"Decorum came before the giving of the Law." (By "decorum" is meant good manners.)


דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה  -  ויקרא רבה ט, ג


If anyone doesn't know it yet, the attached photo shows Mount Sinai where the Law (Torah) was given to Moses more than 3 millenniums ago. Even so, the people of Israel were known for their good manners long before they were given instruction from Sinai. By this we learn that the Torah (Divine Law of Moses) finds no place in a man devoid of good manners. Good manners are part and parcel of living a godly life based on the Law of Moses. The Book of Genesis is full of stories of this kind.


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  • The Hebrew word used for "good manners" is "Derech Eretz." The Hebrew word for "good personal qualities" is "Midot." While the two are similar, they are still different. I think you cannot have one without the other. "Derech Eretz" means not to embarrass your friend in public - such as the manner in which Tamar handled the episode of her father-in-law, Judah, when he had given to her his signet ring and a cord and his staff. In all that she did, she did NOT embarrass him. It also refers to the angel that told Abraham about Sarah’s disbelief, but did not say to Abraham that Sarah, his wife, had called him an old man. Rather, the angel said that Sarah called herself an old woman, not wishing to cause any contention between Abraham and Sarah.
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