Recommended Posts

Rambam: The Difference Between A Saint And One Who Struggles

Shemonah Perakim – The Eight Chapters – Chapter Six: The Difference Between a True Saint And A Person Who Has Subdued His Natural Inclinations And Practices Self-Restraint: The View of King Solomon: Philosophers maintain that a person who controls his base instincts is someone who inwardly craves the immoral even though he may perform many commendable acts. He overcomes his passion by actively grappling with the urges stirred by his emotions, desires, and natural inclination. But even while he is acting in moral fashion, he is being tormented by his inner conflict. A saintly man, however, is guided in his actions by his innate disposition to do good. His urging and desires are to do good things.

Philosophers unanimously agree that a saintly man is better and more perfect than a person who has to curb his passions, although the two are equal in many things. In general, a person who has to subdue his cravings must necessarily be rated lower than a saintly man because ethe desire to do evil lurks in his heart. And although he does not actually do evil, his fondness for evil indicated that his soul is flawed.

King Solomon expressed a similar idea when he said, “The soul of the wicked desires evil.” (Proverbs 21:10) speaking of the joy a saintly man experiences when he is doing good and the torment felt by one who acts virtuously but is not innately righteous, King Solomon says, “It is a joy to the righteous to do justice but a torment to evildoers.” (Proverbs 21:15) The sayings of the Bible seem to be in accord with the tenets of the philosophers.

The Opinion of The Rabbis

In studying the works of the Rabbis on this subject, we find that they value the person who controls his impulse to sin more than one who has no such urge, and therefore, does not have to struggle to refrain from evil

They even go so far as to say that the more praiseworthy and perfect a man is, the greater his desire to transgress and the stronger his turmoil when he controls his urge to sin.  “The greater the man, the stronger his evil inclination.” (Succah 52a)

And, if this were not enough, they add that the reward of the person who overcomes his evil inclination is commensurate with the anguish he suffers because of his resistance.

Go Back to Previous Page

  • Other visitors also read