The Duties of the Heart
Gate Nine: "The Gate of Abstinence"
Is there some sort of "litmus test" for piety? Ibn Pakudah seems to offer
us one here when he sets out the criteria for determining who's practicing
the sort of exceptional abstinence only such rare souls would -- and which
only they should.
But just know that we'll be laying out some obviously ideal, truly rare
traits. For the truth be known, there are very few such lofty individuals
in the world at any one time (see Sukkah 45b). In any event, if you notice
someone manifesting these traits, you can assume he or she's indeed
abstaining from things we love but is also achieving states-of-being far
higher than our own (which we'd ironically like to achieve, too -- if we
only didn't have to abstain from those things).
The pious are said to be "happy (even) while grieving", "all–embracing yet
very humble", "calm, retentive, appreciative ... and
harmless", "especially wise", "persistent, yet neither hasty nor
foolish", "righteous when angry and compassionate when appealed
to", "genuinely friendly, truly devoted and trustworthy", "undemanding and
generous", "grateful in adversity and able to suffer patiently", "generous
even when denied something", "softer than butter and sweeter than
honey", "sagacious, enthusiastic, noble, dependable, mighty and never
dishonorable", "able to only rarely complain", "pleasant and pure", "able
to take everything anyone else does to be purer than their own deeds and
to see everyone as more blameless than they", and "aware of their faults
and cognizant of their failings". They also "love G–d and hastens to do
His will", "dwell with the poor, love the righteous, and are faithful to
people of truth" and most significantly, they "accept upon themselves all
the duties of the heart" we'd cited before.
They also "bear no grudges and covet nothing", "neither mock nor speak ill
of anyone", "despise dominance and hate control", "never laugh to excess",
"accept G-d's judgments and master their yetzer harah", "never speak
arrogantly against someone who harms them", "never occupy themselves with
things that don't avail", "are never vengeful when mistreated and never
remind anyone of how they'd harmed him", "never disclose the concealed nor
divulge secrets", and they "never take revenge, or stay angry for long".
May G-d grant us the good fortune to meet with such individuals and learn
from their gentility and holiness.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org