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The Duties of the Heart

Gate Nine: "The Gate of Abstinence"
Ch. 7 (Part 2)

"I came across an inspired work on asceticism that a pious person passed on to his son", Ibn Pakudah reports. "It so delighted me when I found it" he said, "that I decided to make it ... this gate's last word." We're counseled to "understand it and reflect upon it", and we're told that "with Gd's help, we will come to do the good and right thing" if we do. Ibn Pakudah then offered it verbatim, but we'll provide only parts of it here for brevity's sake as the gate's conclusion; nonetheless, we're bound to grow for having been exposed to even this small part of it.

"May Gd have you be one of those who hears and listens," the father said to his son -- someone "who listens and thinks, thinks and knows, knows and does .... But may He *not* have you be one of those who is immersed in desire, drunk with the wine of folly, enslaved by the yetzer harah, controlled by the world, vanquished by his desires, naturally inclined toward overindulgence, seduced by longings, mislead by elegance, struck by darkness and captivated by the speed of his errors. For they hear but do not listen, say and do not do; they look for calm but always collapse groaning; they search for satisfaction and are plagued (with troubles)."

"Reflect (in contrast) upon the person whose heart Gd has expanded, ... (and) whose eyes ... He has shown the right way" -- those who practice abstention. Their "purview is serene" as a consequence, and "their hearts are full of trust. They delight in contemplating Gd in solitude and in thanking Him for all His goodness." Such blessed individuals "summon Gd, seek Him, anticipate Him and serve Him" all the time. "Nothing distracts them from recalling Gd" we're told, "and nothing prevents them from thanking Him." "They are Gd's blameless chosen ones, the elite among the pious". For they invariably "march straight to Gd, ... purify their inner beings and become pure, they chasten their hearts and are chosen, they equip themselves with the fear of Gd against the ways of evil and are saved, and they ride a chariot of good deeds."

"Choose what is good for your soul before you come to vain regret and endless anxiety" the wise man adds, and he offers the following blessing: "May Gd in His mercy and abundant kindness instruct us all in the right way and lead us onto the path of deliverance."

Text Copyright 2005 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and



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