He starts off by delving into some of the stark and chilling reactions people
might have to their own spiritual mediocrity, once they begin to truly strive
for spiritual excellence. And he refers to *sighing*, *trembling*,
*worrying*, and *crying* in reaction to it. We'll take this opportunity to
introduce a theme that will come up again and again in our discussions: our
reactions to *spiritual* issues as opposed to our reactions to *worldly*
Now, some people would taken aback by such raw emotional responses like
sighing, trembling, etc in the face of spiritual introspection. "After all,"
they're likely to say, "We're talking about religious issues... not anything
Yet if (G-d forbid) our career was crumbling, our marriage failing, or our
health were being threatened we'd certainly find ourselves sighing,
trembling, worrying, and crying, to say the least. Why? Because those sorts
of things are clearly important to us all.
It's our contention that spiritual development and the drive to achieve
spiritual excellence are certainly important, too. In fact, we contend
they're even more important than those others *in the big picture*. And that
the sensitive soul in search of spiritual excellence would likely think so,
Rabbi Yonah's point in this paragraph then, is that once such sensitive and
striving souls would discover to their dismay that they'd lapsed into
spiritual mediocrity, they'd surely *sigh*, *tremble*, *worry*, and *cry* in
reaction to that.
And he points out that we'd surely never lapse into an instance of
spiritually mediocrity *another time* if we'd sighed, trembled, worried, and
cried about such a lapse *the first time*. For after all, anyone who'd gone
through that once wouldn't want to go through it again!
At this juncture Rabbeinu Yonah goes somewhat into the dynamics of ill
judgement. He explains just what would ever move a person to lapse into
spiritual mediocrity in the first place.
It comes down to the fact that our all-too-human but decidedly earthy
impulses are often swift and aggressive enough to overtake our better
judgements. And after all, who among us *hasn't* been thrown into a tailspin
by a "crazy impulse" to do something he or she regretted later on, in a more
The solution? We're to "ask for advice how to grow in the fear of G-d" and
how to "be alert to our impulses' assaults". That's to say, we're to study
holy Mussar (ethical, spiritual) texts that divulge the secrets of great
spiritual growth and excellence (i.e., "the fear of G-d"). And we're to read
and know our own hearts well enough to know our own failings.
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