The Duties of the Heart
Gate Four: "On Trusting G-d"
Chapter 6 - Part 1
Why would anyone delay living out his or her raison d'etre with all the deep
and immortal existential joy that comes with that, and settle instead for
lesser, more mundane ephemeral delights? We touched a bit on that last time
when we spoke of people who give little thought to the station of their souls most
of the time and expect to make up for it when they get older or when their
house is payed off, their the kids grow up, when they're promoted -- which
is to say, when they get everything they want. So we'll expand on that now.
Understand that we're speaking about people who do indeed believe in G-d, in
the fact that someday we'll all have to answer for the people we've become in
this life, and who believe that we're expected to grow in our beings. And yet
despite that belief they're willing to gamble with their fate and to hope they
can put larger issues off until the great and numinous "later" when none of
us can ever be sure of what awaits us.
Ibn Pakudah likens good but misguided souls like that to "pawnbrokers" who
ask G-d for "collateral". Most of us know little or nothing at all about
pawnbroking though we do know about loans, so we'll take the liberty of
likening such individuals to loan-officers -- people who loan others money and ask to hold
onto something of the borrower's, i.e., "collateral", to insure the
Ibn Pakudah's point is that those individuals act as if they expect G-d to
provide them with a full, long, healthy, rich worry-free life as collateral
for their promise to "loan" Him the time and effort they're going to put in "some
day" in His service. But it's absurd of them to expect G-d to provide them
with that for seven reasons.
First off, would we dare ask our employer for collateral before "loaning" him
or her our time and efforts? Certainly not, so how dare we demand collateral
Second, loan-officers usually ask for a fixed and mutually agreed upon
collateral, while these individuals always "up the ante" and ask for more good
fortune, more well-being, etc.
Third, they themselves owe G-d so much for all the good and plentious things
in their life already, so how dare they ask Him for more as collateral?
Fourth, it's clear that G-d Almighty is capable of repaying His "debts" and
that He has always been an "honest broker", He's immortal and hence is always
capable of "paying His loans" in the course of time, and that He's easy enough
to "find" when its time to ask for repayment unlike others. So fo that reason
alone it's absurd to ask Him for collateral.
Fifth, ironically but true nonetheless, you could more easily depend on
others' collateral, since whatever others would leave as collateral would be
tangible and open-and-aboveboard, whereas you could never quite be sure
you'd enjoy the time, well-being, or money G-d would have granted you as collateral.
Sixth, it would be absurd to ask for collateral for a loan whose value would
clearly multiply many times over, as G-d's would in the course of your
And seventh, they themselves couldn't promise G-d they could guarantee His
"loan" of their time and involvement, since everything in life depends on
Him in the first place!
The astute reader has undoubtedly noticed that the gist of this chapter is a
bit toungue-in-cheek and playful. The underlying message is, though, that one
could never "make a deal" with G-d. So it would be wise to use the present
moment to draw close to G-d and to pursue spiritual excellence. The truth
of the matter is that you'd be rewarded for that realization alone, aside from the
efforts you'd make.
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