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February 9, 2012

When not to act piously –by Rabbi Hyim Shafner

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/when_not_to_act_piously_by_rabbi_hyim_shafner/

Photo

Tziyun of the Ramhal in Tiberias, ir hakodesh ttbb"a, Israel. Photo by Wikipedia/Jonat

Recently I came a across a passage in the Misilat Yisharim (Path of the Just) by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lutzato, that seems so prescient of the times we are living in now as Jews with all our infighting and outfighting and acting out on the right and left.  If we keep in the forefront of our minds the following words of the Misilat Yisharim I think it will help to guide us as to what actions will be for the greater good of the Jewish people, the glory of God and to be a light unto the nations, and which actions, in contrast, are detrimental to those noble ends.

“…Though one should run to do mitzvoth (commandments)…there are times when they can lead to quarrel, such that the mitzvah and the name of Heaven will desecrated instead of sanctified.  In such cases certainly the Chasid (pious person) is obligated to put aside the commandment and not to run after it.

Though we are obligated to perform the mitzvoth with all their details and not to be afraid or ashamed, even so mitzvoth require great discernment, for this statement was said only about absolute obligations; but any added piety that if a person performs it the public will mock them for it, should not be performed; as the prophet says: “Walk humbly with your God.”

Thus a person who wishes to be pious must weigh all their deeds with attention to what their deeds’ repercussions will be according to the time, place and culture in which one is living.  If not acting will cause greater sanctification of God’s name, we must hold back and not act.  All acts must be judged according to their repercussions not according to whether the act itself seems good.  These things can only be discerned by one who has an understanding heart and common sense; for it is impossible to codify the details of this which are infinite….This should be our vision of the path which shall bring true light and faith, to do what is straight in the eyes of God.”
-Chapter 21: On the Balancing of Chasidut (Piety)

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