Page 67 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 9 (1950-1951)

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keep at peace with all human beings and act beneficially towards
them, estimate good deeds, . . . and forgive transgressors when
they truly repent.”
Bachya regards the mind, the understanding, i.e., intelligence,
as the guide to ethical acts. “Concentrate your mind and employ
your intelligence in weighing the good.” By understanding, he
says, “man distinguishes between truth and falsehood, between
excess and deficiency, between good and evil, between the laudable
and the despicable, between the necessary, the contingent and
the impossible.”
In an eloquent dialogue between the soul and the understand-
ing Bachya raises the usual perplexing question as to the relation
of free will and divine predestination. He seems to be influenced
somehow by Mohammedan fatalism but takes a middle of the
read stand. The outward circumstances are to a certain extent
determined by the course of events beyond man’s control, but
God bestowed upon man the inner freedom of choice and the
ability to distinguish between good and evil. Hence man is re-
sponsible for the choice he makes. “ It is a person’s duty to busy
himself in seeking means to improve his condition . . . He must
not leave this to God and should not say, ‘If it has been preordained
by the Creator’s decree that I should live, He will preserve my
soul within my body without food and I need not trouble to seek
a livelihood.’ ”
In his discussions on
Bachya emphasizes that man’s re-
liance on God is to come “after having done his utmost.” The
performance of good deeds not for the sake of securing fame and
glory, nor with the expectation of reward even in the world to
come, denotes the highest form of trust in God. “To please God
is the fundamental essence of reward.” The perplexing problem
raised by Job is not to be solved in the light of reward and pun-
ishment, not even through the compensation to the soul when
parted from the body, but solely through the implicit trust in
God’s goodness. “The state of the soul apart from the body is
unknown to us, still less do we know what affects it in that state
pleasurably or otherwise.”
Bachya leads us frcm his fourth fundamental principle of trust
in Gcd to sincerity of purpose, to
־Unification of Action
which is
the significant title of a large section. Wholehearted devotion
can emanate only, as the very title indicates, through the unifi-
cation of feeling, reason and fulfillment. Hypocrisy is a cardinal
sin, worse than idol worship by the heathen. Skepticism, too,
has no place in a healthy normal life. Bachya’s Mephistopheles —
“ the tempter, the evil inclination” — in spite of his clever insin-
uations is finally beaten and humiliated by the understanding.