Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

The Duties of the Heart

Gate Five: "Dedicating Our Actions to God"

Chapter 5 (Part 11)

One drawback to striving for spiritual excellence is the feeling that sometimes comes with it that everyone else is spiritually inferior to you. After all (the reasoning goes), if spiritual excellence is the most laudable trait to have and you're one of the few people around striving for it, it follows then that you're successful on an ultimate level and that everyone else is inferior.

Now, while the logic is technically sound since spiritual excellence is indeed the paragon of human virtues, the claim still and all fails simply because the unabashed arrogance behind it out-and-out contradicts any claim to spiritual excellence.

For true spiritual excellence is rooted in humility, in the realization of how imperfect each one of us is, and in the dream of bettering yourself in the face of all your failings. An often unspoken-of side aspect of it, though, is the nudging suspicion that everyone else has something special going for him or her that you don't despite your spiritual accomplishments which is actually true.

So we'd need to fight the hubris of arrogance and self-satisfaction if we're to truly succeed. We've found that the best way to do that is to follow Ibn Pakudah's retorts to this particular tease of the yetzer harah.

The next time your own accomplishments impress you overmuch, he suggests, say something like this to yourself: How could I ever assume to be better in G-d's eyes than someone else if I don't really know what's in his heart? After all, he may seem to be one thing on the outside and actually be another on the inside. For only G-d knows a person's thoughts and intentions.

Perhaps someone who appears to be all wrong is actually much better than he seems, and maybe he's actually loftier than I in G-d's eyes, taking everything into consideration. After all, he might not know how to advance in his soul and thus have a better excuse for his lapses than I, since I know what to do and yet I don't always live up to it! So while he could be accused of "passive" or "innocent" wrongdoing, if you will, I could be accused of active and conscious wrong when I lapse.

From another angle, the truth is that every single thing he does to better his spiritual stature is noteworthy, since no one in his circle is likely to praise him for it (and he thus does it purely and selflessly); while everything good and lofty I do is expected of me by friends and neighbors, and I'd just naturally want to foster that impression among them for my own purposes.

Finally, the truth be known, we spend far too much time evaluating others. Do that enough, Ibn Pakudah says, and you'll "have no time left to think about your own defects and blemishes, which we're all obliged to do" if we're to grow past them.


This series is dedicated to the memory of Yitzchak Hehrsh ben Daniel z"l, and Sara Rivka bas Yaakov Dovid, z"l.

Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org

Subscribe to Spiritual Excellence and receive the class via e-mail.


 






ARTICLES ON NOACH:

View Complete List

Out of the Darkness
Shlomo Katz - 5773

Home Alone
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5756

Saved From a Rainy Day
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5758

> People In Stone Houses Shouldn
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5773

Taking a Hint
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5766

A Wasted Tragedy
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5762

ArtScroll

Positive Speech Builds a Brighter World
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5762

Sins Committed In Private Ultimately Lead To a Violent Society
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5765

Language Barrier
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5760

Looking for a Chavrusah?

What Was Noach's Greatest Legacy?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5772

Make it a Habit
Shlomo Katz - 5774

Great Is Peace
- 5769

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Constant Taking is Self Destructing
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5759

Love versus Fear
Shlomo Katz - 5763

Never Underestimate the Power of Prayer
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5771

Compliments -- In The Presence And Outside The Presence Of A Person
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5774



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information