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 G–d'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 G–d 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 G–d 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 G–d in solitude and in
thanking Him for all His goodness." Such blessed individuals "summon G–d,
seek Him, anticipate Him and serve Him" all the time. "Nothing distracts
them from recalling G–d" we're told, "and nothing prevents them from
"They are G–d's blameless chosen ones, the elite among the pious". For
they invariably "march straight to G–d, ... purify their inner beings and
become pure, they chasten their hearts and are chosen, they equip
themselves with the fear of G–d 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 G–d 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 Torah.org