The truth is most everything shifts moment by moment; little stays in
place. And the human heart and mind are the most active. You just need to
close your eyes for a minute and watch all the images darting about behind
your eyelids; or to close your ears and listen to your heart’s arguments
for and against come-what-may.
In fact, no matter how slow and deliberate we are about things, there’s
always a hidden, inner readiness to rush out to do something. Only having
grown cynical has taught us to slow down. For we’ve learned that powerful
people have things done for them, so we hold back. But that’s a grave
After all, if we’re asked to steer clear of detrimental things so as to
grow in our beings (as we’d learned in the first trait, “caution”), then
we’d clearly need to seek out beneficial things. And that’s the gist of
this second trait. The point is, though, that we’re to seek out good
things enthusiastically rather than nonchalantly,=2 0because a lot rides
For Ramchal defines “enthusiasm” as “the eagerness to do and complete
mitzvot”. That’s to say that the sort of inner urgency that we’re
encouraged to foster should touch on things that will draw us close to G-
d. For we’re challenged to cultivate a rich and quickened urge for
But understand that all this that touches on a certain irreconcilable
difference-of-opinion in the human heart. For as Ramchal puts it, “it
takes as much conscientiousness and determination to take hold of
mitzvot”, and to grow, “as it does to save yourself from the snares of the
“For … the yetzer harah tries by any means to have you fall into the nets
of sin”, he says, and “it likewise tries to have you lose the chance to do
mitzvot”. That’s to say that the yetzer harah not only tries to draw us
toward wrongdoing, it likewise tries to draw us away from good. And that
inner-standstill could be our undoing.
So if “you slacken off and become lazy instead of encouraging yourself to
pursue” goodness, he warns, “you’ll … be left empty handed”.
The solution lies of course in invigorating yourself, egging yourself
onward mitzvah by mitzvah, and not settling for slow-going, unremitting
spiritual mediocrity. But that’s frankly more easily said than done. So,
how are we to come to authentic enthusiasm? We’ll learn that later on.
First, though, we’ll touch on the heart’s uncanny way of avoiding an
active pursuit of goodness.