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The Duties of the Heart

Gate Nine: "The Gate of Abstinence"
Ch .4

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



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