Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Slow Reading of The Introduction to "The Path of the Just" (Part 3)

-- Ramchal now begins to lay out the truths that we're to take in again and again.

"You will notice, if you reflect upon the state of things as they now are, that the great majority of intelligent, enlightened, aware, and informed people expend a great deal of their energies on reflection upon and examination of the minutia of the various sciences, and upon subtle scholarship, each according to his own inclinations and personal bents. There are those who very much concern themselves with the questions of cosmogony or physical science; others, with astronomy or mathematics; and yet others with art. And some others especially enter upon the matter of holiness, i.e., the learning of the holy Torah. Of those, there are some who involve themselves in pilpul (the give-and-take of Talmudic argumentation); others, in homiletics; and others, in the deciding of halacha (practical ritual-law)."

-- His point is that while most bright and engaged Jews concentrate on things that haven't anything to do with holiness or G-d per se, some do indeed apply themselves to Torah study, which is holy.
-- But most of the latter only circle the outer edges of holiness, since they only mean to accrue information about it rather than pursue it. For while pilpul, homiletics, and practical halacha are *invaluable* to our worship-life, they're at bottom equipment and gear for it, and often lure us away from worship. For you see, ...

"... few (of those who concentrate on Torah) dedicate their research and study to the means of attaining wholeness in Divine service, on love of and reverence for G-d, on the attachment to Him, or on all the other matters of piety."

-- ... and other than the all-encompassing and profound knowledge of self we'd be expected to foster if we're to change, grow, and draw close to G-d, all that matters in the end is our serving G-d excellently; loving, revering, and attaching on to Him; and achieving piety -- which pilpul, homiletics, and practical halacha don't address per se.

Translation of text (c) 1996 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
Original comments (c) 2005 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman