Tuesday, May 1, 2012


5 Iyyar, 5772
April 27th, 2012
20th Day of the Omer
Parshat Tazria-Metzora

“Says the author: I did not compose this essay to teach people what they do not know, but rather to remind them of that which is already known to them and hugely wide-spread between them. For you will only find in most of my words things that most people know and about which they have no doubt; only, it is because they are so famous and that their truth is obvious to everyone that their absence is prevalent and the forgetting of them is great.”

These are the words that begin one of the most famous popular works of Jewish spirituality in history, the Mesillat Yesharim, The Path of the Upright. Written by the immensely brilliant and highly eccentric Moshe Haim Luzzato, this book is the precursor to the Mussar movement - the 19th century ethical/spiritual movement that focussed on perfecting the self and radical improvement of one’s virtues as the greatest way to serve God.

At the heart of these words is a prescient realization - human beings are likely to forget precisely that which is most obvious. We take quite a bit for granted, and unless we actively remind ourselves of that which is unambiguously important - family, courtesy, kindness, helping others, making a positive impact on the world, investing in spirituality, giving to charity, etc. - we simply will not devote the time to these values that we would wish.

So I want to draw your attention to the second of two words that always go together: spiritual practice. These two words cannot be separated, for the path to a more noble life begins with constantly reminding oneself of that which is important. Thus every spirituality is grounded in daily practice.

It is sometimes thought that one must realize the importance of a practice before beginning it. But those who are wise know that the opposite is true - important realizations only come through practice.

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