BSD

Ahavat Israel Am Israel Torat Israel Eretz Israel Jewish Texts Tanach Pirkei Avot Path Just

Mesillat Yesharim
( Path of the Just )

CHAPTER XIX

CONCERNING THE DIVISIONS OF SAINTLINESS

THERE ARE three principal divisions of Saintliness, one involving the deed; the second, the manner of performance; and the third, the intention. The division of deed is itself divided into two areas, one concerning the relationship between man and the Presence, and the second, that between man and his neighbor.

Saintliness of deed in the relationship between man and the Presence consists in the performance of the mitzvoth with all their fine points as far as is physically possible. Our Sages of blessed memory referred to these fine points as "the remnants of a mitzvah" and said (Sukkah 38a), "The remnants of a Mitzvah ward off accidents." The fact that the body of a mitzvah may be fulfilled without these "remnants" and one's obligation discharged thereby, is a consideration for the overall body of Jews, but those who would be Saintly must increase their fulfillment of them and certainly not decrease it.

Saintliness of deed in the relationship between man and his neighbor consists in the doing of good in abundance, in one's always benefiting his fellow creatures and never injuring them. This applies to the body, belongings and soul of one's neighbor.

Body :   One must seek to help all men in any way he can, and lighten their burdens. As we learned (Avoth 6.6), "And bearing a burden with one's neighbor." If he can prevent some bodily harm from coming to his neighbor or remove that which threatens such harm, he must exert himself to do so.

Belongings : One must assist his neighbor as far as his resources allow and guard his belongings against damage in every way he can. He must especially take precautions to see to it that he himself is in no way responsible for causing such damage, whether to single individuals or to many. And though there may be no immediate cause for concern, still if there is even a possibility that anything belonging to him will cause damage, he must get it out of the way. Our Sages of blessed memory have said (Avoth 2.12), "Your neighbor's belongings should be as precious to you as your own."

Soul : One must strive to give his neighbor as much pleasure as he can, whether in respect to honor or to anything else. Anything which he can do which he knows will give his neighbor pleasure, is a mitzvah of Saintliness for him to do. It goes without saying that he must not cause his neighbor any pain whatsoever in any manner whatsoever. All of this comes within the framework of lovingkindness, the worth and binding nature of which our Sages of blessed memory were boundless in affirming. Included in this area is the pursuit of peace, the general promotion of good in the relationship between man and his neighbor.

I will now substantiate all of these statements by reference to the words of our Sages of blessed memory, although what I have said is obvious and needs no substantiation. In the chapter Bnei Ha'ir it is said (Megillah 27b ff), "R. Zakkai was asked by his disciples, "Why have you merited such long life?' He answered, "I never urinated within four ells of prayer, I never called my friend by a nickname and I never missed making Kiddush on the Sabbath. I had an old mother. Once she sold her hat and bought me wine for Kiddush.' " This is an instance of Saintliness in relation to the fine points of mitzvoth, for since R. Zakkai was so lacking in means that in order to procure wine his mother had to sell her hat, he was not required to obtain wine in the first place. For him to do so, then, was an act of Saintliness. And his being concerned for his friend's honor to the extent that he would not even call him by a completely non-objectionable nickname (according to Tosafoth's interpretation) was also a facet of Saintliness. R. Huna tied elastic upon his garments because he had sold his girdle to buy wine for Kiddush. "R. Eliezer ben Shammuah was asked by his disciples (Ibid.), "Why have you merited such long life?' He answered, "I never used the synagogue as a short-cut and I never walked above the heads of the holy people while they were seated at their studies." In the first instance, R. Huna was practising Saintliness in the honoring of a synagogue; and in the second, by not walking among the seated scholars in order not to give the impression that he was belittling them, he was honoring his fellow creatures. "R. Preida was asked by his disciples, "Why have you merited such long life?' He answered, "No one ever preceded me to the house of study; I never recited the blessing before a Kohen and 1 never ate of an animal whose gift-offerings had not been taken. ' " "R. Nechunia was asked, "Why have you merited such long life?' He answered, "I never derived honor through the shame of my friend, and the curse of my friend never went up upon my bed."' By way of illustration we are told, "R. Huna, when R. Chana bar Chanilai came along and relieved him of an axe that he had been carrying upon his shoulder, said to him, 'If it is customary for you to carry it where you come from, then you may carry it, but if it is not, I have no wish to gain honor through your dishonor."' Even though "the shame of his friend" implies a conscious attempt to increase one's honor through the shaming of one's friend, those who are Saintly are averse to acquiring honor through the dishonor of their friends even if the latter are quite agreeable to their doing so. It was in relation to Saintliness, too, that R. Zeira was speaking when he said, "I was never officious in my own household, I never walked in front of one greater than I, I never meditated in unclean places, I never walked four ells without Torah and Tefillin, I never slept or napped in the synagogue, I never rejoiced in my neighbor's misfortune and I never called my friend by his nickname." Represented here are all the types of Saintliness mentioned above. Our Sages of blessed memory state further (Bava Kama 30a), "R. Yehudah said, "If one wishes to be a Saint, let him fulfill the laws of Benedictions' (i.e those laws governing the relationship between man and his Master). Others say, "Let him fulfill the laws of Damages' (i.e. those laws go The practice of lovingkindness is of central importance to the Saintly, for "Saintliness" itself derives from "lovingkindness." And our Sages of blessed memory have said (Avoth 1.2), "The world stands on three things," one of which is lovingkindness. They have numbered it (Peah 1.1) among those things whose fruits a man eats in this world and whose essence endures for his reward in the World to Come. And they have said (Sotah 14a), "R. Simlai learned, "The Torah begins and ends with lovingkindness." "Rava learned (Yevamoth 79a), "All who possess these three traits are without question of the seed of our father Abraham mercy, shyness, and lovingkindness.' " R. Eleazar said (Sukkah 496), "Lovingkindness is greater than charity, as it is said (Hosea 10:12), "Sow for yourselves with charity and reap with lovingkindness.' " "Lovingkindness is greater than charity in three ways: Charity is performed with one's wealth, and lovingkindness with one's body; charity is given to the poor, and lovingkindness to rich and poor alike; charity is given only to the living, and lovingkindness to the living and the dead alike." And (Shabbath 1516), "'And He will give you mercy and He will have mercy upon you' (Deuteronomy 13:18) - Heaven is merciful to all who have mercy upon their fellow creatures." This is self-evident; for since the Holy One Blessed be He pays measure for measure, one who is merciful towards his fellow creatures and treats them with lovingkindness is deserving of mercy and of absolution of his sins in lovingkindness. As our Sages of blessed memory have said (Rosh Hashanah 17a), "Whose sins does He forgive? The sins of one who overlooks an injustice committed against him." And if one is unwilling to forego his claims or to act with lovingkindness, it follows that he, too, is to be treated only in accordance with strict justice. Who could abide it if the Holy One Blessed be He acted on the basis of justice alone? King David prayed (Psalms 143:2), "Do not enter into judgment with your servant, for no living creature will be found righteous before You." One who engages in lovingkindness, however, will receive lovingkindness. And he will receive it in proportion to the extent that he engages in it. David exulted in possessing this good trait to the extent that he sought the good even of those who hated him (Ibid. 35:13), "When they were sick, I put on sackcloth; I tortured my soul with fasting;" and (Ibid. 7:5), "If I have paid back those who served me ill . . . "

Included in this category of Saintliness is not causing pain to any creature - even animals - and showing mercy and pity towards them. As it is stated (Proverbs 12:10), "The righteous man knows the soul of his beast." There are those who hold (Shabbath 128b) that the Torah itself prohibits the causing of pain to animals, but in any event, it is at least a Rabbinical prohibition.

In fine, mercy and beneficence must be enduringly ingrained in the heart of a Saint. His constant aim must be to give pleasure to his fellow creatures and not cause them any pain . . .

The second division of Saintliness concerns the manner of performance, which is itself divided into two sections comprising many particular instances. These two chief sections are fear and love of God, the two pillars of true Divine service, without which it has no foundation at all. Included in the fear of God is humbling oneself before the Blessed One, feeling shame in approaching Divine Service, and honoring the mitzvoth, the Name and the Torah of the Blessed One. Included in the love of God are joy, communion, and jealousy. We shall now explain each factor individually.

The chief aspect of fear of God is the fear of His exalted nature. A person must be mindful, when engaged in prayer or in the performance of a mitzvah, that it is before the King of Kings that he prays or performs the deed. As the Tanna has exhorted us (Berachoth 28b), "And when you pray, know before whom you pray."

There are three things which a person must look into and consider well in order to acquire such fear. The first is that he is actually standing in the presence of the Creator, Blessed be His Name, and communicating with Him, even though He cannot be seen. This is the hardest of the three for a person to create a true picture of in his heart, for he is entirely unaided by his senses towards this objective. However, one who is possessed of sound intelligence will, with a little thought and attention, be able to implant in his heart the truth of his actually communicating with the Blessed One, of His imploring and entreating Him and being heard and listened to by the Blessed One in the same way that a man, speaking to his friend, is heard and listened to by him. After having implanted this in his mind, he must give thought to the majesty of the Blessed One, His being elevated and raised above all blessing and praise, above all forms of perfection that his mind can envisage and comprehend. He must also think upon the lowliness of man and upon his inferior quality, which is attributable to his earthiness and grossness and, especially, to all of the sins that he has ever committed. When he considers all of this, it will be impossible for his heart not to fear and tremble when he puts forth his words before the Blessed One and mentions His Name and attempts to find favor in His eyes. As it is said (Psalms 2:11), "Serve God in fear and rejoice in trembling;" and (Ibid. 89:8), "A God that is mighty in the great council of the holy ones and greatly feared of all who serve Him." The angels, in that they are closer to the Blessed One, being unfettered by earthy bodies, may more easily envisage His greatness, and, consequently, His fear is upon them to a greater extent than it is upon human beings. King David, may Peace be upon him, would extol God (Ibid. 5:8), "1 will bow down to the sanctuary of Your holiness in fear of You." And it is written (Malachi 2:5), "And he trembled before my Name," and (Ezra 9:6), "My God, 1 was sorely ashamed and humiliated to lift, my God, my face to You." However, this type of fear must first grow in the heart before it manifests itself in the body in the form of a bowed head, a bent body, lowered eyes and the folding of one's hands as a little servant before a great king. As it is stated in the Gemara (Shabbath 10a), "Rava would fold his hands and pray, saying, "I am like a servant before his Master.' "

We have thus far spoken of humility and shame. We shall now speak of honor. Our Sages of blessed memory have already exhorted us concerning the dignity and dearness of a miizvah (.Shabbath 133b): " "This is my God and I will beautify Him' (Exodus 15:2) - beautify youself before Him with mitzvoth - with beautiful tzitzith, beautiful tefillin, a beautiful Torah scroll, a beautiful lulav ..." And further (Bava Kamma 9b), "A person should expend up to an extra third for the sake of beauty in a mitzvah. Anything up to this point is paid for by him, and anything beyond it, by the Holy One Blessed be He." It is perfectly clear from what our Sages of blessed memory have said that the performance of the mitzvah is not enough; it must be honored and beautified.

There are those, who to make things easier for themselves, would contend that honor is meaningful only to human beings, who are deceived by such vanities, but completely superfluous to the Holy One Blessed be He who is above these things and unaffected by them, faithful performance of the mitzvoth being enough for Him. But the truth is that the Lord Blessed be He is called "The God of Honor" and we are duty-bound to accord honor to Him even though He has no need of it, it being insignificant and worthless to Him. One who is in a position to give much honor to God, but does not do so, is considered a sinner. The Prophet Malachi inveighed against the Jews with the word of God (Malachi 1:8), "If you offer a blind animal to be sacrificed, it is not evil in your eyes. Present it to your governor. Will you find favor with him? Will he be gracious to you?" Our Sages of blessed memory have exhorted us to conduct ourselves in quite the opposite manner in our Divine service. For example, they say (Sukkah 50a) that water which has become exposed should not be strained to render it acceptable for ritual purposes. Though such water is permitted for mundane purposes, the concept of "Present it to your governor" disqualifies it for ritual use. Though there is nothing wrong with strained water, and though it is permissible for everyday use, considerations of respect render it unacceptable for religious purposes. It is stated in the Sifrei, " "And all your choice vows' (Deuteronomy 12:11) - one should offer only the choicest." Cain and Abel are a case in point. Abel offered of the first-born of his sheep and of their fats, and Cain offered of the worst of the fruits of the earth, as we are told by our Sages of blessed memory (Bereshith Rabbah 22.5). What was the outcome? (Genesis 4:4,5), "And God gave heed to Abel and his gift, but to Cain and his gift He gave no heed." And (Malachi 1:14), "Cursed is the deceiver who has in his flock a male, but pledges and sacrifies an abomination to God ... for I am a great King."

Our Sages of blessed memory warned us very often against the cheapening of mitzvoth. They said (Shabbath 14a), "One who holds a scroll of the Law which is uncovered will be buried naked" because of the cheapening of a mitzvah.

The order of offering the first fruits gives us an insight into the meaning of the beautification of a mitzvah. We learned (Bikkurim 3.3), "The ox walks before them, his horns gilded with gold, an olive wreath upon his head..." "The rich bring their first fruits in baskets of gold, and the poor in wicker baskets ..." (Ibid. 8). "There are three categories of first fruits - the first fruits themselves, the additions to the first fruits and the decorations of first fruits ..." (Ibid. 10). It is here explicitly indicated to us how much we should add to the body of a mitzvah in order to beautify it. What we see here should serve as a model for all of the other mitzvoth of the Torah.

Our Sages of blessed memory tell us (Shabbath l0a), "Rava bar R. Huna would put on beautiful clothes and pray, saying, "Beautify yourself before your God, Israel (Amos 4:12).' " And in relation to "the fine clothes of her son Esau" (Genesis 27:15), R. Shimon ben Gamliel said (Bereshith Rabbah 65:16), "1 served my father ... but when Esau served his father, he wore only regal garments." If a creature of flesh and blood is served in this manner, how much more so should one take care to be dressed respectfully when he stands to pray before the King of Kings, the Holy One Blessed be He, and to sit before Him as one sits before a great king.

Included in this category is the honoring of Sabbaths and Festivals; for one who gives much honor to them is certainly giving pleasure thereby to his Creator, who has commanded us (Isaiah 58:13), "And you should honor it." Once the truth of its being a mitzvah to honor the Sabbath has impressed itself upon us, many means of honoring it present themselves to us. The guiding rule in this connection is that one is duty-bound to perform any action which would add to the dignity of the Sabbath. It is for this reason that the early Sages occupied themselves with preparations for the Sabbath, each in his own way (Shabbath 119a): "R. Abahu would sit on a stool of ivory and fan the fire; R. Safra would roast the head of an animal; Rava would salt a carp; R. Huna would kindle a flame; R. Papa would twist a wick; R. Chisda minced beets; Rava and R. Yosef would split wood; R. Nachman would carry things in and out of the house, saying, "If R. Ami and R. Asi were my guests, would I not perform such labors for them?"'

R. Nachman's analogy bears consideration, for it may serve us as a model. His procedure was to reflect upon how he would normally go about honoring someone, and he would honor the Sabbath in a similar manner. In this connection it is stated (Berachoth 17a), "A person should be subtle in his fear of God." He must have knowledge, and be able to deduce one thing from another and create situations through which to honor his Creator, in every way that our recognition of the greatness of His dominion over us can be revealed, so that everything attributable to Him will be greatly honored by us. And considering the fact that the Blessed One in His great goodness, despite all of our lowliness, willed in His humility to apportion honor to us and to impart to us His holy words, we should at least honor them with all our might and show how precious they are to us. This constitutes true fear of God, the fear of His grandeur, which we mentioned above. It is this fear upon which hinges the honor that leads to the love of God, as we will explain later with the help of Heaven. Such is not the case with the fear of punishment, which is not the fundamental type of fear and which does not give rise to the superior qualities of these traits.

Returning to the honoring of the Sabbath, we find (Shabbath 119a) that R. Anan wore black, that is, he dressed himself in black on the eve of the Sabbath so that the honor of the Sabbath would be more pronounced upon his donningbeautiful garments for it. We see, then, that not only the positive preparations for the Sabbath, but also the creation of a negative situation which tends, by contrast, to heighten the impression of honor in relation to the Sabbath is included in the mitzvah. This is the basis for the prohibition against fixing a meal before the Sabbath, and for similar enactments.

An aspect of fearing God is honoring the Torah and those who study it. We learned explicitly (Avoth 4.6), "One who honors the Torah is himself honored by his fellow creatures." And our Sages of blessed memory said (Sanhedrin 1026), "R. Yochanan said, "Why did Ahab deserve to reign twentytwo years? Because he honored the Torah, which was given with twenty-two letters, as it is said (l Kings 20:2ff ), "And he sent messengers to Ahab ... and all the desire of your eyes let them put in their hands and take. And he said to the messengers of Ben Hadad, "Tell my master, the King, "All that you sent to your servant at first, I will do, but this thing 1 will not be able to do.' What is "the desire of your eyes?' A Torah scroll." And elsewhere they said (Berachoth 18a), "One who rides from place to place should not put a Torah scroll into a sack, place the sack upon a donkey, and ride upon it, but he should carry the scroll in his lap ... " It was also forbidden (hoed Katan 25a) to sit upon a bed on which a Torah scroll lay, as it was forbidden (Eruvin 98a) to throw away sacred writings, even Halachoth and Aggadoth, and (Megillah 27a) to place copies of Prophets and Hagiographa upon copies of the Five Books of Moses. These things were prohibited to the whole congregation of Israel and he who would be Saintly must learn from them and add to them for the honor of the Name of the Lord, his God. Included in this area of Saintliness is the necessity for cleanliness and purity during occupation with words of Torah, a requirement which extends so far as to cause thinking of them in unclean places or when one's hands are unclean to be prohibited. Our Sages of blessed memory have very often exhorted us concerning this.

In relation to those who study Torah, Scripture tells us (Leviticus 19:32), "Rise before the grey head and honor the face of the learned." This serves as the basis for the Saint to accord honor to Torah scholars in every way that he can. Our Sages of blessed memory have said (Kethuvoth 103b), "'And he will honor those who fear God' (Psalms 15:4) - this refers to Jehoshafat, King of Judah, who, when he saw a Torah scholar, would rise from his throne, embrace him, kiss him, and say to him, "My Rabbi, my Rabbi; my teacher my teacher.' " R. Zeira (Berachoth 28a), when he was fatigued with study, would place himself by the door of the House of Study to perform the mitzvah of rising for a Torah scholar.

These are all things which we have seen the Creator, may His name be blessed, to desire, and in relation to which He has revealed His supreme judgment. This being the case, one who wishes to give pleasure to his Creator will, by these means, go forward and add to his store of devices for doing what is just before the Blessed One.

Included in this aspect of Saintliness is honoring the synagogue and the House of Study. It is not enough that one does not conduct himself frivolously in them, but he must observe in them all forms of honor and fear in all of his ways and actions, taking care not to do there anything that he would not do in the palace of a great king.

We shall now speak of the love of God and its three branches - joy, communion and jealousy. Love of God consists in a person's desiring and actually lusting for the nearness of the Blessed One and pursuing His holiness as one pursues anything which he strongly desires. This love extends so far as to cause the mere mentioning of the Blessed One's Name, the reciting of His praises and the occupation with the words of His Torah and with the nature of the Blessed One's Divinity to be a delight and a pleasure to one, in the same manner that one who very strongly loves the wife of his youth or his only son finds joy and pleasure in merely speaking of them. As Scripture states (Jeremiah 31:19), "For when I speak of him i will strongly remember him."

There is no question that one who truly loves his Creator will not leave off serving Him for any reason whatsoever unless he is actually forced to do so, and that he will need no motivation or inducement to serve Him, but his heart will elevate and motivate him thereto unless there is some great barrier in his way. This is the exceedingly desirable trait which the early Saints, the supremely holy, were privileged to attain. As stated by King David, may Peace be upon him (Psalms 42:2), "As a hart yearns for the waterbrooks, so does my soul yearn for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God - when shall I come.. ?" And (Ibid. 84:3), "My soul longs and goes out for the courts of God..." and (Ibid. 63:2), "My soul thirsts for You; my flesh pines for You..." All this derives from the strength of his longing for the Blessed One. As the Prophet says (Isaiah 26:8), "To Your Name and to Your remembrance is the lust of the soul," and (Ibid. 9), "1 long for You in the evening; as long as my spirit is within me, I will seek You." And David himself said (Psalms 63:7), "In truth, I will remember You upon my couch; in the night watches I will think of You." He described his pleasure and delight in speaking of the Blessed One and in recounting His praises (Ibid. 119:47) : "I will take delight in Your mitzvoth, which I love," and (Ibid. 24), "Your mitzvoth, also, are my delight . . . "

It goes without saying that this love should not depend upon any extraneous factor. That is, one should love the Creator, may His Name be blessed, not because He is good to him and grants him wealth and success, but because he is naturally impelled to do so, in the same manner that a son is naturally impelled to love his father. As stated by Scripture (Deuteronomy 32:6), "Is He not your Father, your Master?"

The test of this type of love comes with difficult and troubled times. As our Sages of blessed memory have said (Berachoth 54a), " "And you should love the Lord, Your God with all your heart and with all your soul' (Deuteronomy 6:5) - even if He takes your soul, "and with all your might'- with all of your possessions." But in order that troubles and pressures should not act as difficulties and deterrents in the way of the love of God, a person must furnish himself with two understandings, one directed to all men alike and the other to sages with depth of mind. The first understanding is that everything which proceeds from Heaven is for the good of man. The pain and pressure itself which is evil in his eyes is, in reality, true good, in the same way that a doctor's cutting of flesh or of a limb to prevent infection from spreading to the rest of the body and killing the patient is a merciful deed, with the patient's good in mind, though on the surface it may appear to be an act of cruelty. There is no fear that the patient will cease to love the doctor because of what he has done to him; to the contrary, he will love him even more. In our case, too, if a man will but consider that everything the Holy One Blessed be He does with Him, both in relation to his body and to his possessions is for his own good, though he may not be able to perceive or understand its being so, his love will not weaken because of any pressure or pain, but, to the contrary, will grow stronger and will steadily increase.

Those with true understanding, however, do not need even this explanation, for they are entirely unmotivated by selfinterest, their sole aspiration being to magnify the honor of God and to give Him pleasure. The more deterrents that cross their path, making it necessary for them to give more of themselves to counteract them, the more will their hearts fortify themselves and rejoice to show the strength of their faith, just as a general, famed for his strength will always thrust himself into the heart of the battle, where a victory will serve all the more to reveal his prowess. The joy that comes with every opportunity to express the intensity of one's love is well known to every lover of flesh and blood.

We shall now discuss the three aforementioned branches of love - communion, joy and jealousy. Communion is a state in which one's heart clings so closely to the Blessed One that he does not strive for and is not concerned with anything outside of Him, as alluded to in Solomon's simile (Proverbs 5:19), "A beloved gazelle, full of favor; her breasts will satiate you at all times. In her love will you always wander." And in the Gemara our Sages of blessed memory tell us (Eruvin 546), "It was said about R. Eleazar ben Pedath that he sat and occupied himself with Torah in the upper marketplace of Sepphoris while his garment hung in the lower market place." The end of this trait is that a man be constantly united with his Creator in this manner. At the very least he will, if he loves his Creator, certainly engage in such communion during the time of his Divine service.

In Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachoth 5.1) it is stated, "Once, R. Chanina ben Dosa, while standing and praying, was bitten by a poisonous lizard, but did not interrupt his prayers. His disciples asked him, "Our Rabbi, did you not feel anything?' He answered, "I take an oath. Because my heart was intent on my prayers, I felt nothing.' "

The Torah exhorts us very often in relation to communion with God: "to love the Lord your God with all your heart... and to cling to Him" (Deuteronomy 30:20), "and to Him shall you cling" (Ibid. 10:20), "And cling to Him" (Ibid. 13:5). David said (Psalms 63:9). "My soul clings to You." All of these verses speak of one thing - the uniting of a man with the Blessed One to the extent that he cannot separate himself and move from Him. And our Sages of blessed memory have said (Bereshith Rabbah 80:7), "R. Shimon ben Lakish said, "The Holy One Blessed be He employed three terms of love in relation to Israel, and we learn them from the episode of Shechem ben Chammor - "communion,' "longing' and "desire.' " These are essentially the principal branches of love - the yearning that I mentioned before, the clinging to God and the pleasure and joy derived from occupying oneself with that which is associated with the Beloved.

The second main branch of love is joy, a fundamental principle in Divine service, in relation to which David exhorted us (Psalms 100:2), "Serve God with joy; come before Him with song" and (Ibid. 68:4), "And the righteous will rejoice. They will exult before God and be filled with happiness." And our Sages of blessed memory have said (Shabbath 306), "The Divine Presence comes to rest upon one only through his rejoicing in a mitzvah." In relation to the aforementioned verse, "Serve God with joy," they said (Midrash Shochar Tov ad loc.), "R. Ibu said, "When you stand before him in prayer, let your heart rejoice that you are praying to a God without parallel.' " This is true joy - rejoicing that one has been privileged to serve the Blessed Master, who has no equal and to occupy oneself with His Torah and His mitzvoth, which embody true perfection and eternal preciousness. Solomon, in his wisdom, expressed the idea thus (Song of Songs 1:4): "Draw me on; we will run after You. The King has brought me to his chambers; we will rejoice and be happy in You." The further a person is privileged to enter into the chambers of the knowledge of the greatness of the Blessed One, the greater is his happiness and his heart rejoices within him. And again (Psalms 149:2), "Israel will be happy in its Maker. The sons of Zion will rejoice in their King." David, who had already reached a high plane in the cultivation of this trait, said (Ibid. 104:34), "Let my words be pleasant to Him; I will rejoice in God" and (Ibid. 43:4), "And I will come to the altar of the Lord, to the God who is the joy of my rejoicing and I will praise You with the harp, O God" and (Ibid. 71:23), "Let my lips rejoice, for I will sing to You, and my soul which You have redeemed." His joy waxed so strong within him that his lips moved of themselves and sang upon his being engaged in the praises of the Blessed One - all this because of the great fervor of his soul, which was consumed in its joy before him, as he concludes, "and my soul which you have redeemed." We find that the Holy One Blessed be He stormed against the Jews because they omitted this element in their Divine service, as it is said (Deuteronomy 28:47), "Because you did not serve the Lord your God with happiness and willingness of heart." David, seeing in the spirit with which the Jews donated towards the building of the Temple that they had already attained to this trait, prayed that it remain with them and not depart, as it is said (I Chronicles 29:17,18), "And now, Your people that are found here I have seen offering to You with joy. O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, our fathers, preserve this eternally for the inclination of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and set their hearts aright with You."

The third branch of the love of God is jealously - being jealous for the Holy One's Name, hating His enemies and striving to humble them as much as possible so that the service of the Blessed One will be done and His honor magnified. As David, may Peace be upon him, said (Psalms 139:21,23), "Will 1 not hate those who hate You, O Lord, and will .I not rebuke those who rise against You? I hate them to the limits of hatred..." Elijah said (I Kings 19:10), "I have been exceedingly jealous for the Lord of Hosts..." It was because of this jealousy for his God that he attained such heights, as in the verse (Numbers 25:13), "Because he was jealous for his God and brought about atonement for Israel." Our Sages of blessed memory were very extreme in their statements (Shabbath 546) concerning those who are in a position to rebuke others for their wrongdoing but fail to do so, stating that they themselves will be judged as having committed the sin. In Midrash Eichah (1.34) it is stated, " "Her leaders were like harts' (Lamentations 1:6)just as harts, when it is hot, turn their faces one beneath the other, so the great men of the Jews saw sin and turned their faces from it. The Holy One Blessed be He said about them, "The time will come when I will do the same to them."' It is evident that just as one who loves his friend will not tole. rate his being beaten or insulted, but will certainly rise to his defense, so one who loves the Name of the Blessed One will not be able to abide the desecration of His Name (G-d forbid) and the transgression of His mitzvoth. As Solomon said (Proverbs 28:7), "The deserters of Torah will praise the wicked and the observers of Torah will rebuke them." Those who praise the wicked individual in his wickedness and do not hold his misdeed up to him are deserters of Torah, who abandon it to desecration (God forbid). The observers of Torah, those who strengthen themselves in strengthening Torah, will certainly rebuke them. They will not be able to contain themselves and remain still. The Holy One Blessed be He said to Job (Job 40:11-13), "Spread out the fury of Your wrath, and see every proud man and lower him. See every proud man and humble him and stamp down the wicked beneath them. Bury them together in the earth, their faces enclosed in hiddenness." This is the intensity of the love that one who truly loves his Creator should be able to display. As it is said (Psalms 97:10), "Those who love God hate evil."

We have thus far dealt with those aspects of Saintliness concerned with the deed and with the manner of its performance. We shall now speak of intention in relation to Saintliness.

We have already discussed the performance of actions, for the sake of Heaven or not for the sake of Heaven, according to their various levels. It cannot be said that one who is motivated in his Divine service by a desire to purify his soul before his Creator so that he can come to sit in His presence together with the just and the Saintly, to see the pleasantness of God, to dwell within His Sanctuary and to receive the reward of the World to Come - it cannot be said that such a person is badly motivated. On the other hand, we cannot say that his motivation is a very good one either. For as long as a person is concerned with his own good, his Divine service is also performed for his own good. The true motivation, which is common to Saints, who have exerted themselves and persevered to acquire it, is to serve solely for the purpose of magnifying and extending the honor of the Master of Blessed Name. One will serve for this end only after he has grown strong in love for the Blessed One, and longs and lusts for the magnification of His honor, and is pained by anything which detracts from it. He will hope that he is at least doing his part towards magnifying the honor of the Blessed One and he will wish that all others possessed this aspiration. The shortcomings of others in this respect will pain and grieve him, not to speak of his own unintentional and accidental lapses and those resulting from his natural weakness, which makes it difficult for him to constantly protect himself against sin, as it is stated (Ecclesiastes 7:20), "A man is not righteous in the land, who will do good and not sin."

The Saintly attitude we are discussing has been set forth in Tanna d'bei Eiiyahu (Chapter 4): "Every sage in Israel who possesses the words of Torah according to their true significance and grieves for the honor of the Holy One Blessed be He and for the honor of Israel all his days, and lusts and feels pain for the honor of Jerusalem and of the Temple and for the swift flowering of salvation and the ingathering of the exiles, attains to the infusion of the Divine spirit in his words... " This, then, is the proper frame of mind for one to cultivate, removed as it is from all considerations of personal pleasure, directed only towards the honor of the Presence and towards the sanctification of His Name, which is sanctified by His creations when they do His will. In relation to this it is said (Zohar Mishpatim), "Who is a Saint -one who is Saintly with his Creator." A Saint of this kind, aside from being motivated in the proper manner in relation to the performance of mitzovth in pursuance of his Divine service, must, without doubt, constantly feel actual pain over Jerusalem and the Destruction because of their tendency to minimize the honor of the Blessed One, and will lust for the Redemption so that the honor of the Blessed One may grow. As stated by the aforementioned Tanna d'bei Eliyahu, "And he lusts and feels pain for the honor of Jerusalem and prays constantly for the Redemption of Israel and for the restoration of the honor of Heaven to its former pre-eminence." If one would say, "Who am I and what am I worth that I should pray for Jerusalem etc... Will the exiles be gathered in and will Salvation sprout because of my prayer?" his answer awaits him. As we learned (Sanhedrin 37a), "Man was created individually so that each man should say, "The world was created for my sake.' " it is the Blessed One's pleasure that His sons desire and pray for this. And though their desire may not be fulfilled because the proper time has not yet arrived or for some other reason, they will have done their part and the Holy One Blessed be He rejoices in it. The Prophet stormed over the absence of this attitude (Isaiah 59:16), "And he saw that there was no man and he was amazed that there was no contender" and (Ibid. 63:5), "And I looked and there was no helper, and I was amazed and there was no supporter" and (Jeremiah 30:17), "It is Zion; no one inquires after it." Commenting upon this verse our Sages of blessed memory said (Sukkah 41a), "This shows that it needs inquiring after." We see, then, that we are dutybound in this respect. We cannot exempt ourselves because of our inadequate strength, for in relation to all such things we learned (Avoth 2.16), "The work is not yours to complete, but you are not free to abstain from it." And the Prophet says elsewhere (Isaiah 51:18), "She has no one to lead her from among all the sons to whom she has given birth; no one to hold her hand from among all the sons she has raised." And the verse (Ibid. 40:6), "All flesh is grass and all of his kindness is as the blossoming of the field," our Sages of blessed memory interpreted (Avodah Zarah 2b) as meaning that all of their kindnesses are performed for their own sake, for their own good and pleasure, that they are not governael and the growth of their honor, the one, in reality, being dependent upon the other, as may be seen in the aforementioned Tanna d'bei Eliyahu, "And he grieves over the honor of the Holy One Blessed be He and over the honor of Israel."

There are two considerations, then, in relation to this aspect of intention. The first is that the intention behind every mitzvah and act of Divine service be the magnification of the honor of the Presence, which derives from His creations' giving pleasure to Him, and the second that one feel pain for His honor, and long that it be perfectly magnified through the magnification of Israel's honor and through their well-being.

The second aspect of intention concerns the good of the generation. It befits every Saint to be motivated in his actions by a concern for the good of the entire generation, a desire to benefit and protect them. This is the intent of the verse (Isaiah 3:10), "Praise the righteous for he is good; for they eat the fruits of their deeds." The whole generation eats of their fruits. Our sages have commented similarly (Bava Bathra 15a), " "Does it contain trees? ' (Numbers 13:20) - is anyone there who shelters his generation as a tree?" We see it to be the will of the Presence that the Saints of Israel benefit and atone for all of the other levels within the nation, as our Sages of blessed memory intimated in their statement concerning the lulav and its accompanying species (Vayikra Rabbah 30.12), "Let these come and atone for those." For the Holy One Blessed be He does not desire the destruction of the wicked; it is rather a mitzvah devolving upon the Saint to benefit and atone for them. This intention must be contained in his Divine service and it must manifest itself in his prayers; that is, he must pray on behalf of his generation to seek atonement for him who needs atonement, to turn to repentance him who requires it, and to speak in defense of his entire generation. Our Sages of blessed memory tell us (Ein Yaakov Yoma Ch. 8) in relation to the verse Daniel 10:12), "And I have come with your words," that Gabriel did not return within the Divine Curtain until he had defended Israel. And about Gideon it is said (Yalkut), "Go with this, your strength" (Judges 6:14), the strength of his having defended his people. The Holy One Blessed be He loves only him who loves Israel; and to the extent that one's love for Israel grows, to that extent does the love of the Holy One Blessed be He grow for him. These are the true shepherds of Israel whom the Holy One Blessed be He greatly desires, who sacrifice themselves for His sheep, who concern themselves with their peace and well-being, and exert themselves for it in every way possible, who always stand in the breach to pray for them, to nullify stern decrees and to open the gates of blessing for them. The situation is analogous to that of a father, who loves no man more than the one whom he sees to have a genuine love for his sons. Human nature attests to this. And this is the idea behind the statement concerning the High Priests (Makkoth lla), "They should have pleaded for mercy on behalf of their generation, but failed to do so, " and behind the statement (Ibid.), "A man was eaten by a lion at a distance of three miles from R. Joshua ben Levi and Elijah did not appear to him for three days." We see, then, that it is the Saint's duty to seek the good of his generation and to exert himself for it.

We have now explained the chief divisions of Saintliness. It is for each man of intelligence and for each pure heart to deal with particular instances, to conduct himself justly in relation to them, each in its own time, according to the principles here set forth.

Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube

Recommend This Page To A Friend

Take the Israeli Opinion Poll!

Donate $1 (or more) to Ahavat Israel
Thanks!



| Tanach | Pirkei Avot | Path Just |

Copyright © 1995 - 2017 Ahavat Israel. All rights reserved.