The Path of the Just
Chapter 19 (Part 14)
“Besides serving God by performing His mitzvot with this motivation”, that
is, for G-d’s sake alone, Ramchal continues, “a pious person would have to
be in a constant state of agitation about the exile and the destruction of
the Holy Temple, because both are the cause of the lessening of G-d's
honor”. A lot is implied there but in short it comes to this.
When the Holy Temple stood and our people dwelt in our homeland in
antiquity, everyone could sense G-d’s Presence at every moment and with each
act. And one would know that he was living out his life’s mission fully
either in the Temple itself or through all the other things that went on to
contribute to it. While most of us don’t sense the loss of all that today
and have managed to make peace with it (as much peace as anyone can make
with inner emptiness and spiritual torpor), the pious cannot.
They would know only too well what’s missing in life without the Holy
Temple, and concretely sense the fact that our homeland is no longer seeped
in the holiness it had once been. They’d also know deep in their beings how
all that has besmirched G-d’s honor in the world’s eyes. (After all, just
imagine how little the arguments for this or that anti-religious theme would
resonate if G-d’s full presence could be sensed, and if each mitzvah clearly
had its effects on the universe!)
As such, Ramchal informs us, truly pious people should long for the honor of
Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, and “constantly pray for the redemption of
Israel and the restoration of the former glory of Heaven”.
But that seems to be a tall order indeed. Who among us could claim to be of
the stature he’d need to be in order to offer that prayer with any hope of a
response to it from G-d Almighty? How dare anyone among us even think of
stepping forward to volunteer?
Yet Ramchal cannot accept that stance, though, and might even term it false
modesty (though he doesn’t say as much). He implores us to consider the
following words of rebuke and to consider our hesitancy in their light.
Isaiah the prophet said a number of things about that in despair including,
"I saw that there was no man, and I was dumbfounded that there was no
interceder" (Isaiah 59:16), "I looked and saw that there was no helper, and
I was dumbfounded that there was no supporter" (Isaiah 63:5), "There is no
leader for her from amongst the children she has borne, nor a protector from
amongst the children she has raised" (Isaiah 51:18) and more. And finally he
said, "All flesh is like hay and all its kindness is like weeds in the
field" (Isaiah 40:6), given that no one keeps our people’s wellbeing and
spiritual lifeblood in mind.
So, we’d need to take our people’s troubles to heart and to approach G-d
with our prayers and pleas time after time if we’re to be pious, and to keep
In fact, “G-d derives satisfaction from His children's prayers for this”.
And though “He may not respond to their prayers” for redemption “because the
right time has not come, or for some other reason,” still and all, we’re to
“do what (we) must and G-d will be pleased with that”.
(By the way, that last point speaks volumes about what G-d expects of us in
this life, given our limitations and His own intentions, and gently reminds
us that we’re each to do what we must do in this life and then allow G-d to
decide the outcome.)