Friday, September 21, 2007

Messilas Yesharim (Yom Kippur, Sept. 22nd)


So you see, the way you obtain this trait is with a lot of abstention, with serious reflection upon the mysteries of G-d's great involvement in the world and the secrets of creation, and with the sure knowledge of G-d's exaltedness and praise. Only then will you have become attached to Him strongly and know how to concentrate your thoughts while moving through the world and making use of it. This was the way the kohen was supposed to concentrate in order to draw down G-d's blessing of life and peace as he ritually slaughtered sacrifices and received and sprinkled their blood upon the altar. Without all this it is impossible to reach this great height. You would remain corporeal and of-the-earth like all other people.

What helps in the attainment of this level is a lot of solitary meditation, and abstinence. With this lack of distractions, your soul can more easily strengthen and attach itself to G-d. What detracts from attaining this trait is a lack of knowledge of the truth, and the over-association with others. Materiality is attracted to its kind, and is energized and made stronger by association with it. The soul that is seized by it cannot escape from its trappings. But when it is separated from it, the soul can stand alone and ready itself for the indwelling of holiness. It will be accompanied upon the path it wants to take. With the help G-d gives you, your soul can be strengthened and made to grow victorious over physicality, attach itself to G-d, and grow whole within you.

From there you can grow to an even higher level, "Holy Inspiration", where your intellect will rise above all human capabilities. That will allow you to enjoy a yet higher form of attachment to G-d. Then the keys to the "Resurrection of the Dead" will be passed on to you as they were passed on to Elijah and Elisha. That would indicate the great degree of attachment to G-d you would experience. As G-d is the source of all life, the one who gives life to the living -- as our sages say, "Three keys were not given to tributaries: the keys of the Resurrection of the Dead ..." (Taanit 2a) -- one who utterly attaches himself to G-d can elicit from Him life itself, which is the one thing that is attributable to Him more than anything else. That is how the beraita of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair ends: "holiness brings you to Holy Inspiration, and Holy Inspiration brings you to Resurrection of the Dead".

Precious reader-- I realize that you know as well as I that I have not exhausted all the requirements for piety in my book, and that I have not said all that can be said about the subject. But that is because there is no end to the matter, and we cannot fathom the extent of it. What I have done is mentioned some small part of all the particulars of the beraita upon which I have based this book. It is a beginning which will allow for further investigation into these matters. Their paths have therefore been charted, and their ways exposed to our eyes so that we might go on the righteous path. As it is said, "The wise man will hear and will increase learning, and the man of understanding shall obtain devices"(Proverbs 1:5); "One who tries to purify himself is helped" (Shabbat 104a); and, "For G-d gives wisdom, and out of His mouth comes knowledge and understanding" (Proverbs 2:6) to guide each and every person on his path to his Creator.

It is obvious that each person must be directed and guided according to his own field of endeavor and his concerns. The path to piety for the one whose whole occupation is Torah scholarship is different from the one for the laborer, which is itself different from the one for the professional person. And that goes as well for all the other differentiating factors between people, each of which is its own path to piety. But that is not so because piety changes-- it is the same for everybody: it involves doing what brings satisfaction to your Creator. But since the individual participant changes, the means to bring him to that end must necessarily be particular to him. A humble laborer could be as thoroughly pious as someone who never stops studying Torah. As it is said, "All that G-d does He does for His own sake" (Proverbs 16:4), and, "Know Him in all of your ways, and He will straighten your path" (Proverbs 3:6).

May He, in His great compassion, open our eyes to His Torah. May He teach us His ways, lead us upon His path, and make us worthy to bring honor to His name and satisfy Him.

"May the Honor of G-d endure forever; May G-d be pleased with His creations" (Psalms 104:31); "Would that Israel will be happy in its Creator; that the sons of Zion will rejoice in their King" (Psalms 149:2).

Amen, amen, and amen.

I thank G-d now, I sing and chant to Him whose compassion has helped me until now to bring my book, The Path of the Just, into print which I wrote to teach myself, and which I give over to the many like myself for their elevation. Perhaps I may merit to have others accrue merits and to improve through my work, thus bringing satisfaction to my Creator. May that be my consolation in the land of great drought (cf. Hosea 13:5), and may I "call it Rechovot" (cf. Genesis 26:22). So too may G-d say that my portion will be in His Torah: to study, teach, observe and follow His will successfully.

Amen, may that be His will.


© 1996 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman