Mistaking one inclination of the soul for another is miles apart from
confusing apples with oranges, for example. For, while fruits are clearly
distinct from each other, most of our traits overlap. The trait
of “caution” which we discussed earlier for example is a lot like the one
under discussion now, “innocence”, in that they both have to do with
avoiding wrongdoing, but they’re also subtly different.
“The person who’s cautious” Ramchal says, “is guarded in his actions and
sees to it that he doesn’t sin where sin is clear and obvious to all”,
which is to say that he’s sure not to fall into clearly marked pits, which
is wonderful. Still and all, though, he wouldn’t have reached the
pinnacle. For, as Ramchal lays it out, “he still hadn’t mastered himself” -
- he hadn’t yet learned to control his impulses. Because sometimes pits
are mislabeled, so we’d need to learn how to step gingerly and
deliberately wherever there’s a chance of falling.
If we’re ever to be “innocent” we’d have to not be “tempted by things
whose bad qualities aren’t so obvious” but are wrong nevertheless. And
we’d do well to learn how to overcome our untoward impulses “and to go in
the ways of wisdom instead”.
But how are we ever to do that? By “first earnestly accustoming yourself
to be so ‘enthusiastic’ that you‘re cleansed from obvious sins, then by …
strengthening yo ur love and desire for G-d” afterwards. After all, our
ultimate goal is to draw close to G-d in the first place, so we’ll more
likely succeed if we keep that in mind all the time.
Once you do that, we’re assured, “you’ll be able to acquire
full ‘innocence’, and what would have been the fire of physical desires
would be eclipsed by an increase of G-dly desire”. That to say that the
same rich, bold love you’d had for this or that would now serve to have
you love G-d instead, measure for measure. And you will have attained a
degree of actual innocence.
But don’t for a moment imagine that you’ll have succeeded in full.
For, “in truth, only someone who has been thoroughly cleansed of all
nagging remnants of sin … would be fit to see the face of the King, G-d”
in full innocence. The rest of us, who would be “abashed and embarrassed
before Him” either because of our failings or because we’d have imagined
that we’d succeeded when we hadn’t, should remember to always go step by