We’d need to undergo and then pass a number of tests if we’re ever to
achieve our life’s goal of drawing close to G-d, Ramchal insists. And it
touches on our relationship to everything around us, which is alternately
tinged with holiness and unholiness.
For, we’re taught that if we’re to draw close to G-d Almighty we’d need to
associate with holiness as much as possible and avoid unholiness. But just
what’s holy and what’s not? Does holiness have anything to do with
healthiness, for example? Or with kindness, other-worldliness, courage,
abstaining from earthly pleasures, seriousness, and the like?
It can’t really though, for a number of good reasons. Because I could
certainly be healthy and do unholy things, much the way that I can be kind
to one person yet manage to hurt someone else in the process; or the way I
could be too other-worldly and wind up being insensitive to the world’s
woes, so courageous that I threaten my life and the well-being of my
family, so abstentious that I become too weak to do good, so serious that
I couldn’t empathize with others’ smaller but real pains, and the like.
There would be other questions, too. How would we be expected to worship G-
d, and what are we to think about what He’s like? Are there specific
places, times, and ways to worship Him? Can legal matters be considered
holy or unholy? Are there holy times of day, of the week, or of the year;
and what would they be? Does what I eat matter? Where do social,
political, legal, property, business, or family matters fit in?
So there clearly have to be rules and guidelines to go by -- and ones that
G-d Himself would approve of. Or else our efforts would have been for
naught (or nearly so), and we’d have gone through all sorts or trials and
efforts, and been unsuccessful.
There’s another factor in this besides all that. There’d always be things
along the way that would keep me back from G-d and from holiness. They
could come from deep within my heart, which may be frightened of drawing
close to G-d or too concerned with my own needs; or from others, who
wouldn’t care for me to be “so holy”. So there clearly has to be a system
in place to contend with all that too, if we’re ever to succeed in our
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason
Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various
locations on the Web.