As we mentioned last week, we are learning together the mussar classic Mesillas Yesharim by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (Ramchal) in memory of Sarah Bas Reb Eliezer Kops. We’ll be spending 3-5 weeks on each chapter and we are currently in the Author’s introduction.
Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum, one of the best speakers in Kew Gardens Hills and the NY area has graciously permitted us to post the mp3s of the Mesillas Yesharim series he gave last year. They are very worthwhile. If you want to purchase the entire 23 part series (which goes through Perek Hay) on CDs for $90, you can call 718 520-0115. We will not be leaving the mp3ss up permanently, so please listen to them within 2 weeks of posting.
Here is the 1st mp3, which gives an introduction to the life and times of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto and the sefer. The download is in zipped format, so you should “right click” with your mouse and “Save Target As” to save the file to your PC where you can then unzip it and listen.
In the more good news department, Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has graciously granted us permission to use parts of his adaptation of Mesillas Yesharim for the project. One of the things that I like very much about Rabbi Feldman’s work are the summaries. Here is the summary of the Ramchal’s Introduction.
1. The Path of the just was written to remind people of what they already know, not to teach them new things. It would be best read several times so that what is familiar could make an impression, and the reader could thereby be reminded of his obligations.
2. There are many people who dedicate their lives and studies to the various arts and sciences, and some others to the theoretical or practical aspects of Torah, but few dedicate themselves to the study of the love and fear of and attachment to God, or to piety.
3. That has resulted in fewer intellectual people dedicating themselves to those matters, and incorrectly so. Everyone suffers as a result of that, both the wise and the unlettered: the wise because they do not attempt true piety, and the others because they do not attain it.
4. Matters of piety call for investigation and thought and the acquisition of specific tools and devices. It is not what we might think it is. Among other things, it is not putting oneself through acts of mortification.
5. We often place great effort upon things within Torah that are not at all incumbent upon us and serve no practical purpose, while our very real obligations to God are either left abandoned or carried out by rote.
6. Fundamentally, the acquisition of piety involves the following five traits:
a. reverence (“that you be in a state of reverence before Him comparable to what you would experience being before a great and awesome king”),
b. walking in His way (“all of your traits and actions are to be just and ethical”),
c. love (“It should bother you if God’s desires are not fulfilled, either because of yourself or someone else, and you should want them to be and derive a great joy in ensuring that they are”),
d. wholeheartedness (“one’s service to God should be done with the purest of intentions”), and
e. the keeping of the mitzvot (“in their fullness and with all of their conditions”).
7. The tradition words this in an orderly, step-by-step manner when it says (in the words of Rabbi Pinchas Ben Yaer, Avodah Zarah 20b),
Torah study brings you to caution,
caution to enthusiasm,
enthusiasm to innocence,
innocence to abstinence,
abstinence to purity,
purity to piety,
piety to modesty,
modesty to fear of sin,
fear of sin to holiness,
holiness to holy spirit,
and holy spirit brings you to the resurrection of the dead.”
This book is an explanation and analysis of that statement.