The Duties of the Heart
Gate Two. "Reflecting Upon Created Things"
Chapter Five - Part Two
Reason not only allows us to catch a glimpse of G-d's wisdom, it also enables
us to appreciate all the love and mercy G-d exhibits in the world and to thus
worship Him in humble gratitude. And it gives us the wherewithal to realize
that it's thanks to G-d's Torah that we know what's expected of us in this
world, as well as what we're capable of and just who we are.
Thanks to G-d's gift of reason we're also able to "see" things ordinarily out
of our purview (as when we're able to surmise the existence of otherwise
invisible things); to distinguish between true and false, too much and too
little, good and evil, and between high and low quality; to have animate and
inanimate beings do our work for us; and to understand the machinations of
There are many, many other "gifts from G-d". Thanks to our ability to speak,
for example, we're able to express ourselves and to understand other people
and thus draw close to them as well as to G-d (through prayer and
supplications), and so much more. Our ability to write allows us to record
things for now and for posterity, to understand the makeup and goings-on of
others both far away and long gone, to delve into wisdom, conduct business,
marry, and much more. And the list of things that manifest G-dly wisdom includ
es many other G-d-given dexterous and subtle capacities that set us apart
from G-d's other creatures.
And of course we can acknowledge the bold ways G-d manifests His wisdom in
other realms as well (as we said last time). By delving into the course of
the planets, as they spin about in slow majesty, reach beyond vast space, and
bear witness to G-d's infinitude. After all, "if the sight of ancient
edifices has us marvel at the ancients' abilities..., if it attests to the
great strength and rarity of soul the people who were able to build such
fortresses for their protection had...-- how much more so must we marvel at
He who created the heavens, earth and all therein effortlessly and easily,
without toil or fatigue and from nothing other than His will and desire", as
Ibn Pakudah put it.
We can derive the same wonder from considering more subtle practical and
abstract phenomena like light, time, motion, happenstance, growth, fruition,
and the like.
"The greatest of all the good things the Creator has bestowed on man" Ibn
Pakudah goes on to say, "and the most substantial proof for His existence,
is the Torah handed down to Moses, His prophet, as well as ... all the
wondrous miracles (Moses) displayed in order to foster faith in the Creator
and His prophet." After all, other than that historical phenomenon, how could
mankind dare claim to have heard from The Almighty Himself!
But should you cynically wonder how the revelation of the Torah some 3,300
years ago still sustains belief in G-d, Ibn Pakudah offers an interesting
insight. "Should anyone in our day and age" he said some 900 years ago "ever
want to see something equivalent to all that, let him objectively consider
our place in exile among the other nations. Notice how normal our situation
is..." despite our antiquity and our state of exile. That's to say that our
continued existance as a people bears witness to our Divine guidance and
Ibn Pakudah finally goes on to delve into very many other matters that the
sensitive soul can't help but be struck by, including the wonder of
governance (the fact that masses of people would cooperate under one flag),
the fact that business is nearly universally conducted in fairly uniform ways
upon mutual agreement, and the like value most people place on common and
uncommon things, and so much more.
We've barely alluded to the rich content of this famous and celebrated
chapter of "The Duties of the Heart". It would do us all well to read the
original and to allow it to warm the very bones of those of us so privileged
to live in an age of splendor and Divine bounty, who take it in with a wave
of the hand and think of it all as what's simply "due" us.
Again at bottom our point is that all of this -- and all the vast expanse of
things neither we nor Ibn Pakudah have touched upon -- is rife with Divine
wisdom and set in place with a purpose. No one in search of spiritual
excellence could help but be struck to the core by the stark reality of G-d's
presence in our midst, or be dumbfounded by the fool he or she has been to
overlook that all these years!
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