Monday, May 16, 2005

A Slow Reading of The Introduction to "The Path of the Just" (Part 5)

"True piety is consequently lacking in the wise as a result of their lack of investigation into the matter, and in the unwise as a result of their lack of comprehension of it. It has come to appear to most that piety is dependent merely upon the recitation of many Psalms and long, convoluted confessions; upon difficult fasts; and upon ablutions in ice and snow -- none of which sits well with reason or the intellect."

-- *True* piety is a product of a search for closeness to G-d, nothing less. But most of us have gotten so waylaid by things -- both religious and secular -- that we've forgotten that. And the few times we do consider piety (as in Elul), we express it the only way we've come to expect we can: by reciting others' pleas to G-d (i.e., Psalms) or by berating ourselves. The truth is that the only way to draw close to G-d is to follow the charges set out in the rest of "The Path of the Just" and by learning to lay out our own prayers and pleas, as well as by sanctifying (rather than castigating) our bodies.

"True, favorable and desired piety is very different from our conception of it. And It is very easy to understand why (most people don't realize that), for 'what does not occupy one's mind does not penetrate it' (Babba Battra 39A). So, despite the fact that the upright have set the beginnings and foundations of piety into (those people's) hearts, they do not busy themselves with it; and so they might very well see instances of it and overlook them. It might pass before them and they would not know it."

-- That is, since we don't dwell on our relationship with G-d despite the rich store of literature we have to cull from in order to, we overlook all the allusions to Him all about us and forget Him.

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