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Mesilat Yesharim: Intimacy with G-d

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen

In his introduction to the Mesilat Yesharim, the Ramchal discusses the obligation and purpose of man in this world. He writes, “The foundation of piety and the root of serving the Almighty with wholeheartedness is that it should be clear and true to man what his purpose is in this world.” The deeper the foundation, the higher the building can be. In spirituality, one also needs a strong foundation. Just as the roots of a tree gives constant nourishment to the tree, sustenance in the spiritual realm comes from doing mitzvot. One can’t just say, “I’ll be a Jew at heart and do what I please.”  If one neglects to fulfill the mitzvot, the soul may wither and die.

As a young boy, Rav Yonoson Eibischitz once stood before a king who asked him, “If Jews believe that the majority wins out, then why don’t they follow the majority, of which they certainly aren’t?” Rav Eibischitz replied that the idea of following majority applies to the courts and only in a case where there is doubt about the truth. When you know with certainty what life you should be leading, then the majority have absolutely no influence upon your decision. Emet is the signet ring of Hashem. The verse in Tehillim says, “Truth grows from the ground.” The Kotzker Rebbe explained, if you peel away the falsehood you’ll find the truth. And when you discover it you must ask yourself, “What is my obligation in this world?”

Another verse in Tehilim states, “The wicked one borrows and does not pay back.” Our lives are our indebted to Hashem. We are responsible to work to find out what is our purpose on this world, so that we can pay back Hashem in this world. The Ramchal writes further that man should ask himself, “What should I drive myself to do in this world?” Depression comes when there’s lack of motivation, when one thinks one can relax and do nothing. Man was meant to be an amel. He must work by the sweat of his brow. The Mesilat Yesharim writes that although  Hashem created this world to give us pleasure, the process of working to come closer to Him is what creates that pleasure.

Pirkei Avot tells us, “Prepare yourself in the entrance-way so that you may enter the palace.” This world is only an entrance-way. It’s not the last stop but rather a temporary state. In Kohelet, Shlomo Hamelech wrote, “Hevel havalim hakol hevel.” If materialism does not bring us to elevation, if it does not uplift a person and bring him closer to Hashem, it’s vanity. Kirvat Elokim is a constant of living with Hashem no matter where we are and what we are doing. It’s seeking to please Him with every detail of our actions and serving Him with love, faith, and joy.

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