The Duties of the Heart
Gate Eight: "The Gate of Introspection"
We're each distinctive inside and out with individual circumstances, and
with our own way of perceiving both ourselves and those circumstances. Yet
we're all told to be introspective despite those differences, and to do it
in order to see for ourselves how to serve G-d in light of how good He's
been to us. So, how do we manage to do that?
As Ibn Pakudah puts it, it comes to this: since "we're all obliged to
serve G-d according to our perceptions and according to the favors He's
done for us alone" (as we said), it follows that each one of us
should "ponder what his obligations are to G-d" in his own way, "be as
exacting in that as p then "do as much as he possibly can" to follow
through on his realizations.
That's to say that we're each to sit long and hard, and consider all the
good we've been blessed with in our own lives that others don't have
(*aside* from all the good that every living being enjoys); and we're to
then thank G-d for it by serving Him -- "reimbursing" Him, if you will --
in kind. We'll get into the details of that later on, but that's it in sum.
But Ibn Pakudah adds one item at the end. Each one of us is to do as much
as he possibly can to repay G-d -- "or to at least *long* to do as much".
What that means to say is that we're to also come to know ourselves well
enough in our ruminations to realize what we can and can't do so as to aim
for the appropriate mark, but to *want to reach higher yet* even when we
know we won't.
"Do that", we're told, "and G-d will judge you favorably" for having done
what you could -- just as long as you aspire to fulfill as many of your
obligations to G-d as you can, and you "neither absolve yourself of them
with excuses, belittle them, or neglect and ignore them." For while
knowing your limitations is invaluable, settling for them and never hoping
to transcend them is inexcusable.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org