“Observance of all the mitzvoth,” as the words imply, is observance of the whole body of mitzvoth with all of their fine points and conditions.
All of these principles require extensive interpretation. I have found that our Sages of blessed memory have categorized these elements in a different, more detailed formulation, in which they are arranged according to the order necessary for their proper acquisition. Their words are contained in a Baraitha mentioned in different places in the Talmud, one of them, the chapter “Before their festivals” (Avodah Zara 20b):
“From this R. Pinchas ben Yair adduced:
Torah leads to Watchfulness;
Watchfulness leads to Zeal;
Zeal leads to Cleanliness;
Cleanliness leads to Separation;
Separation leads to Purity;
Purity leads to Saintliness;
Saintliness leads to Humility;
Humility leads to Fear of Sin;
Fear of Sin leads to Holiness;
Holiness leads to the Holy Spirit,
and the Holy Spirit leads to the Revival of the Dead.”
It is on the basis of this Baraitha that I have undertaken to write this work,in order to teach myself and to remind others of the conditions for perfect Divine service according to their gradations. In relation to each one, I shall explain its nature, its divisions or details, the manner of acquiring it, and its deterrents and the manner of guarding against them, so that I and all those who are pleased to do so may read therein in order to learn to fear the Lord our God and not forget our duty before Him. That which the earthiness of nature seeks to remove from our hearts, reading and contemplation will summon to our consciousness, and will awaken us to what is incumbent upon us.
May God be with our aspirations and keep our feet from stumbling, and may there be fulfilled in us the supplication of the Psalmist, beloved of his God (Psalms 86:11), “Teach me, O God, Your ways; I shall walk in Your truth. Make one my heart to fear Your Name.” Amen, so may be His will.