Chapter Two (Part 2)
Those of us in search of spiritual excellence would naturally want to
acquire virtues and avoid flaws. But we'd need to define just what true
spirit-based virtues and flaws encompass rather than material ones. For
while being "good" or "bad" at one's job or social interests, for example,
certainly matters, it doesn't touch on our quest.
So we're taught that there are two sorts of virtues and flaws germane
here: those touching on our ideas (which obviously affect our intellects)
and those relevant to our character (which affect our emotions and senses,
as we'll learn). Let's concentrate here on the first. Since we don't tend
to think of ideas as being "virtuous" per se (though we do speak
of "flawed ideas", interestingly), so we'll just label them "lofty".
Rambam contends that it's lofty to learn how to determine the cause-and-
effect relationship between things (i.e., knowing which of these two
brought the other about and is thus more significant). It's likewise lofty
to hone and purify our reasoning processes, and to think adroitly and
swiftly. Contrarily, our thinking, and thus we ourselves, would be flawed
if we dwelt on incidentals, if we allowed our minds to stagnate, or if our
thinking was muddled and sluggish.
Though he doesn't speak of it until much later in the work, Rambam also
maintains that lofty thoughts are ones that are in tune with the ultimate
truth about our situation in this world and in a relationship to G-d, and
it also has to do with understanding certain truisms about Him.
Without spending too much time on it at this juncture, suffice it to say
that those with lofty minds come to know that we're expected to try to
grasp as much as we can about G-d; that with notable exception, as we'll
see, we've each been granted the freedom to act as we see fit based on our
own judgment; and that it would behoove us to use that freedom to draw
close to G-d. They also know that though G-d is basically unfathomable in
His essence, there are certainly things that we can say about Him from our
perspective, including the facts that He's Omniscient and Almighty. But
this will be explained as we go along.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org