In the end, the very best way to develop the sort of caution we’ve been
talking about, Ramchal advises, is to delve into Torah. Because it will
invariably point out what matters in life and what doesn’t, which will
then inspire you to be cautious in your life-choices.
But Ramchal then makes a very astute point that has bearing on a lot of
things having to do with how we’re to grow in our spirit. He asserts that
while one person might be moved to change by one thing or another, someone
else might be repelled by the very same thing, and vice versa -- and yet
both would need to grow. So it’s obvious that we’d have to know what
inspires us and what doesn’t if we’re to move ahead.
He says that there are three sorts of people over-all as far as spiritual
yearnings are concerned: “those who fully understand (what matters
most)”, “those of somewhat lesser understanding (than they)”, and “the
great majority of people”; or, put simply, there are people in search of
spiritual excellence indeed, there are also people not quite there but on
the way, and there are some who are willing to settle for spiritual
mediocrity but who could be inspired to do better if given the right
For the truth of the matter is that not everyone yearns for nearness to G-
d or for a chance to dwell close to Him and to bask in His light forever.
While we contend that everyone’s soul yearns to do that, since the soul
originated in G-d’s Being and would love to “go back home” for good, the
lower elements of one’s beings can actually be repelled by the thought.
After all, an individual drawn to “wine, women, and song” his whole life,
who is repulsed by the thought of praying for example for any amount of
time or of contemplating loftier things, would be aghast at having to
spend eternity in Heaven. Yet his soul would want to dwell there, in fact,
and would want to know how to. So it should be encouraged to and nudged
along (albeit tenderly and appropriately if it’s to be effective).
For Ramchal’s point here is that in fact anyone could be drawn toward
goodness (if not out-and-out righteousness) if properly motivated. We
would just need to be aware of what makes a person “tick” and use that to
his soul’s best advantage.
As such, a more altruistic person would be motivated by high ideals, and
should be offered them; someone less high-minded but good should be
inspired by fine and correct points that would nonetheless be closer to
the ground and less idealistic; and someone lesser-yet who could only be
appealed to by more self-serving needs should be told about them. We’ll
explore these three types and what motivates them in some detail in the
following sections. The wise among us would pinpoint his or her own
standing and act accordingly.