Sunday, May 22, 2005

A Slow Reading of The Introduction to "The Path of the Just" (Part 6)

"Matters of piety, G-d-reverence and love, and purity of heart are not so ingrained in your heart that you would not have to find the means of acquiring them. They are not just come upon nonchalantly like natural processes such as sleep and wakefulness, hunger and satiety, etc. In truth, you have to foster means and devices to acquire them. And there is no lack for things to keep them back from you (just as there is no lack for ways to hold back the deterrents)."

-- We tend to think that mankind is inherently and mostly good and generous, but that's not true -- to say nothing of our not being inherently holy. Each one of us is selfish and self-absorbed (by degrees). The first thing to do is to realize how true that is of ourselves, then to understand that we'd thus need to grow into selflessness and generosity, and then to appreciate that that has to be a life's goal if we're to succeed. For the alternative is untenable if we're to serve G-d as well as we're asked to, and the pressures to fail at that are bold, and they're newly sprung each day.

"As that is the case, how could it be that you would not have to spend time in the profound study into the truth of these matters to know how they are acquired and maintained? And how should this wisdom ever enter your heart if you do not ask for it?"

-- Hence, we'd do well to truly and deeply *study* Mussar texts (such as "The Path of the Just") that focus upon the ideal and teach us just how to achieve it. Otherwise we'll forget our charge and lapse into de rigeur.

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