The Duties of the Heart
Gate Three: "Serving G-d"
Let's delve now into the slew of emotional "employees" and "attendants" our
inner lives are comprised of, which we cited last time. A vital point to be
made about them is that not a single one is inherently wrong or untoward; the
trick, though, is knowing when to use them appropriately and wisely. Needless
to say, space doesn't allow us to discuss the lot of them swimming about
within us, so we'll focus instead on some of the more vexing ones and present
them in contrasting pairs.
Let's start by saying that we often seem to be troubled or pleased by the
wrong things, or for the wrong reasons. After all, oftentimes the things we
enjoy or dread are slight and thin, short-lived and of no real consequence.
Those of us in search of spiritual excellence would want to find the right
balance in things, and to keep our higher goals in mind.
As such, it would be wise to be most especially happy when we've come upon
things that allow for permanent, unalloyed *spiritual* pleasure, and to only
grieve if we'd encountered things that bring about permanent, unalloyed
We'd want to experience fear and hope in much the same light. So we're
commended to only be afraid of things that will bring on true rather than
imagined misfortune, and to hope for things that would actually benefit us.
It would do us well to be fearless in the face of those who deride a
commitment to Divine service, yet be humble when encountering people who
truly love G-d as well as those who critique you for your own good.
We're counseled to be shamefaced when we catch ourselves doing anything
untoward and taking G-d's goodness for granted (whether we realize it on our
own, or stumble upon it while studying a holy work). Yet we're to be
audacious when reproaching the out-and-out wrongful, contentious, and cruel.
We're told to express anger when confronted with untruth and injustice, and
to exude goodwill when truth and justice are indeed carried out and when
Express compassion to the poor and the ill, we're told -- to people outside
the mainstream of society who don't know how to improve their lot or how to
conduct themselves; to the unfairly imprisoned; to those who have lost
personal fortunes; and to the repentant. And we're to express out-and-out
callousness in the face of the sadistic and violent.
Express pride in your faith when you encounter people who reject G-d and
stubbornly refuse to humble yourself to them. Yet express humility when you
encounter pious, pure, G-d-fearing people engaged in the service of G-d as
well as before anyone who has been kind and generous to you -- to say nothing
of before G-d Himself!
Express love toward those who agree with you about the importance of serving
G-d and to anyone who'll encourage you to strive for spiritual excellence.
But express animosity toward those who balk at G-d's will, who oppose truth,
and who'd lead you astray.
The best way to express generosity would be to help arrange things in their
proper place as well as to give of your money and insight to the needy (as
would be expected). But it would be propitious to be miserly to the cruel, to
people utterly closed-off to the truth, and to anyone who refuses to
appreciate the kindness G-d has bestowed upon him.
And finally, be lazy when you're confronted with a chance to express untoward
desires, and diligent when you're engrossed in spiritual growth and
fulfilling G-d's will.
We've thus finished the third gate. Ibn Pakudah ends it with the prayer that
G-d in His mercy place us on the path of His service.
Subscribe to Spiritual Excellence and receive the class via e-mail.