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The Path of the Just

Chapter 17 (Part 2)

It is often useful to take a deep breath, set your mind to the task at hand, whatever it is, and to then purposefully and intently set out to do it. If that is true of most things, it is all the more so true when you set out to study Torah or do a mitzvah … especially if you hope to achieve purity.

As Ramchal puts it, “don’t suddenly and immediately rush into a mitzvah before having had time to reflect upon what you’re about to do.” Instead, “get yourself ready for it, and compose yourself until you’re truly focused”. Then concentrate on what you’re about to do -- the mitzvah itself, that is, the actual process and all its requirements, component parts, and its ramifications; and concentrate after that upon “Whom you’re about to do it before” -- G-d Almighty.

The last point is the most important. After all, know it or not, we always stand before G-d. And while He always looks at us straight-on, we often look at Him peripherally, if at all. We'd thus need to learn to turn to Him full-face when we address Him in prayer, when we set out to fulfill one of his mitzvahs, or when we hear out His instructions as we study His Torah. (Isn’t that what Torah-study is all about at bottom, anyway? -- hearing out G-d’s instructions; so wouldn’t it be only right to face Him and read it closely and attentively?).

As such, each one of us would need to “rid ourselves of all external impetuses” and to “set the right … ones in mind instead” when we follow His will. In fact, we are taught that “the early pious ones would wait a full hour before actually beginning to pray (Berachot 30b) so as to direct their heart to G-d”. As Ramchal explains it, they did that in order to “ready themselves (for the task at hand) by focusing their attention … and eliminating any untoward thoughts … (so as to) fill themselves with … reverence and love” for Him.

While the rest of us aren’t expected to do that per se, still and all we can learn the art of slow approach, of dwelling on what we’re about to do, and of reminding ourselves of G-d’s presence.

We’ll begin delving into the all-important trait of piety next.


Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and

Rabbi Feldman's new book, Bachya Ibn Pakuda's The Duties of the Heart, is now available! Order Now



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