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The Duties of the Heart

Gate One. “The Wholehearted Acceptance of the Oneness of G-d”

Chapter Ten - Part Two

We'll touch now upon how the soul in search of spiritual excellence can still and all draw close to G-d, despite the fact that He's so utterly unfathomable. And we'll thus end this first gate, with its more abstract discussions, and begin to address our spiritual struggles more directly in the gates to follow.

Recall, though, that we said last time that G-d can be discussed to some limited degree as He is, or He can be discussed in terms of how He's metaphorically depicted in the Torah. It would help to refer to the latter as the things that G-d's depicted as *doing* rather than as being, since that's what it comes down to. Ibn Pakudah's point is that we should concentrate on just that -- on what G-d does in this world -- when relating to Him. For we'll thus have a point of reference and will be able to "get a hold" on what He expects of us.

"In fact," Ibn Pakudah says quite astonishingly, "when you finally stop trying to envision or experience Him as He is ... and find Him in His deeds instead, you'll then come to realize that He never left you." What he means to indicate is that the reason many intelligent and sensitive souls lose their faith in G-d Almighty is because they've always thought they had to "truly understand" Him to believe in Him; and that that mistake has lead them to conclude that since He can't be understood, He must not exist (G-d forbid!). Ibn Pakudah is encouraging such individuals to see G-d in the world all about them instead -- to recognize Him as the Cause of All Causes, the Force behind All Forces; which is to say, to recognize G-d as He manifests Himself in this vast world. And that if they do that they'll indeed "come to realize that He never left", that He has always been demonstrably real in this world.

He brings up another fascinating idea in relation to "seeing" G-d in His actions rather than trying to know Him in His Essence. He points out that "we accept the soul's existence without conjuring up an image ... of it, simply because its deeds are self­evident and clear to us. And we do the same when it comes to the mind as well, because its deeds and manifestations are so clear and self-evident... Shouldn't that all the more so go for the Creator of all?" In other words, we accept the reality of other intangibles based on the effects they have on physical phenomenon, and we should "extend that courtesy" to G-d Himself as well.

Once you accept that perspective and thus catch sight of G-d's manifest wisdom, might, goodness, compassion, and providence in the world you'll find it easier to dedicate yourself to Him and to strive for closeness to Him. As such, the very next gate, "The Gate of Reflection", which concentrates on catching sight of G-d's manifest goodness in this world and the gates to follow will be found to be extensions of that very idea.

Ibn Pakudah ends this first gate with the following prayer, "May G-d, in His compassion and mercy, guide us onto the path of the knowledge of Him, place us in His service, and bring us to the fulfillment of His will", to which we add a hearty "Amen!"

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