Italian Jewish Rabbi, Childhood Genius, Ethical Author, Kabbalist and Philosopher
"Every aspect of our lives is a challenge and a test. With this perspective, life will never be boring or mundane. Every single situation and occurrence is different from each other and each is an opportunity for elevation and growth."
"Envy comes from foolishness and a lack of understanding. When you are envious of someone, you do not gain anything and o not cause a loss to the person you envy. The only person who loses out is you. There are some people whose foolishness is so strong that whenever they see someone else they know have some good fortune, they feel pain and suffering They are so pained by what others have they derive no pleasure from what they themselves possess."
"Honor-seeking pushes people to do things more than any other desire in the world. If a person would give up his demands for status, he would be content as long as his minimum needs for food, clothing, and shelter were met."
"You will be able to overcome desires without excessive difficulty when you become aware of their illusory nature. The pleasure of eating, for example, is really of very short duration. You feel the pleasure for only the short amount of time the food is in your mouth. As soon as you have swallowed the food, it is already forgotten... All physical pleasures are similar. Give the matter sufficient thought and you will realize that even the illusory good lasts only a short time. On the other hand, the negative consequences of physical pleasures can be severe and long lasting. A thinking person will definitely not want to place himself in a situation fraught with dangers for momentary pleasures. By habitually thinking about this truth, one will gradually be able to free himself from the prison of foolishly pursuing physical pleasures."
"Holiness is of a twofold nature; it begins as a quality of the service rendered to God, but it ends as a reward for such service. It is at first a type of spiritual effort, and then a kind of spiritual gift."
"If a man of this world is attracted to things of this world and is estranged from his Creator, he is corrupted and he can corrupt the entire world along with him."
"The purpose of each commandment is either to allow man to earn and incorporate in himself a particular level of true excellence, or to remove an area of deficiency and darkness. This is accomplished through doing what the commandments require and avoiding what they forbid."
"When a man sleeps, his faculties rest, his senses are quiet, and his mind is relaxed and hushed. The only thing that continues to function is his imagination (dream center), and this conceives and envisions various images. Some of these images arise from the individual's experiences while awake. Others may be the result of substances that rise to the brain, either from the body's own hormones, or from the food that one eats. These images are the dreams that all people experience. G-d has also decreed that the bond between the body and the divine soul should be somewhat loosened while man sleeps. The portions of the soul from Ruach (Spirit) and above then rise and sever themselves from the body. Only one portion, the Nefesh (Soul), remains with the lower [animal] soul. The freed portions of the soul can then move about in the spiritual realm wherever they are allowed. They can interact and associate with such spiritual beings as the angels who oversee natural phenomena, the angels associated with prophecy, and Shedim (demons). Whatever they experience will depend on a variety of factors. When these higher levels of the soul perceive something, they can sometimes transmit it step by step, until it reaches the animal soul. The imagination is then stimulated and forms images in its normal manner. [A person can then see this as a dream.]... Dreams in general can therefore arise either from the imagination itself or as a result of the stimulation of the Soul (Neshamah) according to what it perceives. In the latter case, the initiating agent is always one of the spiritual Forces which make something known to the Soul (Neshamah). The soul then transmits this to the imagination. If that spiritual Force is one of G-d's holy servants, then the information that the soul receives will be true. If it comes from the opposing Forces, on the other hand, then it will be false. Our sages thus teach us that a true dream originates through an angel, while a false one originates through a Shed (demon)."
"In truth, human beings are just that – humans and not angels. It is therefore impossible for us to have the might of the angels. Nonetheless we should strive to get as close to this level as we possibly can. "
"The bad that comes from laziness does not come about in one fell swoop, but slowly and without notice. It comes in a sequence of one leisurely bad deed after another, until you find yourself sunk in evil."
"It is the obligation of each person in Israel to raise up the Fallen Bride from the dust into which She has fallen."
"God desired, however, that there should be a [theurgic] way for man to free himself from the physical restrictions [of the natural world]. In this manner, he would then be able [through the use of theurgy] to attain things as a result of spiritual rules rather than those of physical law. He would thus be able to attain enlightenment and a perception of the spiritual....In attaining this, man would also be able to better elevate all existence to its preferred good state [of unity]. He would be able to accomplish this both below and on high, both in the Roots and in the Branches."
"Whatever your hand finds to do with your strength, do it, for there is no deed, nor account, nor knowledge... That is, what a man does not do while he still has the power that His Creator has given him (the power of choice that is given to him to employ during his lifetime, when he can exercise free will and is commanded to do so) he will not again have the opportunity of doing in the grave and in the pit, for at that time he will no longer possess this power. For one who has not multiplied good deeds in his lifetime will not have the opportunity of performing them afterwards. And one who has not taken an accounting of his deeds will not have time to do so later. And one who has not become wise in this world will not become wise in the grave. This is the intent of ... for there is no deed nor account nor knowledge nor wisdom in the pit to which you are going."
"What do you think of the notion that each individual is meant to use this life in order to become more “whole”? The Hebrew word for “wholeness” is shlemut, and an individual who is whole would be described as shalem. Both of these Hebrew words share a root with the word shalom (peace). What might be the connection between wholeness and peace? What do you think wholeness might look like in a person, given that each human being has flaws and weaknesses? Have you ever encountered a person who impressed you as embodying a measure of wholeness? What was it about that person that made you perceive him or her as whole? Can you begin to reframe your life, seeing everything you do in terms of bringing you closer to wholeness?"
"The Root of all religious observance and spiritual practice is for us to be constantly aware of God. It should make us realize that we were created for the singular purpose of consciously experiencing the Creator. Observance and practice should help us see that the only reason we were brought into the world is to use our spiritual powers to overcome our material attachments and limiting urges, and surrender ourselves to the Infinite One. Religious observance and spiritual practice should direct our [wills, thoughts, feelings, words and] actions toward attaining this awareness so that we do not stray from it."
"The foundation of righteousness and the root of perfection in the service of G-d lies in a man's coming to see clearly and to recognize as a truth the nature of his duty in the world and the end towards which he should direct his vision and his aspiration in all of his labors all the days of his life"
"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."
"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."
"A man must greatly strengthen himself, and power himself with Zeal to perform the mitzvoth, casting from himself the hindering weight of laziness."
"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."
"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."
"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"
"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."
"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"."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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':]"
"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:]"
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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.""
"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."
"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."
"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."
"The entire Wisdom of Truth (i.e. The Kabbalah) comes only to demonstrate the truth of faith."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"The one stone on which the entire building rests is the concept that God wants each person to complete himself, body and soul."
"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."
"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."