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n truth, the nature of saintliness requires considerable explanation. There are numerous habits and practices which pass with many people for perfect saintliness, but which are in reality nothing more than the rude and inchoate forms of this trait. This is the case because those of whom these habits are characteristic lack the power of true understanding and reflection. They have neither troubled nor toiled to understand clearly and correctly the way of the Lord. They have practiced saintliness according to the course of conduct which they hit upon at first thought. They have not delved deeply into things nor have they weighed them in the scales of wisdom. Such people render the very savor of saintliness repellent to the average person, as well as to the more intelligent. They give the impression that saintliness depends upon foolish practices that are contrary to reason and common sense, like reciting numerous supplicatory prayers and long confessionals, or weeping and genuflections, or afflicting oneself with strange torments that are liable to bring one to death’s door, such as taking ablutions in ice and snow. Though some of these practices may serve as an expiation for certain sins, while others may be fit for ascetics, they cannot form the basis of saintliness. The best of these practices may be associated with saintliness; nevertheless, saintliness itself, properly understood, is something far more profound. Saintliness should be reared upon great wisdom and upon the adjustment of conduct to the aims worthy of the truly wise. Only the wise can truly grasp the nature of saintliness; as our Sages said, “The ignorant man cannot be saintly” (Ab. 2.5). The spiritual level of hasidut is the first rung on a second ladder of ascent after having reached the level of tzadik. Like prishut, hasidut begins with acts of constraint. Unlike prishut, hasidut is particularly susceptible to self-delusion. No one wants to delude oneself into experiencing prishut; in the realm of hasidut it is not uncommon for people to delude themselves that they have mastered it. Thus Chapter 18 h Investigating the Trait of Hasidut 190 I 191 Ramchal begins with a strong denunciation of these “rude and inchoate forms of this trait” that proliferate among those looking for an easy path. Because of people like these, who claim to be hasidim but are not, the intelligentsia tragically dismisses whole subject of hasidut, which is of great concern to Ramchal. Contrary to popular misconception, true hasidut is the next step in intellectual , rational development. Within true hasidut, rational and intellectual principles combine with perfection of middot to define the true wisdom that is the crown of human existence. Ramchal’s frequent use of the Rabbinic statement, “An ignoramus cannot be a hasid,” or as Kaplan translates it, “The ignorant man cannot be saintly,” serves here as both an invitation and a challenge to elite scholars of his time, in all fields of intellectual endeavor. He is assuring them that only they, through their intellectual achievements, are prepared to rise to the level of hasidut , but at the same time challenging them to realize that all of their intellectual achievements cannot bring them to hasidut; rather, the power of reason they so cherish should make it clear to them that beyond intellect lies the path of the middot. The fundamental principle of saintliness is implied in the saying of the Sages, “Blessed is the man who labors in the study of the Torah and who affords joy to his Creator” (Ber. 17a). We know what Mizvot are equally binding upon every Israelite, also how much one should exert himself in fulfilling them. But the man who truly loves the Creator, blessed be He, does not content himself only with the fulfillment of the duties that are binding upon every Israelite. He takes the attitude of the son who loves his father. If there is anything the father desires, he has only to suggest it, and his son makes every possible effort to secure it for him. The father may have mentioned the matter only once, and only hintingly; yet that is enough to enable the son to infer the trend of his father’s thoughts and to impel him to carry out his father’s unexpressed wish, because it would afford his father pleasure, without waiting to be told a second time more expressly what he should do. We see this occurring usually between friends, between husband and wife, and between father and son. In fact...


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