The RAMCHAL Mesillat Yesharim Path of the Just

“Fear of God” denotes fear of the Majesty of the Blessed One, fearing Him as one would a great and mighty king, and being ashamed at one’s every movement in consequence of His greatness, especially when speaking before Him in prayer or engaging in the study of His Torah.
 
“Walking in His ways” embodies the whole area of cultivation and correction of character traits. As our Sages of blessed memory have explained, “As He is merciful, be also merciful…” The essence of all this is that a person conform all of his traits and all the varieties of his actions to what is just and ethical. Our Sages of blessed memory have thus summarized the idea (Avoth 2.1): “All that is praiseworthy in its doer and brings praise to him from others;” that is, all that leads to the end of true good, namely, strengthening of Torah and furthering of brotherliness.“Love” – that there be implanted in a person’s heart a love for the Blessed One which will arouse his soul to do what is pleasing before Him, just as his heart is aroused to give pleasure to his father and mother. He will be grieved if he or others are lacking in this; he will be jealous for it and he will rejoice greatly in fulfilling aught of it. “Whole-heartedness” – that service before the Blessed One be characterized by purity of motive, that its end be His service alone and nothing else. Included in this is that one’s heart be complete in Divine service, that his interests not be divided or his observance mechanical, but that his whole heart be devoted to it.

“Observance of all the mitzvoth,” as the words imply, is observance of the whole body of mitzvoth with all of their fine points and conditions.

All of these principles require extensive interpretation. I have found that our Sages of blessed memory have categorized these elements in a different, more detailed formulation, in which they are arranged according to the order necessary for their proper acquisition. Their words are contained in a Baraitha mentioned in different places in the Talmud, one of them, the chapter “Before their festivals” (Avodah Zara 20b):

“From this R. Pinchas ben Yair adduced:
Torah leads to Watchfulness;
Watchfulness leads to Zeal;
Zeal leads to Cleanliness;
Cleanliness leads to Separation; 

Separation leads to Purity;
Purity leads to Saintliness;
Saintliness leads to Humility;
Humility leads to Fear of Sin;
Fear of Sin leads to Holiness;
Holiness leads to the Holy Spirit,
and the Holy Spirit leads to the Revival of the Dead.”

It is on the basis of this Baraitha that I have undertaken to write this work,in order to teach myself and to remind others of the conditions for perfect Divine service according to their gradations. In relation to each one, I shall explain its nature, its divisions or details, the manner of acquiring it, and its deterrents and the manner of guarding against them, so that I and all those who are pleased to do so may read therein in order to learn to fear the Lord our God and not forget our duty before Him. That which the earthiness of nature seeks to remove from our hearts, reading and contemplation will summon to our consciousness, and will awaken us to what is incumbent upon us.

May God be with our aspirations and keep our feet from stumbling, and may there be fulfilled in us the supplication of the Psalmist, beloved of his God (Psalms 86:11), “Teach me, O God, Your ways; I shall walk in Your truth. Make one my heart to fear Your Name.” Amen, so may be His will.

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