Tzava’at Harivash 2-3

“Shiviti-I have set God before me at all times.” (Psalms 16:8)

Shiviti is an expression of hishtavut (equanimity):[1]  no matter what happens, whether people praise or shame you, and so, too, with anything else, it is all the same to you. This applies likewise to any food: it is all the same to you whether you eat delicacies or other things. For [with this perspective] the yetzer hara is entirely removed from you.

Whatever may happen, say that “it comes from [God], blessed be He, and if it is proper in His eyes…”[2]  Your motives are altogether for the sake of Heaven, and as for yourself nothing makes any difference.

This [sense of equanimity] is a very high level.

Also, serve God with all your might, because everything is “required [for Above].”[3]  God wishes to be served in all possible ways. This means the following:

Sometimes one may walk and talk to others and is then unable to study [Torah]. Nonetheless, you must attach yourself to God and effect yichudim (unifications).[4]  So also when on the road, thus unable to pray and study as usual, you must serve [God] in other ways.

Do not be disturbed by this. For God wishes to be served in all possible ways, sometimes in one manner and sometimes in another. That is why it happened that you had to go on a journey or talk to people, i.e., in order that you serve Him in that alternate way.


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[1] Shiviti is related to the root-word shaveh, equal. The notion of equanimity is a fundamental principle in the pursuit of authentic religiosity and piety. R. Bachya ibn Pakuda (Chovot Halevovot, Sha’ar Yichud Hama’aseh, ch. 5) calls it the “ultimate of the most precious levels among the rungs of the pious.” See also below, sect. 6, 10, 84, 91, 93 and 127.

[2] Equanimity follows logically from a profound sense of hashgachah peratit, the belief that every detail is controlled by Divine Providence. Our proof-text thus reads: “Shiviti-everything is equal to me [because I realize that] God is before me at all times.” See below, sect. 4.

[3] Tzorech gevoha, lit. “for the need of Above.” This is the mystical term indicating that everything in creation is to be for the Divine intent, i.e., for the realization of the ultimate perfection of the spiritual reality underlying physical reality: “God has made everything for His own purpose.” (Proverbs 16:4) Cf. below, sect. 11 and 73.

[4] Yichudim (unifications) is the Kabbalistic concept of effecting harmony in the totality of creation by “connecting” (unifying) things to their spiritual roots. See below, sect. 22, 75, 94 and 123.