The Duties of the Heart
Gate Three: "Serving G-d"
Chapter Six - Part 2
As we pointed out last time, the more generous G-d has been to a person, the
more fitting it is for him or her to worship and thus thank Him. We'll see
now how that touches upon us personally when it comes to all the material and
spiritual good G-d has granted us.
You'd be expected to worship G-d more intensely in the following instances,
among many others: if G-d assigned you a leadership role in society in which
you hold sway over public opinion and can affect change; if He bestowed
wisdom upon you, deeper understanding, and the wherewithal to counsel others
for their own good; or if He granted you spiritual excellence indeed, and
allowed your search for it to come to fruition (for, the truth be known, many
have sought spiritual excellence and not achieved it despite their efforts;
for it too is a gift from G-d).
Serve Him more intensely in those or similar circumstances, we're told, and
you'll continue to enjoy the good you'd been favored with. Grow lax in your
gratitude, though, and you threaten your link to G-d. In fact, the early
pious ones were always a little leery when good fortune came their way. After
all, they reasoned, perhaps they couldn't do enough to thank G-d for all the
good, which might jeopardize their relationship to Him in the end.
Now, let the sensitive soul take this last point to heart. For who among us
who's honest to him- or herself wouldn't admit that he or she'd serve G-d
more devoutly in those circumstances *just to have the good fortune
continue*! After all, there's something of a hungry child in each one of us.
Ibn Pakudah's advice for us is to have in mind the fact that so human but
petty a reaction to G-d and His favor is based on three phenomena in the
human spirit. First, the fact that, at bottom, we're self-absorbed and
pleasure-driven, as we'd already cited.
Second, that we just don't appreciate how much good G-d has done for us in so
many large and small ways, and we assume the only way it will continue coming
is if we ask for it! His point is that "G-d has already been so good to you
-- in ways you know and in ways you don't know -- that by asking for more,
you show that you've forgotten Who did all those good things for you in the
And third, that we really don't know ourselves and are only scantly aware of
what we do. While it's certainly important to recognize one's strengths and
abilities, we tend to laud ourselves and to be proud of nearly everything we
do. Take a deep breath or two, garner your loins, and dare to see yourself
for what you really are and you might be shocked by your oafishness and
It's our blindness to all that that has us think we deserve G-d's favor all
the time, that has us become dumbfounded when we lack for something, and that
keeps us wanting more and more. (After all, we "deserve" it...). And as if
that wasn't enough, it actually has us believe that we're doing G-d a favor
when we worship Him!
"If you'd only realize how much attention your Creator indeed pays to you,
and how much better He knows what's good for you and what's not than you ever
could" he says, "you'd have more and more gratitude ... and you'd get what
you deserve rather than what you imagine you do."
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