kabalat Ha'Yisurin   kah-ball-AHT ha yees-oo-REEN

Acceptance of suffering

מַּכִּיר אֶת מְקוֹמוֹ

25.   Makir Et Mkomo   mah-KEER et mick-oh-MOE

Knowing one's place

שָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ

26.   Sameach B'Chelko   suh-MAY-ach b-chell-KOH

Being happy with one's lot

עוֹשֶׂה סְיָג לִדְבָרָיו

27.   Oseh Syag Li'Dvarav   oh-SEH see-ogg lid-var-AWE-v

Guarding one's speech (literally making a fence around one's words)

אֵינוֹ מַחֲזִיק טוֹבָה לְעַצְמוֹ

28.   Eino Machazik Tovah L'Atzmo   EY-no mah-chah-ZEEK TOVE-uh lots-MOE

Not taking credit (literally not seizing good for oneself)


29.   Ahuv   ah-HOOVE

Being lovable

אוֹהֵב אֶת הַמָּקוֹם

30.   Ohev Et Ha'Makom   oh-HEV et ha muck-OME

Loving the Omnipresent God

אוֹהֵב אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת

31.   Ohev Et Ha'Briyot   oh-HEV et hah bree-OAT

Loving one's fellow creations

אוֹהֵב אֶת הַצְּדָקוֹת

32.   Ohev Et Ha'Tzdakot   oh-HEV et huts-dah-COAT

Loving right actions

אוֹהֵב אֶת הַמֵּישָׁרִים

33.   Ohev Et Ha'Meisharim   oh-HEV et ha may-shar-EEM

Loving honest, straightforward communication

אוֹהֵב אֶת הַתּוֹכָחוֹת

34.   Ohev Et Ha'Tochachot   oh-HEV et ha toe-chuh-CHOTE

Loving reproof and rebukes

מִתְרַחֵק מִן הַכָּבוֹד

35.   Mitrachek Min Ha'Kavod   meet-ruh-CHAKE mean ha kuh-VODE

Avoiding public recognition

לֹא מֵגִיס לִבּוֹ בְתַלְמוּדוֹ

36.   Lo Megis Libo V'Talmudo   low may-GEESE lee-boe vit-all-moo-DOH

Not being proud of one's learning

אֵינוֹ שָׂמֵחַ בְּהוֹרָאָה

37.   Eino Sameach B'Horaah   EY-no suh-MAY-ach b-hora-AH

Not deriving pleasure from rendering legal decisions

נוֹשֵׂא בְעֹל עִם חֲבֵרוֹ

38.   Nosey V'Ol Im Chavero   no-SAY v-OLE eem chav-air-OH

Bearing the burden with one's friend

מַכְרִיעוֹ לְכַף זְכוּת

39.   Machrio L'Chaf Zchut   mahch-REE-oh l-chaf z-CHOOT

Judging people favourably, assuming the best

מַעֲמִידוֹ עַל הָאֱמֶת וְהַשָּׁלוֹם

40.   Maamido Al Ha'Emet V'Ha'Shalom   mah-ah-me-DOE all ha em-ET v-ha-shuh-LOME

Setting others on the path of truth and peace

מִתְיַשֵּׁב לִבּוֹ בְתַלְמוּדוֹ

41.   Mityashev Libo V'Talmudo   meet-yuh-SHAVE lee-BO v-tall-mood-OH

Concentration on one's studies (literally to seat one's heart)

שׁוֹאֵל וּמֵשִׁיב

42.   Shoel U'Meshiv   show-ELL oo-may-SHEEV

Back-and-forth discussion (literally questioning and answering)

שׁוֹמֵעַ וּמוֹסִיף

43.   Shomea U'Mosif   show-MAY-ah oo-moe-SEEF

Continuous learning (literally listening and adding)

לּוֹמֵד עַל מְנָת לְלַמֵּד

44.   Lomed Al Mnat L'Lamed   low-MADE all m-not l-LOMM-aid

Studying to teach

לּוֹמֵד עַל מְנָת לַעֲשׂוֹת

45.   Lomed Al Mnat La'asot   low-MADE all m-not lah-us-OAT

Studying to practice

מַּחְכִּים אֶת רַבּוֹ

46.   Machkim Et Rabo   mach-KEEM et rub-OH

Making one's teacher wiser

מְכַוֵּן אֶת שְׁמוּעָתוֹ

47.   Mchaven Et Shmuato   m-chah-VANE et shmoo-uh-TOE

Intentionally engaging with what one hears

אוֹמֵר דָּבָר בְּשֵׁם אוֹמְרוֹ

48.   Omer Davar B'Shem Omro   OH-mare duh-VARR b-shem ome-ROW

Quoting one's sources (literally saying a thing in the name of the one who said it)