In the second half of the introduction, the Ramchal brings down the posuk upon which the Mesillas Yesharim is based:
This is what Moshe Rabbeinu, may peace be upon him, teaches us when he says (Devarim 10:12), “Yet now, Israel, what does the Eternal, your God, request of you? Only to fear the Eternal, your God, to follow all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Eternal, your God, with all your heart and your entire being; [and] to keep the Eternal’s commandments and statutes….” Here he [Moshe] incorporated all the elements that are necessary for the perfection of that service that is desired by the Holy One blessed be He: fear of the Eternal; walking in His ways, love [of the Eternal]; perfecting the heart; and observance of all the mitzvos.
Although the Ramchal structures his sefer based on the Gemora in Avodah Zarah (20b), all the elements of our service are include in this posuk. Many of the commentators are focused on the wording of the posuk which makes it seem easy, when we know it is difficult. There are a number of answers, but the simple understanding is that high levels of service are within our reach.
Rabbi Dessler says, “All we have to do is start”. So consider spending some time listening to the mp3 or reading the text below and perhaps together we can strengthen each other to take some steps on the wonderful path that the Ramchal has paved for us.
Here is the 2nd Shiur in Rabbi Oelbaum’s Mesillas Yesharim series in mp3 format on the Introduction
If we analyzed the matter objectively, we would no doubt discover its veracity. This would benefit us, and we could then teach it to others, thereby benefiting them as well. As stated by Shlomo (Mishlei 2:4-5), “If you seek it as [you would] silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand fear of the Eternal.” He does not say, “Then you will understand philosophy; then you will understand astronomy; then you will understand medicine; then you will understand the legal issues and judgments of Halachah,” but rather, “then you will understand fear of the Eternal.” We see that in order to understand fear of the Eternal, one must seek it out as he would silver and search for it as he would hidden treasures.
What has been transmitted to us through our parents and what is generally self-evident to every religious individual is insufficient! But yet we see that time can be found for all other branches of study yet for this no time is available! Why can’t a person at least designate specific times for this purpose, that would not interfere with other studies and endeavors that he pursues in the remainder of his time?
Scripture states (lyov 28:28), “Behold [Rein – ]n], fear of the Eternal – this is wisdom.” Our Sages of blessed memory comment (Shabbos 31b) that hein here means one, for that is the meaning of the Greek word hein. Thus, fear – and fear alone – is considered wisdom. And surely something that does not require study [and investigation] would not be considered wisdom. In actuality, all these matters demand profound study for one to truly know them rather than in a subjective manner or through faulty judgment, and particularly if one is to acquire and [truly] understand them. Therefore, he who delves into them will see that piety is not contingent on those things that the pseudo-pious, in their foolishness, consider relevant, but rather on true perfection and profound wisdom.
This is what Moshe Rabbeinu, may peace be upon him, teaches us when he says (Devarim 10:12), “Yet now, Israel, what does the Eternal, your God, request of you? Only to fear the Eternal, your God, to follow all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Eternal, your God, with all your heart and your entire being; [and] to keep the Eternal’s commandments and statutes….” Here he [Moshe] incorporated all the elements that are necessary for the perfection of that service that is desired by the Holy One blessed be He: fear of the Eternal, walking in His ways, love [of the Eternal], perfecting the heart, and observance of all the mitzvos.
Fear of the Eternal refers to the fear that His exalt-edness inspires. One should express fear before Him as one would before a great and awesome king, and he should feel embarrassment before the Eternal’s greatness, in every movement that he makes, and particularly when speaking before Him in prayer or when engaged in the study of His Torah.
Walking in His ways relates to the finest traits of character and their cultivation. As our Sages of blessed memory have explained (Shabbos 133b): “Just as He is merciful, so shall you be merciful…” – the underlying principle being that a person must conduct himself with honesty and integrity in all his various actions. Our Sages of blessed memory summarized the idea as follows (Pirkei Avos 2:1): “That which brings acclaim to the doer and earns him the acclaim of others,” namely, all that moves toward the
goal of true benevolence, meaning that it results in the strengthening of Torah and the promotion of har
mony within society.
Love: to implant love of the Blessed One within a person’s heart so that his soul is stirred to find favor before Him, just as one’s heart is stirred to please his father and mother. And he will be anguished if he finds this quality deficient in himself or in others. Furthermore, he will zealously [safeguard] it and will rejoice intensely when implementing [even] a part of it.
Perfecting the heart: so that the service before the Blessed One should be carried out with pure intent, for the purpose of serving Him only and with no other motives. This means that one’s heart should be totally devoted to the Divine service, not like one who lacks commitment or acts out of habit; rather, one’s whole heart should aspire to this.
Observance of all the mitzvos: this means the complete observance of all the mitzvos with all their specifications and stipulations.
All of these principles require much elucidation. I have found that our Sages of blessed memory have incorporated these elements in a different type of arrangement, more detailed and specific, and systematized according to the order necessary for their proper acquisition. Their words are found in a baraisa cited in numerous places in the Talmud, such as the one in the chapter “Lifnei Edeihen” [“Before Their Festivals”] (Avodah Zarah 20b): “From here, Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair said: Torah brings one to vigilance, vigilance brings one to alacrity, alacrity brings one to [spiritual] cleanliness, cleanliness brings one to abstinence, abstinence brings one to purity, purity brings one to piety, piety brings one to humility, humility brings one to fear of sin, fear of sin brings one to holiness, holiness brings one to Divine inspiration, Divine inspiration brings one to the resurrection of the dead.”
On the basis of this baraisa, I have undertaken to compose this work to teach myself and to remind others of the conditions necessary for the perfection of the Divine service in all its stages. Regarding each stage, I will explain its content, components, and details, the methodology for acquiring it, those factors that undermine it and how to avoid them. As a result, I or anyone else who may be moved to read it will learn to fear the Eternal, our God, and we will not forget our duty toward Him. That which the material world seeks to remove from our hearts will be stimulated by reading and contemplation, and it will stir us to perform what we have been commanded to do.
May the Eternal support our aspirations and safeguard us from failure. May the supplication of the Psalmist, beloved to His God, be fulfilled for us (Tehil-lim 86:11): “Teach me, O Eternal, Your way; let me walk in Your truth; unify my heart to fear Your name.” Amen, so may it be His will.