The Path of the Just
Chapter 22 (Part 5)
A number of people who should have known better nonetheless took credit for
their righteous and good deeds, assuming they were responsible for what they
managed to accomplish. Even great men like the prophet Nechemiah and King
Chizkiyahu were guilty of that.
But they were wrong and severely reprimanded for it; “and from this we can
infer” Ramchal concludes, “that one is never to grow haughty and proud over
his good deeds”. Indeed, each one of us needs to own up to the fact that we
take far more credit for our deeds -- righteous or otherwise -- than we deserve.
Ramchal then adds this cogent, albeit humbling and stunning thought: that
that’s true of exalted souls “like Abraham, Moses, Aaron, David or the other
saintly individuals”: they alone had to be warned not to take credit for
their righteousness, given their greatness which might have lead them to
make such a mistake.
“As for us”, though, whom he terms “orphans of orphans” -- given how
waif-like we are in our values and how we flounder about for lack of wisdom
and guidance -- “we have no need for this” warning. “We clearly have so many
faults that we don’t need to reflect very deeply to recognize them”, so it’s
easy for us not to take credit for our righteous deeds.
After all, as he puts it, “all of our wisdom is nothing, and the greatest of
our sages are but students of the students of the early ones”, so how dare
we assume to take credit for righteousness?
What we need to do is “to recognize that, over-all, our minds are
superficial, and our perceptions very limited. Foolishness is rampant
amongst us and error is triumphant. Whatever we do know is only the bare
minimum. So it’s certainly inappropriate for us to be at all haughty.
Instead, we should be humble and lowly”.
Indeed, the sensitive soul who knows his own heart cannot help but agree and