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urity consists in perfecting one’s heart and one’s thoughts. Thus David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps. 51.12). A man is pure when he does not give the evil Yezer an opportunity to influence his conduct; when wisdom and reverence rather than sin and lust govern all his actions, including those that pertain to the welfare of the body. A man may lead an abstinent life, insofar as he takes from the world only what is indispensable. But he must, in addition, purify his heart and his thoughts by seeking to derive from the little that he does take from the world, not pleasure and satisfaction of desire, but some intellectual and spiritual good. This teaching is conveyed in the verse, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths” (Prov. 3.6). The second middah that constitutes the work of the hasid is tahara, or purity. Ramchal explains that tahara requires “the perfection of one’s heart and thoughts,” and he defines this perfection as leaving no room within one’s heart and thoughts for the yetzer ha-ra. Rather, one conducts oneself with yirah, uninfluenced by sin and lust. One who is able to do this as a step beyond hitbodedut becomes eligible to be made yashar (straight or upright) along one’s path. That is, one who is able to withdraw his egocentricity from the world is able to move toward that spiritual level that Ramchal has named “yashar” or “uprightness,” which is the goal of the book. Thus, the middah of tahara brings us to the first step in fulfilling the goal of the book: to be on the path of the upright. This is a complex and important paragraph that will require extended explication. Tahara is a middah of tikkun, that is, a middah of completing the transformation of the yetzer ha-ra rather than expending any energy in restraining it. The defining characteristic of tahara is that the yetzer ha-ra finds its essential expression in bearing the other’s burden. No room is left in the heart for expressions of petty ego. The self does not disappear, but rather expresses itself as concern for the other. This expression of self, therefore, cannot be influenced by sin, the act of blocking out the concerns of the other, or by promiscuity, the oppression of the other. This Chapter 16 h Concerning the Trait of Purity 181 P 182 Mesillat Yesharim h movement toward the path of the upright requires not only mastery of separation , which applies only to the domain of activity, but also of tahara, which applies to thought as well as action. Acting out of separation, a person may still harbor thoughts that mask a desire for ego satisfaction. Thus we begin with yirah, the joyous recognition of the infinite nature of our obligation to serve the other. Uninfluenced by any vestige of pachad, which would cause us either to block out the other’s concerns or oppress the other in the course of our intimacy with that other, we act not only on the other’s behalf, but with no thought of reciprocity. Our actions are characterized by a mentality of indifference , and it is this indifference that is the root of our joy; for we are unencumbered by either mental or physical pleasure. True joy is removed from pleasure! We have now moved from the opening chapter of Mesillat Yesharim, which acknowledged our need for pleasure, to a place where we can distinguish between pleasure and joy, and therefore we understand the difference between the pleasure of this world and that of the world to come. The pleasures of this world are the pleasures of self, whereas the pleasure of the world to come is indifference to the pleasure of the self in favor of the pleasure of another. Distinguishing between the necessary separation from sin and promiscuity and the total indifference to the potential rewards for one’s actions, is the transformation accomplished by tahara. Finally, in this paragraph Ramchal notes that the middah of tahara allows us to be made upright. That is to say, the state of being yashar is not dependent entirely on us. We can and must prepare ourselves, but the effective action making us yashar comes from outside of us. More importantly the state of being yashar is not static. Rather we are made yashar along a path. That path puts us in relationship with...


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