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The Duties of the Heart

Gate Three: "Serving G-d"

Chapter Ten

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 spiritual sorrow.

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 order prevails.

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.

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