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o acquire the trait of purity is an easy matter to one who has made an effort to possess the traits thus far described, and has succeeded. If a man would reflect and realize how worthless the pleasures and the goods of this world are, he would repudiate them and regard them as nothing more than evils and defects inherent in the things of nature, material, unillumined and gross in character . Once a man is convinced that the worldly pleasures are actually evils and defects, he finds it easy to keep aloof from them and to dismiss them from his mind. Therefore, the more attentively and the more frequently a man will note the futility of things earthly, and of the pleasures associated with them, the easier will it be for him to keep his thoughts and his heart pure, and to allow none of his actions to be influenced by the evil Yezer. Even his physical functions will be performed by him as though he were acting under compulsion. The person who has practiced separation will be drawn more easily than he or she could have imagined to the trait of purity. Ramchal teaches that what he calls worldly pleasure and what we have understood as self-absorption is revealed as unseemly and unworthy for those who would pursue the path of the upright. Granted that such purity will appear to many as beyond their ability, it will not appear difficult at all for those who have pursued it successfully to this point. Corresponding to the two aspects which purity of thought presents, one aspect being of the bodily functions and the other of the religious duties, are the two methods of acquiring such purity. To attain purity of thought in the performance of religious duties, a man must realize how delusive is all human glory, and he must make it a habit to shun ambition. Then will he perform his religious duties with no thought of the praise he might win; his mind will then be directed wholly toward his Master. He alone is our glory, our good, and our perfection, and there is none other besides Him, as it is written, “He is thy glory, and He is thy God” (Deut. 10.21). Chapter 17 h Concerning the Means of Acquiring Purity 187 T 188 Mesillat Yesharim h Ramchal has made the points he makes here before. Purity in regard to action, which is concern for the other as the center of our deeds, is easier than purity in regard to thought, which is guarding against false pride in our yetzer ha-tov. Therefore what requires comment is not Ramchal’s content but its form: why this repetition so soon after making the same point in the last chapter? We have noted that the goal of Ramchal’s style is to prevent the reader from proceeding through the book as though able to digest it at first glance. Some chapters are purposefully interruptive , requiring us to begin the book again once we have a better understanding of its design and goals. In the case of purity of thought, Ramchal is aware that even the hasid will believe that he understands how careful he must be regarding pride. Therefore the text is arranged to make us stop and ask ourselves: Why is the teacher telling me this again? Has he not just finished teaching this? Obviously he has, but this is all the more reason to stop and teach it again. This repetition will be a central practice in regard to the subject of hasidut. Ramchal will repeat this warning regarding false pride more than once below, as he has above. Among the measures whereby the trait of purity is acquired, highly important is that of qualifying oneself for worship and the practice of the Mizvot. A man should not suddenly take up the practice of some Mizvah before his mind is attuned to it, or before he has been able to give some thought to the Mizvah. He should first make the necessary preparations, and gradually apply his mind to the Mizvah, so that he may take up the performance of it after due deliberation . He will then comprehend fully the significance of what he is about to do, and realize in whose presence he is about to perform the Mizvah. Only after such deliberation will he easily reject aims that are irrelevant, and fix his mind upon the true and worthy purpose. The saints of ancient...


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