1. What sets the truly righteous -- the tzaddikim -- apart from the rest of
us is that they consistently use their free will to its best end. They face
the same moral and spiritual challenges we each do and they elect to do
what’s right, no matter how difficult, while we often don’t. We can undo our
poor choices, to be sure, and become righteous ourselves, but unless we do
that as consistently as they, we aren’t righteous. We can be good, kind,
accepting, and more but we wouldn’t be truly righteous until we also prevail
over those challenges.
Now, the great near-Divine benefit and distinction the tzaddikim enjoy is
the fact that they act as G-d’s “partners in rectifying the world”, as
Ramchal puts it (see Shir HaShirim Rabbah 5:2). As such, they play a vital
role in activating the various phenomena that will eventually have G-d bring
about the perfection of all things. But that calls for some explanation .
2. That means to say that with their righteous deeds the tzaddikim are able
to activate the various phenomena here on earth that allow for G-d’s great
blessings to emanate from Heaven that will set off the great redemption and
the perfection of all things.
As each mitzvah they fulfill and each possible sin they thwart plays another
small role in the process. And though the process is a slow, step by step,
calculated series of strides, the whole of it moves inexorably onward and
will continue to until it achieves its goal. That’s so because each step
fosters a response from G-d, the other “Partner" in the process, if you will.
Recall, though, that the whole process has been on-going since Adam and Eve
erred in the Garden of Eden. Thus the tzaddikim are charged with first
bringing the world back to the stage it had been had Adam and Eve not sinned
(which is a laborious task to be sure), and then they’re charged with
catching up, so to speak, which means to say with bringing the world to the
stage it would have been in had Adam and Eve not sinned in the first place
(as we'd explained before) .
Nevertheless, once all of that is accomplished the world will have been
perfected, our people will be fully redeemed, and G-d's sovereignty will be
manifest -- all thanks to the on-going selfless efforts of the tzaddikim and
of G-d's own will working in tandem.
 What’s interesting is the fact that Ramchal attributes this
ability to the tzaddikim alone at this point of the chapter, while he
attributes it to the entire Jewish Nation by the end of the chapter. That
either implies that each and every Jew has the wherewithal to be a tzaddik
(see Maimonides’ Hilchot Teshuvah 5:2 for that very point); that we each
play a role in the redemptive actions of the tzaddikim (since, for example,
they can’t engage in full tephilla without a minyan which wouldn’t
necessarily be comprised of other tzaddikim; they can only be generous to
the poor if and when there are poor, who wouldn’t necessarily be tzaddikim,
etc.); or it underscores the idea that since “All of Israel has a place in
The World to Come” (Sanhedrin 10:1) then all of us are tzaddikim at bottom
and that we need only decide to draw upon our inborn righteousness and it
will manifest itself.
For this chapter’s Kabbalistic references see Klallim Rishonim 29; R’
Friedlander’s supplementary comments on p. 172 of his edition; R’ Shriki’s
notes 134-135; and R’ Goldblatt’s notes 9-10, 13 as well as note 82 in his
 See 3:14 and 4:11 for example.
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason
Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various
locations on the Web.