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here are three aspects of saintliness. One concerns the act itself; the second, the manner in which the act is performed; the third, the motive of the act. The act itself is subject to further classification: the act pertaining to the relation between man and God, and the act pertaining to the relation between man and his fellow. The complexity of hasidut is reflected in the length and complexity of this chapter. The saintly rule with regard to religious acts is to observe as far as possible every minutia of what we have been commanded. The Sages designate these minutiae as the “surplus” of the Mizvot. “The surplus of the Mizvah,” they say, “has the power to stay punishment” (Suk. 38a). Though the average Jew fulfills his duty, insofar as he observes the main content of the Mizvot, the duty of the saint is to fulfill the Mizvot in all of their particulars and to omit nothing pertaining to them. Hasidut, love as expressed in deeds, returns our attention to an earlier distinction regarding mitzvot, applied here more broadly to ma’asim, or deeds. We will explore this distinction as well as the difference between mitzvot and ma’asim. The first distinction, between mitzvot bein adam l’makom (mitzvot between a person and God) and mitzvot bein adam l’havero (mitzvot between one person and another), requires little comment by this time. These are better understood in a contemporary context as interruptive mitzvot, those that continually call us back to wakefulness of our responsibility for another, and instantiative mitzvot, those that realize this responsibility in action. However, the second distinction that Ramchal makes is new and requires some elucidation. Up until now we have distinguished only between mitzvot and middot, so what is the importance of adding the new category of ma’asim? Chapter 19 h Concerning the Divisions of Hasidut 195 T 196 Mesillat Yesharim h Ramchal will characterize this new category as comprising the “extraneous elements of mitzvot,” sheyarei mitzvah. In the Talmud, this category comprises those actions that, although part of the mitzvah’s prescribed performance, do not invalidate the mitzvah if they are not performed. The classic example involves the mitzvah of “taking” the lulav. If one takes a lulav in hand, but for some reason is unable to actually wave it according to the law, the mitzvah is still considered to be validly performed. Ramchal seems to be suggesting that while the majority of people will be satisfied to perform the mitzvah without the extraneous elements, a hasid will not be. This interpretation, however, would represent a deviation from the traditional halakhic approach to sheyarei mitzvah. Whereas Ramchal seems to indicate that the halakhah permits the ordinary person to fulfill mitzvot without their extraneous elements and that they are incumbent only upon hasidim, the normative view is that all Israel are expected to fulfill mitzvot with all of their elements, but that legally, if something should interfere with fulfillment of the sheyarei mitzvah, the act is still considered valid. This halachic technicality, therefore, cannot be the distinction between the hasid and the majority, and we must look for a more nuanced distinction that Ramchal is attempting. Where the language of extraneousness does apply is with regard specifically to what is “left over” (sheyarei) to do once a mitzvah is in fact performed. That is, human behavior cannot be divided only between mitzvot bein adam l’makom and mitzvot bein adam l’havero, between interruptive and instantiative acts. But not all of our time is occupied with either interruptive or instantiative actions. Most of our time is spent in the everyday actions that constitute the flow of life, those we will call ma’asim, or quotidian acts, which include walking from place to place, dressing, sleeping, chatting with friends and loved ones, shopping, working, reading, and enjoying various entertainments. These acts are not directly interruptive or instantiative , even though they comprise the bulk of how we spend our time. While the majority of people do not recognize these ma’asim as moments when our religious commitments are in play, Ramchal is teaching here that for the hasid, wakefulness is required not only regarding the mitzvot, but also in the quotidian aspects of our lives. He will go on to explain, in detail, the aspects of the quotidian that must concern the hasid. With regard to moral conduct, the principle that a man must always act benevolently toward his neighbor and never cause him harm, applies 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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