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here are two functions to the trait of zeal. One function comes into play before we proceed with the performance of the Mizvah; the other, immediately after the performance of the Mizvah is begun. The former consist in warding off delay and in making all haste to take hold of a Mizvah and fulfilling it as soon as it falls due, or as soon as an occasion for performing it presents itself. There is danger in postponement. Some obstacle to the fulfillment of the Mizvah might present itself at any moment. We have been warned by our Sages against being dilatory. When Solomon was to be anointed king, David said, “Bring him down to Gihon,” and Benaiah answered the king and said, “Amen; so say the Lord, the God of my lord, the king” (I Kings 1.33–6). R. Phinehas, in the name of R. Hanan of Sepphoris, asked, “Was not David promised by God that his son would not be molested by enemies?” (I Chron. 22.9). Why then that haste in having him anointed as king? The answer is, “More than one occurrence of an untoward character might have taken place before they reached the Gihon” (Gen. R. 76.2). Hence, the exhortation of the Sages, “[Watch over the matzot—]When a Mizvah presents itself, do not permit it to become stale” (Mek. to Ex. 12.17). [(Nazir 23b) “A person should always advance himself toward a Mitzvah, for because the elder daughter preceded the younger she was worthy of putting forth four generations of royalty in Israel” and (Pesachim 4a) “The zealous advance themselves towards Mizvoth .”] They also said, “A man should run to perform a Mizvah even on the Sabbath” (Ber. 6b). [And in the Midrash it is stated (Vayikra Rabbah 11:8) “‘He will guide eternally’ (Psalms 68:26) … in the midst of the young maids playing upon the timbrels.”] Zeal is a highly important trait, whose functioning is oft prevented by human nature itself. But the man who strives with all his might to attain that trait will surely achieve it in the future as a reward from the Creator, blessed be He, for his efforts in the performance of his religious duties. Chapter 7 h Investigating the Divisions of Zeal 90 T 91 This brief chapter is profoundly important. It deals with three phenomena of the spirit that bring to full consciousness not only our understanding that our lives are lived along the arc between the yetzer ha-ra and the yetzer ha-tov, but also the experience of being aware of the choice between the two at every moment. Ramchal locates both this understanding and this experience in the articulation of the middah of zeal (zerizut). This middah is an action unfolding in time but aimed at precipitating an experience of the infinite within time or, perhaps better, at the horizon of time that represents the theoretical moment between acts that are experienced as total commitments to bearing the other’s burden. The first moment in this passage of time occurs “before” the act; it is characterized by our cultivating the practice of moving between moments from the moment we become conscious of the obligation of a mitzvah to the moment we undertake the weight of that obligation. Acting with alacrity or zeal in that space requires a high level of spiritual skill—for in every moment we are confronted by the choice between the yetzer ha-ra and the yetzer ha-tov. At the same time, every moment between our becoming conscious of an obligation and our undertaking the weight of that obligation is a moment that the yetzer ha-ra can divert our attention from accepting the weight of our obligation. The passage of time is the environment in which the yetzer ha-ra flourishes. The time of olam ha-zeh, earthly time of concern for the self is the first time of our experience. By cultivating appropriate awareness, we can expand the moment of the self in olam ha-zeh and transform it into infinity—the time of the other—through the enactment of the mitzvah. The other function of zeal comes into play after the performance of the Mizvah has been begun. As soon as a man has taken hold of a Mizvah, he must make haste to bring it to a conclusion, not as though he were anxious to get rid of a burden, but in the spirit of apprehension lest he fail to consummate it...


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