• June 15, 2024
  • 9 5784, Sivan
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Messilat Yesharim Part 3

Messilat Yesharim Part 3

By studying Mesillat Yesharim we will be studying what it means to live as a Jew.
Mesillat Yesharim is not only a classic because of its content, but it is one of the few books of Jewish thought that has been embraced by all the streams of Jewish practice, and has been endorsed by the Gaon of Vilna as well as Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz whose lectures on Mesillat Yesharim have been published.

January 1, 1970 12:00 am - 12:00 am
Messilat Yesharim Part 3: Lesson 1
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Welcome to all the new members of the shiur and welcome back to all of the “regulars”- I think I speak on behalf of everyone when i say it was wonderful to have Joel Nowicki with us. Today we finsihed the discussion of “Nekiut” and we began the discussion of “Perishut” which is the principle that advises us to abstain permitted behaviors or items if they can somehow lead a person to sin. Ramchal readily acknowledges that this idea can be taken to undesirable extremes, and bli neder we will continue the discussion of this idea next week.

January 22, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Messilat Yesharim Part 3: Lesson 2
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I am sending the final paragraph of the third chapter of the Rambam’s Hilchot Deiot. I hope that when you read it, you will see the difference between his idea and the Ramban/Ramchal.

January 29, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Messilat Yesharim Part 3: Lesson 3
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Today we continued the discussion of perishut. We saw two ideas that strike me as very important a) Ramchal says that perishut is not for everyone b) Ramchal says that Perishut, and the pursuit of spiritual growth is absolutely not meant to be a selfish striving for some sort of self-fulfillment. Rather, spiritual growth is pursued so that the person can come closer to Hashem and thus be ina position to lift up those who are further from Hashem. It seems to me that this latter point is a marked difference from popular notions of “spirituallity.”

February 5, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Messilat Yesharim Part 3: Lesson 4
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Hello Everyone, Today we continued with the discussion of “perishut.” We completed the 13th chapter and began the 14th chapter of Mesillat Yesharim. I think we saw two important ideas: (a) Ramchal says at the end of chapter 13 that it is impossible for him to provide a “How to” guide for Perishut. Ramchal says what we all know; life is infinitely variable and every person’s life is different from everyone else’s.So what does Ramchal advise? He says that we can and must rely upon our common sense (“sechel”) in deciding what course of behavior to follow. (b) In chapter 14, Ramchal discusses a brief story from the Talmud. The sage Mar Ukva says that in comparison to his father he (Mar Ukva) is like “vinnegar compared to wine” because Mar Ukva’s father would wait 24 after eating meat before he would eat cheese, while Mar Ukva himself would eat cheese at the next meal following eating meat. The significance of this story is great. Ramchal emphasizes that piety is not mere mimicry of the behavior of saintly individuals. The voluntary stringincies which an individual adopts in his or her ascent to piety need to be weighed for their appropriateness. Mar Ukva realized that a behavior which aided his father would not have aided him (yet) so Mar Ukva did not blindly adopt it. I think that the importance of these two points cannot be overstated. Ramchal does not see piety as an example of “herd behavior.” We should all strive for greater spiritual growth but that does not mean that we should follow without thought the examples of those are greater than us. What is appropriate for them may not be appropriate for us.

February 12, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Messilat Yesharim Part 3: Lesson 5
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oday we studied more of the Mesilat Yesharim’s advocacy of a life of perishut amd we compared it (briefly) to the Rambam’s advice that everyone needs a pleasant environment in which to live and study. In my own humble opinion I think think that the Rambam would take exception to Ramchal’s advice that a degree of asceticism is appropriate for everyone; but I may very well be mistaken. We also saw the teshuva of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l who explains under what circumstances it is permissible for a person to reject the lenient ruling of a rabbi in order to follow a personal stringency. Finally I want to wish a heart-felt Pozadane Plecy to our friend, Joel Nowicki

February 19, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Messilat Yesharim Part 3: Lesson 6
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Today we finished the discussion on “Perishut” in the Mesillat Yesharim.” We compared the view of Ramchal on the subject of asceticism with the view of Rav Sadiah Gaon. I think ( and I may be wrong of course)that ramchal views people as easily led astray and therefore endorses asceticism as a value to be pursued by a person who aspires to holiness. on the other hand, it seems that Rav Sadiah Gaon trusts people to be able to set boundaries that match the Torah’s boundaries; so when Rav Sadiah Gaon speaks of the “good” form of Perishut, he describes it as the extra effort that someone may need to apply in order to observe one of the Toerah’s precepts and not as abstinence from something that the Torah permits. I am posting now the excerpt from Shmonah Perakim, that I mentioned in the shiur.

February 26, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Messilat Yesharim Part 3: Lesson 7
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Today we started the 16th chapter of Mesillat Yesharim where Ramchal calls upon us to examine the motive for our behavior, and even in the performance of our mitzvot. We saw that Chazal and even in sefer Yeshayahu we are called upon to perform mitzvot with an awareness that we are serving Hashem, and not merely acting out of habit. I had to end the shiur early in order to take my son to the doctor.

March 4, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Messilat Yesharim Part 3: Lesson 8
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Today we continued with the discussion of Ramchal’s emphasis on purity of motive in mitzvot. We saw that the Rambam also emphasizes that a mitzvah done with a pure motive is immensely precious, and then we saw the writings of Rav Chaim of Volozhin who was concerned by what he saw an exagerated emphasis on purity of motive leading paradoxically to the neglect of the proper fulfillment of mitzvot. next wwek w will bli neder continue with the discussion with the place of motive in the performance of mitzvot. Have a happy Purim, Stuart Fischman

March 12, 2012 6:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Messilat Yesharim Part 3: Lesson 9
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Today we saw the response of Rav Chaim of Volozhin to the Mesillat yesharim. Ramchal at the end of chap.16 and in chapter 17 says that mitzvot that are done without an awareness of being Hashem’s presence are practically worthless. Rav Chaim Volozhin writes that the consequence of this perspective was that people stopped learning Torah altogether, since they were under the impression that if they can’t reach this level of spiritual awareness then “why bother?” Rav Chaim of Volozhin wrote this chapter of “Nefesh Hachayim” to explain that learning Torah is the greatest activity that a Jew can engage in; and that it is only foolish to delay the study of Torah while waiting for the proper mood to take hold of you. Rav Chaim also had little sympathy for people who felt that the study of Halacha does not address their need for religiously fulfilling activity. For Rav Chaim the study of Torah is the highest form of religious experience. In Rav Chaim’s time there was a schism in the Jewish world between Chassidut (whose leaders were concerned with addressing the spiritual needs of the unlearned) and the Mitnagdim/Lithuanians who saw Judaism as Rav Chaim of Volozhin did. I think these days a sort of accord has been reached. Chassidim learn and value Gemara, while in “Lithuanian” yeshivot the role of a “Mashgiach” came into being whose role was to look after the spiritual development of the students. I hope that next week I will be able to go back to the usual Sunday date for the shiur. I apologize for any inconvenience or confusion I may have caused. Thank-you, Stuart Fischman

March 18, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Messilat Yesharim Part 3: Lesson 10
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Today we finished the dicussion on “Purity” which for Ramchal means “purity of motive.” We discussed how Ramchal’s idea of there being a “true” motive for mitzvot (which can only be achieved by rather prolonged contemplation)was decried by the opponents of Chassidut. We saw the opposition to the popularization of esoteric ideas about the mitzvot in the late 18th century responsa of the Noda BeYehuda and in the essay of Rav Soloveitchik, “Ish Hahalcha” (“Halachic Man” in the English translation).

March 25, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Messilat Yesharim Part 3: Lesson 11
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Today we started the discussion on “Chassidut” or what could be translated as “piety.” Ramchal opens the chapter by saying what piety is not- piety is not extravagant, bizarre ritualistic practice. Piety is going beyond what the letter of Halacha calls for in order to carry out Hashem’s will. But how can a person reliably know what is Hashem’s will if it is beyond what is written in the Torah? So Ramchal says that the first step to piety is the profound study of Torah. Piety is not intuitive, only after study can a person know if his or chosen path is pious or just foolish. I enjoyed the shiurim in Mesillat yesharim and I look forward to continuing them after Pesach. Chag kasher vesameiach, Stuart Fischman

Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman graduated from Yeshiva University in 1980 and the dental school of Columbia University in 1985. In 1989 he began studying and teaching at Yeshivat Hamivtar and now studies and teaches at Yeshivat Machanaim in Efrat. He has rabbinic ordination from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg.