The Duties of the Heart
Gate Six: "Surrendering to G-d"
The truth of the matter is that we "surrender" ourselves to others -- that
is, we subsume our wills to others' wills -- all the time. In fact, it
comes so naturally to us that we often don't notice it.
(To be sure there are people who are so feisty and self-assertive that
they seem never to "give in" and always appear to do whatever they want
to. But it's clear that they're the greatest "surrenderers" of all in that
they always acquiesce to the demands of their feisty side, the poor souls!)
Ibn Pakudah reports that there are actually two instances in which we're
very often willing to subsume our own wills to another's, and one which is
rarer but the best of all. The first two are when we're intimidated by
others, and when circumstances demand it. The more uncommon yet laudable
instance is when we want to draw close to G-d.
Surrendering to another's will because he or she intimidates you is a
mistake and is based on a character flaw, we're told. It's one of the
unhealthy examples of surrender we spoke of before, and is actually the
worst of them. Ibn Pakudah depicts it as "a personality flaw" on the part
of the person succumbing to it that "could have been avoided but wasn't"
only because its victim didn't know how to.
He declares (and quite stridently, too) that "it's rooted in ignorance"
and that it's endemic to people "who lack knowledge of and an appreciation
for their own beings and self-worth". And he describes it as a "weakness
and blindness of spirit ... (that) prevents us from seeing what's good for
us". So we're obviously not being advised to practice that sort of
The second instance (surrendering to others when circumstances demand it)
is a common-enough phenomenon. Certain hapless circumstances simply
*force* us to succumb to others' wishes, as when we're ill, when we depend
on someone for a livelihood or a favor, when we're in dire straits, etc.
We have very little choice in those instances but to subsume our will,
swallow our pride, and agree to the other's demands -- no matter how
uncomfortable we'd ordinarily be with them. These instances are so
commonplace and reasonable that they stand out as the best examples of
everyday, often healthy surrender.
After all, they're the times we force ourselves to allow a doctor, a
relative, an attorney, and the like to do things to or for us that we'd
never ordinarily stand for, simply because we really haven't a choice. For
the most part, though, these are temporary or only occasional instances.
And when left to our own devices again we quickly turn around and assert
our own wills. In fact, we could learn a lot about healthy surrender from
But the instance in which we're most encouraged to surrender ourselves is
one that touches upon our encounters with G-d. We're to surrender our will
to His (and to those who teach us how to draw close to Him) *all the
time*, Ibn Pakudah underscores. And we're to always approach His Presence
humbly and in a spirit of compliance. It's this instance that serves as
the thrust of this gate.
Ibn Pakudah tells us that one who has managed to achieve this draws closer
and closer to G-d all the time. So we'll expand upon this in the following
Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org
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