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Mesillat Yesharim
( Path of the Just )

CHAPTER XII

CONCERNING THE MEANS OF ACQUIRING CLEANLINESS

THE TRUE MEANS of acquiring Cleanliness is perpetual study of both the halachic and ethical pronouncements of our Sages of blessed memory. For once the truth of man's responsibility for Cleanliness and his need for it has impressed itself upon a person through his prior acquisition of Watchfulness and Zeal, (the result of his occupation with the means towards their attainment and the withdrawing of himself from the elements detracting from them) - once this truth has impressed itself upon a person, he will, with a knowledge of the fine points of the mitzvoth, be enabled to exercise Watchfulness in relation to all of them, so that no deterrents will prevent his attaining to Cleanliness.

Of necessity, therefore, one must acquire a thorough knowledge of the laws, which will enable him to determine how far the mitzvoth branch out. Also, because one is prone to forgetfulness in relation to these fine distinctions, he must perpetually engage in the study of those treatises which expound them, so that the distinctions are enforced within his mind. 1n doing so, he will, of a certainty, be spurred on to observe them.

Likewise, the cultivation of character traits demands a study of the ethical dicta of the earlier or later authorities. For very often, even after one has resolved to be fastidious in Cleanliness, he is liable to wrongdoing in certain areas because of their not having come within the province of his understanding. For a man is not born wise, and it is impossible for him to know everything. But in studying these writings he will be awakened to that which he had not recognized, and he will come to understand what he had not previously grasped, even such matters as he will not find in the treatises themselves. For when his mind is alive to these things, it will survey all within its domain and bring forth new understandings from the wellspring of truth.

The factors which detract from Cleanliness are all those which detract from Watchfulness, in addition to that of incomprehensive knowledge of the laws or of ethical principles, as stated above. As our Sages of blessed memory have said (Avoth 2.5), "An ignoramus cannot be a saint" (for he who does not know, cannot do), and, in a similar vein (Kiddushin 406), "Great is learning, for it leads to doing."

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