Today we take a look at the last paragraphs of Chapter 1 of Mesillas Yesharim. In paragraph 15 Rabbi Luzzatto says that one’s attention should be directed to the Creator and that one’s actions should have no other purpose than bringing oneself closer to the creator. Here, in my opinion, we should pay careful attention so that we do not fall into the trap of thinking that only Torah study will bring us closer to the Creator. There are many other mitzvot that we must try to fulfil. I think the idea is that even outside of Torah study we should keep in our background the question of whether an action is bringing one closer to the Creator or distancing us from him. Then to decide when it is time to study and when it is time to follow other mitzvot is up to our own reasoning.

R. Luzzatto follows in paragraph 15 by stating that one should break through all barriers and be drawn to the creator like iron is drawn to a magnet. The analogy is very good, as we know that iron will be drawn to a magnet, if the magnet is sufficiently strong, even through distances, even through material. Compasses will work. They might be deflected by another stronger and nearer magnet though. We should know that there are interferences to our attraction to the Creator and we should make sure that we keep pointing to the True One.

Finally R. Luzzatto outlines the next chapters of his work, that is: vigilance, alacrity, cleanliness, abstinence, purity, piety, humility, fear of sin, and holiness. I should like to stress that these are just translations from a Hebrew original, and one should not focus on the English meaning of these words, which can differ. Although Hashem understands prayers in every language, for us to understand the meaning of a text we should know the Hebrew original.

text Dr. D. Cohen