Title: The Gate of Trust, With Commentary From Classical and Chassidic Sources
By Rabbeinu Bachya Ibn Pakudah
Kehot Publication Society
While visiting the Biegeleisen Seforim store, an interesting title caught my eye. The Shaar Habitachon from Chovos Halevavos (Duties of the Heart, “Fellig Edition”), published by Kehot, Chabad’s in-house publisher. It struck me as unusual, as Kehot normally publishes books from the Chabad dynasty, with notable exceptions (an edition of Sdei Chemed, Pri Megadim and Derech Emuna from R. Meir Ibn Gabbai.)
I opened the sefer, and to my amazement, I was greeted with a thorough translation of the Hebrew translation of Chovos Halevavos. The sefer was written originally in Judeo-Arabic, but the commonly learned version is a Hebrew translation. Even in its Hebrew, it is a difficult read, both conceptually and linguistically. Rabbi Yisroel David Klein has done a wonderful job of translating the text into English. Rabbi Itzick Yarmush, has done a yeoman’s job in assembling a collection of commentaries to help understand the pshat of the words of the author.
If this had been the only achievement of this edition, dayenu – it would’ve been enough for us. However, there is another feature that explains why it would be published by Chabad’s publishing house. Rav Shlomo Freifeld has explained that the greatest achievement of “big” people is that they concretize the ratzon Hashem into this world in three dimensions.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught in a sicha (which would become the treatise On the Essence of Chassidus), that Chassidus reveals the inner life of the Torah. We see this demonstrated fully in The Gate of Trust. Emunah means to take the principles of faith that we know as abstract facts and make them into a lived reality. Rabbi Yarmush has collected a treasury of Chassidic teachings connecting the words of the Chovos Halevavos to the fundamentals of emunah, and to understanding how Hashem rules the world as described by the Chassidic masters of Chabad.
These lofty concepts, followed by the exhortations of the Chovos Halevavos, are then extended further, in the Chassidic fashion, so that the reader can apply them in practice. The commentary is filled with letters from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, as he urged his chassidim to live by these teachings, concretizing the abstract concepts into a life of emunah.
The volume is organized beautifully, as the major points are reviewed in tables, and many of the key teachings, whether in the text or commentary, can be easily located in the table of contents.
I would comment on the usage of Rav Yehuda Ibn Tibon’s translation of the Arabic “Il Hidayah ila Fraid al-Qulub” (Chovos Halevavos), versus the updated translation of Rav Yosef Kafich. While the Lubavitcher Rebbe preferred the commonly available versions of texts used, he would often refer to scholarly editions (such as the Frankel Rambam) for the insights that could be gleaned from them. Perhaps future editions could include comments where the translations differ.
This faith and trust are not acquired with a cursory reading. A ma’amin must train his sense of emunah. It is not something which a person may simply hear, read and now say that one believes. This is not a book for light armchair reading, nor one that you can simply pick up and read in one sitting. It is an undertaking that can change your life and how you see the world.