Moshe Chayim Luzzatto, also Moses Hayyim Luzzato, known by Hebrew acronym RaMCHal

Moshe Chayim
Luzzatto, also Moses Hayyim Luzzato, known by Hebrew acronym RaMCHal
1707
1746

Italian Jewish Rabbi, Childhood Genius, Ethical Author, Kabbalist and Philosopher

Author Quotes

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.

You have already heard that the entire wisdom of the Kabbalah is only to understand the government of the Supreme Will and for what purpose He created all these different creatures, what He wants from them, what will come at the end of all the cycles of the universe, and how all these strange cycles are to be explained. For the Supreme Will Himself already calculated the entire cycle of government ending with complete perfection. These calculations and measures are what we are explaining when we speak about the Sefirot and the worlds.

Holiness consists in one's clinging so closely to his God that in any deed he might perform he does not depart or move from the Blessed One, until the physical objects of which he makes use become more elevated because of his having used them, than he descends from his communion and from his high plane because of his having occupied himself with them. This obtains, however, only in relation to one whose mind and intelligence cling so closely to the greatness, majesty and Holiness of the Blessed One that it is as if he is united with the celestial angels while yet in this world. I have already indicated that one cannot accomplish this by himself, but must awaken himself to it and strive for it. But first, he must have attained all of the noble traits previously mentioned - from the beginning of Watchfulness until the Fear of Sin. Only in this way will he arrive at Holiness and succeed in it; for if he lacks the preceding traits, he is akin to an outsider, the bearer of an imperfection, about whom it is said (Numbers 18:4), "An outsider shall not come near." But if, after having undergone all these preparations, he steadfastly pursues with strong love and great fear, the contemplation of the greatness of the Blessed One and the might of His majesty, he will separate himself little by little from earthy considerations and in all his actions and movements will direct his heart to the intimacies of true communion until there is conferred upon him a spirit from on high and the Blessed One causes His Name to dwell with him as He does with all of His Holy ones. He will then be in actuality like an angel of God, and all of his actions, even the lowly, physical ones, will be accounted as sacrifices and Divine service.

The idea behind the trait of Cleanliness is that a person be completely clean of bad traits and of sins, not only those which are recognized as such, but also those which are rationalized, which, when we look into them honestly, we find to be sanctioned only because of the heart's being still partially afflicted by lust and not entirely free of it, so as to incline us towards a relaxation of standards. The man who is entirely free of this affliction and clean of any trace of evil which lust leaves behind it will come to possess perfectly clean vision and pure discrimination, and will not be swayed in any direction by desire, but will recognize as evil, and withdraw from every sin that he had committed, though it were the slightest of the slight.

Holiness is two-fold. Its beginning is labor and its end reward; its beginning, exertion and its end, a gift. That is, it begins with one's sanctifying himself and ends with his being sanctified. As our Sages of blessed memory have said (Yoma 39a), "If one sanctifies himself a little, he is sanctified a great deal; if he sanctifies himself below, he is sanctified from above." Exertion in this respect consists in one's completely separating and removing himself from earthiness and clinging always, at all periods and times, to his God. It was because of the possession of this trait that the Prophets were called "angels," as stated in relation to Aaron (Malachi 2:7), "For the lips of the Priest will guard knowledge, and Torah will be sought from his mouth for he is an angel of the Lord of Hosts." And (II Chronicles 36:16), "And they disparaged the angels of God.. . " Even when one is engaged in the physical activities required by his body, his soul must not deviate from its elevated intimacy, as it is stated (Psalms 63:9), "My soul clings to You; Your right arm sustains me ."However, because it is beyond a person's ability to place himself in this situation, since, in the last analysis, he is a creature of flesh and blood, I have stated that the end of Holiness is a gift. What one can do is to persevere in the pursuit of true understanding and constantly give thought to the sanctification of deeds.

The idea of watchfulness is for a man to exercise caution in his actions and his undertakings; that is, to deliberate and watch over his actions and his accustomed ways to determine whether or not they are good, so as not to abandon his soul to the danger of destruction, God forbid, and not to walk according to the promptings of habit as a blind man in pitch darkness. This is demanded by one's intelligence. For considering the fact that a man possesses the knowledge and the reasoning ability to save himself and to flee from the destruction of his soul, is it conceivable that he would willingly blind himself to his own salvation? There is certainly no degradation and foolishness worse than this. One who does this is lower than beasts and wild animals, whose nature it is to protect themselves, to flee and to run away from anything that seems to endanger them. One who walks this world without considering whether his way of life is good or bad is like a blind man walking along the seashore, who is in very great danger, and whose chances of being lost are far greater than those of his being saved. For there is no difference between natural blindness and self-inflicted blindness, the shutting of one's eyes as an act of will and desire.

I cannot deny that it will take hard work to free yourself from negative traits. Nevertheless, I can honestly tell you that not as much effort is needed as might at first appear. What you need appears more difficult than it will actually be in practice. When you are sincerely motivated to work consistently to free yourself from your faults, the positive habits you begin to establish will render the entire process much easier than you originally thought. Experience confirms this to be true.

The one stone on which the entire building rests is the concept that God wants each person to complete himself, body and soul.

I did not write this book to teach people information they had not known previously. My intention was to remind them of knowledge they already possessed. As a matter of fact, you will find that most people already know the information that I have written. But to the degree that this knowledge is well-known and its truth self-evident, is the degree that people forget about these matters and are not consciously aware of them in their daily lives. Therefore, the benefit of reading such a book does not come from reading it just one time. You might find only a few bits of new information. You will derive benefit, however, from constant review. Keep reviewing ideas for self-improvement - even though on a certain level you already know them. When you constantly review important ideas, they will be at the forefront of your consciousness and you will thereby be able to apply them. [Regularly review what you know that is important and valuable for life and work, for example in the form of quotes and axioms, after-all 'repetition is the mother of skill and insight':]

The truth, then, is that a man should separate himself from anything which is not essential to him in relation to the affairs of the world; if he separates himself from anything which is essential to him, regardless of the reason for its being so, he is a sinner. This principle is a consistent on.-. Its application to particular instances, however, is a matter of individual judgment (and "A man will be praised according to his understanding"). For it is impossible to discuss all the particulars of Separation; they are so numerous that the mind cannot encompass them. One must deal with them each in its own time.

Identify the mental states that you want and then act externally as if you were already in that state. This includes your total being: posture, facial expression, and even your tone of voice. ['Fake it till you make it!' and 'Act it till it's a fact!'] This method will give you increased joy, enthusiasm, confidence and serenity. With practice, you will gain true self-mastery. [Feeling Follows Action:]

The world was created for man's use. In truth, man is the center of a great balance. For if he is pulled after the world and is drawn further from his Creator, he is damaged, and he damages the world with him. And if he rules over himself and unites himself with his Creator, and uses the world only to aid him in the service of his Creator, he is uplifted and the world itself is uplifted with him. For all creatures are greatly uplifted when they serve the "Whole Man," who is sanctified with the holiness of the Blessed One.

Love - that there be implanted in a person's heart a love for the Blessed One which will arouse his soul to do what is pleasing before Him, just as his heart is aroused to give pleasure to his father and mother. He will be grieved if he or others are lacking in this; he will be jealous for it and he will rejoice greatly in fulfilling aught of it. "Whole-heartedness" - that service before the Blessed One be characterized by purity of motive, that its end be His service alone and nothing else. Included in this is that one's heart be complete in Divine service, that his interests not be divided or his observance mechanical, but that his whole heart be devoted to it.

Therefore, man was placed in this world first - so that by these means, which were provided for him here, he would be able to reach the place which had been prepared for him, the World to Come, there to be sated with the goodness which he acquired through them. As our Sages of blessed memory have said (Eruvin 22a), "Today for their [the mitzvoth's] performance and tomorrow for receiving their reward." When you look further into the matter, you will see that only union with God constitutes true perfection

Man cleaves to the Creator?s Perfection, and is drawn to Him continually ? until, ultimately, its earning of perfection and its bonding in closeness to Him are one matter.

To summarize, a man was created not for his station in this world, but for his station in the World to Come. It is only that his station in this world is a means towards his station in the World to Come, which is the ultimate goal. This accounts for numerous statements of our Sages of blessed memory, all in a similar vein, likening this world to the place and time of preparation, and the next world to the place which has been set aside for rest and for the eating of what has already been prepared.

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.

Author Picture
First Name
Moshe Chayim
Last Name
Luzzatto, also Moses Hayyim Luzzato, known by Hebrew acronym RaMCHal
Birth Date
1707
Death Date
1746
Bio

Italian Jewish Rabbi, Childhood Genius, Ethical Author, Kabbalist and Philosopher