Italian Jewish Rabbi, Childhood Genius, Ethical Author, Kabbalist and Philosopher
Moshe Chayim Luzzatto, also Moses Hayyim Luzzato, known by Hebrew acronym RaMCHal
Italian Jewish Rabbi, Childhood Genius, Ethical Author, Kabbalist and Philosopher
Matters of piety, reverence and love, and purity of heart are not ingrained in your heart? [or] come upon nonchalantly like? sleep and wakefulness, hunger and satiety? 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.
Truthful, desirable saintliness is far from being conceptualized by us, for it is obvious that a person does not concern himself with what does not occupy a place in his mind. And though the beginnings and foundations of saintliness are implanted in every person's heart, if he does not occupy himself with them, he will witness details of saintliness without recognizing them and he will trespass upon them without feeling or perceiving that he is doing so. For sentiments of saintliness, fear and love of God, and purity of heart are not so deeply rooted within a person as to obviate the necessity of his employing certain devices in order to acquire them. In this respect they differ from natural states such as sleep and wakefulness, hunger and satiety, and all other reactions which are stamped in one's nature, in that various methods and devices are perforce required for their acquisition. There is also no lack of deterrents which keep saintliness at a distance from a person, but then again there is no lack of devices by which these deterrents may be held afar. How, then, is it conceivable that it not be necessary to expend a great deal of time upon this study in order to know these truths and the manner in which they may be acquired and fulfilled? How will this wisdom enter a person's heart if he will not seek it? And since every man of wisdom recognizes the need for perfection of Divine service and the necessity for its purity and cleanliness, without which it is certainly completely unacceptable, but repulsive and despised - "For God searches all hearts and understands the inclination of all thoughts" (I Chronicles 28:9) - what will we answer in the day of reproof if we weaken in this study and forsake that which is so incumbent upon us as to be the very essence of what the Lord our God asks of us? Is it fitting that our intelligence exert itself and labor in speculations which are not binding upon us, in fruitless argumentation, in laws which have no application to us, while we leave to habit and abandon to mechanical observance our great debt to our Creator? If we do not look into and analyze the question of what constitutes true fear of God and what its ramifications are, how will we acquire it and how will we escape worldly vanity which renders our hearts forgetful of it? Will it not be forgotten and go lost even though we recognize its necessity? Love of God, too - if we do not make an effort to implant it in our hearts, utilizing all of the means which direct us towards it, how will it exist within us? Whence will enter into our soul?s intimacy with and ardor towards the Blessed One and towards His Torah if we do not give heart to His greatness and majesty which engender this intimacy in our hearts? How will our thoughts be purified if we do not strive to rescue them from the imperfections infused in them by physical nature? And all of the character traits, which are in such great need of correction and cultivation -who will cultivate and correct them if we do not give heart to them and subject them to exacting scrutiny? If we analyzed the matter honestly would we not extract the truth and thereby benefit ourselves, and also be of benefit to others by instructing them in it? As stated by Solomon (Proverbs 2:4), "If you seek it as silver and search for it as treasure, then you will understand the fear of God." He does not say, "Then you will understand philosophy; then you will understand astronomy; then you will understand medicine; then you will understand legal judgments and decisions." We see, then, that for fear of God to be understood, it must be sought as silver and searched for as treasure. All this is part of our heritage and is accepted in substance by every devout individual.
A consideration of the general state of affairs will reveal that the majority of men of quick intelligence and keen mentality devote most of their thought and speculation to the subtleties of wisdom and the profundities of analysis, each according to the inclination of his intelligence and his natural bent. There are some who expend a great deal of effort in studying the creation and nature. Others devote all of their thought to astronomy and mathematics, and others to the arts. There are those who go more deeply into sacred studies, into the study of the holy Torah, some occupying themselves with Halachic discussions, others with Midrash and others with legal decisions. There are few, however, who devote thought and study to perfection of Divine service - to love, fear, communion and all of the other aspects of saintliness. It is not that they consider this knowledge unessential; if questioned each one will maintain that it is of paramount importance and that one who is not clearly versed in it cannot be deemed truly wise. Their failure to devote more attention to it stems rather from its being so manifest and so obvious to them that they see no need for spending much time upon it. Consequently, this study and the reading of works of this kind have been left to those of a not too sensitive, almost dull intelligence. These you will see immersed in the study of saintliness, not stirring from it. It has reached the stage that when one sees another engaging in saintly conduct, he cannot help but suspect him of dull-wittedness. This state of affairs results in evil consequences both for those who possess wisdom and for those who do not, causing both classes to lack true saintliness, and rendering it extremely rare. The wise lack it because of their limited consideration of it and the unwise because of their limited grasp. The result is that saintliness is construed by most to consist in the recitation of many Psalms, very long confessions, difficult fasts, and ablutions in ice and snow - all of which are incompatible with intellect and which reason cannot accept.
May the Blessed One in His mercy open our eyes to His Torah, teach us His ways, and lead us in His paths; and may we be worthy of honoring His name and bringing pleasure to Him.
Unquestionably, Humility removes many stumbling blocks from a man's path and brings him near to many good things; for the Humble man is little concerned with worldly affairs and is not moved to envy by its vanities.
A Jew must believe and know that there exists a first Being, without beginning or end, who brought all things into existence and continues to sustain them.
My intent was to set forth the general principles of Jewish belief and religion, expounding them all in a way that is clearly understood, to provide a complete picture.
Walking in His ways embodies the whole area of cultivation and correction of character traits. As our Sages of blessed memory have explained, "As He is merciful, be also merciful..." The essence of all this is that a person conform all of his traits and all the varieties of his actions to what is just and ethical. Our Sages of blessed memory have thus summarized the idea (Avoth 2.1): "All that is praiseworthy in its doer and brings praise to him from others;" that is, all that leads to the end of true good, namely, strengthening of Torah and furthering of brotherliness.
A man must greatly strengthen himself, and power himself with Zeal to perform the mitzvoth, casting from himself the hindering weight of laziness.
One and unique G-d, how beloved is your dwelling, Hashem Tzevaos, in so many synagogues and study halls where they study Your Torah in exile, and Your Presence rests there, like one who rests in an inn on the way, like a bird who find a home; and they study Your Torah and bear their exile, for so they were foresworn, not to force the end, as it says ?I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, by Tzevaos?? and therefore that name (Tzevaos) shines upon them, and they accept it lovingly, like a donkey bearing its burden. And sometimes they stumble under their burden because the Samech Mem makes it too heavy for them, but You help them back up through the many inspirations of holiness with which you inspire them; whereupon they stand up and bear their burden again, as before.
We thus derive that the essence of a man's existence in this world is solely the fulfilling of mitzvoth, the serving of God and the withstanding of trials, and that the world's pleasures should serve only the purpose of aiding and assisting him, by way of providing him with the contentment and peace of mind requisite for the freeing of his heart for the service which devolves upon him. It is indeed fitting that his every inclination be towards the Creator, may His Name be blessed, and that his every action, great or small, be motivated by no purpose other than that of drawing near to the Blessed One and breaking all the barriers (all the earthy elements and their concomitants) that stand between him and his Possessor, until he is pulled towards the Blessed One just as iron to a magnet. Anything that might possibly be a means to acquiring this closeness, he should pursue and clutch, and not let go of; and anything which might be considered a deterrent to it, he should flee as from a fire. As it is stated (Psalms 63:9), "My soul clings to You; Your right hand sustains me." For a man enters the world only for this purpose - to achieve this closeness by rescuing his soul from all the deterrents to it and from all that detracts from it.
A person does not have in the next world only what he brought into his mind in this world. Whoever knows the inside of Torah will enjoy the inner light. Whoever does not, will not get to enjoy it at all.
Purity refers to the perfection of one's heart and thoughts, as indicated in David's statement (Psalms 51:12), "Create in me, God, a pure heart." The intent of this trait is that a man leave no room in his deeds for the evil inclination, but conduct himself in accordance with intelligence and fear of God, uninfluenced by sin and lust. This applies even to physical, earthy actions; for even after one has accustomed himself to Separation so that he takes from the world only what is essential, he must still purify his heart and thoughts so that, even in taking the little that he does, he is motivated not by desire for enjoyment and lust, but by thought for the good which proceeds from his actions in respect to wisdom and Divine service, as was said of R. Eliezer (Nedarim 20b), "He would expose one hand-breadth and conceal two handbreadths and imagine that he was being compelled by a demon." He derived no pleasure whatosever, but performed the act only with a thought to the mitzvah and Divine service. Along these lines Solomon said (Proverbs 3:6), "In all your ways know Him and He will straighten your paths."
What pleasure does G-D have in all the big calculations and many conclusions, while there is not one person who strengthens himself to stand in the mysteries of G-D and to reveal the light of his Glory.
A principle that experience has shown to be of central importance to the work of Separation is that whatever tends to lighten one's burden must be examined carefully. For although such alleviation is sometimes justified and reasonable, it is most often a deceitful prescription of the evil inclination, and must, therefore, be subjected to much analysis and investigation. If, after such an examination, it still seems justified, then it is certainly acceptable.
Saintliness, then, is a comprehensive performance of all the mitzvoth, embracing all of the relevant areas and conditions within the realm of possibility. It is to be seen that Saintliness is of the same nature as Separation, differing from it only in the respect that it concerns the positive commandments whereas Separation deals with the negative ones, but corresponding to it in terms of general function, which is adding to what has been explicitly stated that which we may deduce from the explicit commandment as giving pleasure to the Blessed One. This is the delimitation of true Saintliness. I shall now explain its chief divisions.
When one knows a number of things, and understands how they are categorized and systematically interrelated, then he has a great advantage over one who has the same knowledge without such distinction.
External movements have the ability to awaken internal feelings and emotions. Though feelings often seem to be out of our control, by consciously acting in a certain way, we can gain mastery over our feelings
The abomination occurring in our times, that most of the wise men of Yisroel have already strayed far from the truth and the sweet light, the glory of G-D our master. They go after calculations of nothingness. They lean after power and honor.
Who ever has a sharp mind should analyze at the most for only an hour or two in Halacha. Whoever is not sharp should not study it at all, rather he should spend his time with Midrashim and Kabbalah, the inside of the Torah.
Fear of God denotes fear of the Majesty of the Blessed One, fearing Him as one would a great and mighty king, and being ashamed at one's every movement in consequence of His greatness, especially when speaking before Him in prayer or engaging in the study of His Torah.
The entire Wisdom of Truth (i.e. The Kabbalah) comes only to demonstrate the truth of faith.
Why would one leave the main learning [Kabbalah] and go to the side issues [Pshat].
He satisfies his lofty soul only with the grass of the field, which is the Pshat level of Torah. He makes his life bitter with Kal Vechomer and Gezarah Shavah, on which it is written "they made their life miserable with hard work".
The essence of Humility is in a person's not attaching importance to himself for any reason whatsoever. This trait is the very opposite of pride and its results are the very opposite of the results of pride. Analysis will reveal that Humility is dependent upon thought and deed. Before a man conducts himself in the way of the Humble, he must first be Humble in thought. One who attempts to be Humble in deeds without first having cultivated an attitude of Humility belongs to that class of wicked, deceitful, "humble" men which we mentioned previously, that class of hypocrites, than which there is nothing more evil in the world.