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Mesilat Yesharim for iPhone

A few days ago Natan Rolnik (we wrote about him reviewing the Chagei Tishrei application dedicated to the victim of the 31st August massacre) released another application: Mesilat Yesharim (Path of the Just) – in memory of  Zeev Fishel ben Shmuel Z”L.

Mesilat Yesharim, a classical work of Jewish ethics, was written by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (Ramchal). The versitality of Rachmal’s works, left as his heritage, reflect a great deal his comprehensive knowledge, interests and talents. Among his works we can find kabbalistic writings soaked in the Arizal’s spirit of  Kabbalah, philosophic writings, works on Hebrew grammar, excellent works on Talmudic logic, and even secular poetry and drama writings.

Mesilat Yesharim is a truly unique work. Builds on a Beraita in the name of the sage Pinchas ben-Yair, presents the stages of the way which a pious person is to follow to reach the religious and ethical excellence.

The truths presented by Ramchal don’t seem to be complicated. In the introduction to his book he says: I have written this work not to teach men what they do not know, but to remind them of what they already know and is very evident to them,  for you will find in most of my words only things which most people know, and concerning which they entertain no doubts ”. Because the issues presented are commonly and widely known,  very often they tend to be forgotten about.  It may be for this reason, then, that it is one of  the most difficult books of Judaism. To exercise the path of the just requires a lot of effort and most of all a great deal of persistance. Because of that,  to exercise all the merits presented in the book is a laborious task.

As my friend and Rabbi,  from the beginning of my religious life, Rabbi Sacha Pecaric wrote in the introduction to the Polish translation of  Mesilat Yesharim, “it is a book for our everyday life – it reminds us that the tremendously difficult challenge posed by Judaism, has to be carried out not just during holidays but in everyday life by every single common person.

As Ramchal notices, there are people who enter more deeply into sacred studies, into the study of the Holy Torah, occupying themselves with Halachic discussions, with Midrash or with legal decisions. “There are few, however, who devote thought and study to perfection of  Divine service – to love,  fear, communion and all of the other aspects of saintliness”.

This reminds me a joke about two yeshivah bochurim. One of them convinces the other to talk about what they think about G-d, about their love to Him, about the attachment to Him, about the mercy and  yirat shamayim. One puts in front of the other’s eyes a schedule loaded to the brim and says: “Look at this schedule man – Shacharit, Halacha, Gemara, Mussar, Pirkei Avot, Mincha, Tanya, Hevruta… where am I supposed to fit in some time for thinking about G-d!?

It is not possible to derive any good use from this book having read it only once or after its critical and assiduous studying. I personally have a few publications of this book, a few Hebrew ones, Hebrew-English and Hebrew-Polish one. The grater was my joy of  Mesilat Yesharim being released as an iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad application (app Mesilat Yesharim for Android was released at the beginning of this year, Hebrew only – check it out here).

As usually in case of the software made by Natan Rolnik, the interface of this application has no redundant features. Start screen is just contents with highlighted chapters, recognizable graphics in the style of  his former apps (Pirkei Avot or Kitzur Shulchan Aruch for example). There are buttons in the  text section, to switch between languages of publication ( the choice is English or Hebrew) and to go into the information screen about the author and the make. As simple as that. The size of font makes reading really comfortable.

But still, I think there are two things this application lacks: bookmarker and searcher. It is a hindrance that I have to remember the exact spot in the book which I am reading. It becomes even more frustrating because of the fact that, let’s be honest, it is not the kind of a book you would read cover to cover at one go. Very often, at least in my case, the quotations from this book are used – it would be a lot easier to find the right piece using a built-in searcher.

I hope that the amandments will be possible by the next update of the application.  Anyway Mesilat Yesharim by Natan Rolnik went on the start screen of my iPhone next to Siddur by RustyBrick  and iTalmud by CrownRoad.

Robert Pass (Mati Szmidt contributed to this review)

Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Category: Books
Released: September 01, 2010
Publisher: Natan L. Rolnik
Price: Free (get app)




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