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eal is hindered by the very same tendencies that make for indolence, among which are chiefly the desire for physical rest, aversion to labor, and the love of pleasure. The man who finds it hard to do any work will undoubtedly find it a great burden to worship his Creator. Whoever insists upon eating his meals in perfect tranquillity, having his sleep undisturbed, and walking leisurely, finds it difficult to rise betimes in order to attend morning prayers at the synagogue, or to hasten his meal for the sake of a Minhah service, or to leave his home, if the weather is inclement, in order to perform some Mizvah. As for actually making haste to fulfill a Mizvah, or to study Torah, that is out of the question. He who has thus become a slave to habit is no longer his own master, and cannot act differently, even should he want to do so. His will is held in bondage by certain habits which have become second nature with him. A man must know that he was not created to enjoy rest in this world, but to toil and labor. He should, therefore, act as though he were a laborer working for hire. “We are only day-laborers” (Cf. Job 7.1). Think of the soldier at the battlefront who eats in haste, whose sleep is interrupted, and who is always prepared for an attack. “Man is born to toil” (Job 5.7). If a man acquires that habit of mind, he will find the performance of religious duties easy, since he will not be without the necessary training and preparation for them. Or, in the words of our Sages, “This is the way that is becoming for the study of the Torah: A morsel of bread with salt must thou eat, and water by measure must thou drink, and upon the ground must thou sleep” (Ab. 6.4). Thus do they describe the life which is at the greatest remove from leisure and self-indulgence. Like a sea that gains power as each wave returns to shore and, essentially the same but somehow different, digs deeper into the sand, chapter 9 returns us to the subject of laziness but further penetrates the sands of our consciousness. Obviously zeal and laziness are integrally connected, one being the precise opposite of the other. Therefore, we are not surprised that the factors promoting Chapter 9 h Concerning the Factors Which Detract from Zeal and the Withdrawing of Oneself from Them 99 Z 100 Mesillat Yesharim h one detract from the other. First among the factors that encourage laziness are the desire for physical comfort and the love of physical pleasure. Ramchal characterizes these as inducing a kind of somnambulant existence—sleepwalking, if you will—which refuses to be interrupted by the requirements of mitzvot, the commanding obligations imposed on us by the other. More profoundly, these desires do not and cannot supply the joy necessary to feel gratitude. Gratitude requires wakefulness, whereas laziness is powered by the desire to sleep. But we must go deeper. The source of the somnambulism beneath laziness derives from a person’s need to feel protected and safe. A person who perceives another as a threat will close off his or her consciousness to that other, allowing it to fill only with self, thereby turning a potential soul into an ego. Thus fear (pachad), the true subject of chapter 9, is the underlying component of laziness. Before Ramchal explores fear in detail, however, he returns our attention to the subject of habit, which is intimately related to fear. The yetzer ha-ra performs the legitimate task of protecting us from threats to our spiritual and material wellbeing , which are borne by and large by others’ actions toward us. But when this protective stance of the yetzer ha-ra becomes habitual, it engenders sleepwalking. Because of our legitimate fear of some other, we sleep in the face of our responsibility for many others and for the Infinite Other. Thus the initial focus of our practice must be to recognize our habits as products of habituated fear and then to break existing habits by creating new ones that are not induced by fear. Mitzvot profoundly serve as such new habits. We might say that chapter 9 is concerned with transforming pachad to yirah, from the fear that encloses us to the trembling we experience in the face of our infinite obligations to another. This transition is a prerequisite to...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780827611221
Related ISBN
9780827608566
MARC Record
OCLC
794925430
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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