5 Iyar 5781

Today we continue with Mesillas Yesharim and we are on paragraph 8 of Chapter One, “Man’s Duty in the World.” R. Luzzatto states that the world was created to serve mankind. Yet, he observes, the world itself stands in the balance. If a person is drawn towards this world, forgetting about the world to come, and distances himself from his creator, then he will be corrupted and will corrupt the world with him. The author then says that, nonetheless, if man can rule over himself and use this world to serve the Creator, he will be elevated and the world will be elevated with him.

This is described in some sciences as a feedback loop or a vicious circle. As an example, a parent who is angry does not give a food to a child. The child throws a tantrum. The parent holds on to the food, the child intensifies the tantrum. The parent withholds the food and so on. The prime motor is the behaviour of the parent. In a similar way, the world responds to what we do. This is analogous to the saying “the vibes you give are the vibes you get”.

On paragraph 9 R. Luzzatto reminds us that the Holy One, blessed is he, warned Adam to be careful not to corrupt the world even if the world has been created to serve man. This further underlines that it is our responsibility – not someone else’s – to keep the world free of corruption.

The tenth paragraph returns to the assertion that a person was not created for his position in this world but for his position in the world to come. His position in the world to come is, as we saw, the consequence of his behaviour in this world. As we have seen this does not mean passively accepting our role, but actively fighting against evil. This has also a multiplying effect. Bad behaviour, Heaven forbid, will corrupt the world and cause others to behave improperly, further corrupting the world and further distancing oneself and others from the Creator.

The effect of the example we set is extremely important. On the one side we should not be always on our guard and think that our neighbours will have a bad impression; on the other side, we should actually be on our guard and think that our neighbours will be badly influenced. One must think carefully when trying to strike a balance between those tightly corresponding and perhaps contradicting ideas. Trying to set a good example will, taken to an extreme, become haughtiness and arrogance; worrying about the neighbours can become suspicion and paranoia.