Shaarei Yosher: Chapter Headings

An outline, according to how I presented it:

  1. Life’s Mission
    1. Making ourselves in the “image” of the Creator.
    2. The “image” of the Creator is to bestow good on others —
    3. because creation had to be for our benefit, as He has no needs.
    4. We therefore must commit ourselves, sanctify all we have, to the mission of bestowing good to others.
  2. Holiness (Thesis)
    1. “Be Holy for I am Holy” — creating good for others, because Hashem is the Creator.
    2. Chazal identify holiness with separation,
    3. but separation is meaningless in the context of Divine Holiness —
    4. which is what meant by “My holiness is loftier than yours”.
    5. But for us, commitment to giving will require separation from other goals, and by enjoying ourselves in order to perform this life mission, we can sanctify our enjoyment.
  3. Self-Interest (Antithesis)
    1. Despite the focus on giving to others,
    2. Hashem created us with a drive to have our own needs met, and wants us to have self-interest, “his life and your life, your life comes first”
    3. Similarly Qabbalists say, “The Infinite wanted to bestow complete good, that there wouldn’t even be the embarrassment of receiving”
    4. — even one’s knowledge. A desire to take credit can lead to denying Hashem’s help — but still Hashem values it more than the risk.
    5. “Moshe his happy with the giving of his portion because he was a faithful servant” — who didn’t need to deny Hashem’s giving.
  4. Connectionism (Synthesis)
    1. Commitment to giving must therefore flow from self-interest.
    2. A coarse person thinks he is his body (a physical “ani“).
    3. Beyond that is someone whose “ani” is body and soul,
    4. and beyond — to family, to neighbors, to the Jewish people,
    5. to realizing that I am part of the entire creation.
    6. “If I am not for this ‘ani‘ who will be? And when I am for myself alone, what am I?”
  5. Sharing
    1. So too, when Hashem gives us something, it is for “ani” as part of the community.
    2. Hashem sees those who effectively provide for the whole, and provide them with more to disburse.
    3. Just as Nachum ish Gamzu saw no value to his own limbs when he failed to use them to provide good to others.
    4. So too teaching merits that Hashem give you more wisdom to share.
  6. Refinement
    1. Being ready to acquire Torah requires preparation.
    2. The sinner who has Torah is worse than one who does not.
    3. We become the man-made “Second Luchos“, and refining our middos is carving them.
    4. This turns Torah into a process of perfecting ourselves as givers, our Torah knowledge,
    5. and even our financial success.

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  1. shirah bell says:

    Micha, you continue to blow me away! Thank you for this. The outline entices me to study the book! One little question – In numeral 4ii, do you mean ‘A course” or “A coarse”? todah rabah, Shirah

  2. micha says:

    I meant “coarse”, and corrected it accordingly.

    The book, though, is not on philosophy or Mussar. To translate the title page, “Shaarei Yosher [Gates of Straightness, ie Honesty / Integrity]: In it we open 7 gates [sections]. Explorations into the halakhos of the laws of doubt, majority and presumption, and the laws of testimony.” It’s about how to decide halakhah when the facts are either unknown or in dispute. In other words, I cut off a piece that pretty much stands by itself. The body of the book is on some of the more complex parts of halachic thought.

    Also, this is just the first part of the introduction. The rest of the introduction thanks G-d for his ability to teach in Telzh and then to start a yeshiva in Grodno, how nice it is to be able to study even through his old age (this part is presented as a Torah thought worth presenting), thanking his parents, in laws, others who helped him (ncluding his sister), etc…

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