The Rambam (Teshuva 10:2) defines the ideal motivation of performing mitzvot as (lishma) one "who does the truth because it is the truth".

On the other hand, the Mesilat Yesharim defines the ideal motivation (in ch.19) as to bring nachat ruach (pleasure/gratification) to God.

Are these two saying the same thing in different words or are they two different views?

Update: I see also in the Rambam's commentary on Mishnayot end of Makot: "Among the fundamental principles of our faith in the torah is that when a person fulfills one of the 613 mitzvot properly and befittingly, and does not associate with it in any way whatsoever any intent of this world but instead does it for its own sake (lishma), out of love".

  • Note that the Perush HaMishna was written in Arabic. It is therefore difficult to make an inference about how Rambam understood a particular Hebrew word (in this case: לשמה).
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 5, 2016 at 21:39
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Dec 12, 2016 at 15:23
  • Doing it out of love is mentioned in Hilchot Teshuva 10:2 as well!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 22 at 13:08
  • I would say that they're basically saying the same thing with each using their own terminology. Rambam's God doesn't derive pleasure from our good actions vs the kabbalistic God that does
    – Nahum
    Jan 22 at 13:38
  • @Nahum worth noting that a) many "kabbalists" feel they are not disagreeing with the Rambam and b) any divisions goes back way before "philosophy vs kabbalah". See Heschel's Heavenly Torah
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 22 at 14:16

1 Answer 1


Review the previous chapters of Mesilat Yisharim about tahara, and you will find Rambam's shita. He described this purity as definitionally "doing it for the sake of heaven":

וּמִי שֶׁהוּא עוֹבֵד ה' בֶּאֱמֶת, לֹא יִסְתַּפֵּק בָּזֶה בְּמֻעָט וְלֹא יִתְרַצֶּה לָקַחַת כֶּסֶף מְעֹרָב בְּסִיגִים וּבְדִילִים, דְּהַיְנוּ, עֲבוֹדָה מְעֹרֶבֶת בִּפְנִיּוֹת לֹא טוֹבוֹת, אֶלָּא הַזַּךְ וְהַטָּהוֹר כָּרָאוּי, וְאָז יִקָּרֵא עוֹשֶׂה מִצְוָה כְּמַאֲמָרָהּ, שֶׁעָלָיו אָמְרוּ זַ"ל (שבת ס"ג א): כָּל הָעוֹשֶׂה מִצְוָה כְּמַאֲמָרָהּ אֵין מְבַשְּׂרִין אוֹתוֹ בְּשׂוֹרוֹת רָעוֹת. וְכֵן אָמְרוּ זַ"ל (נדרים ס"ב א): עֲשֵׂה דְּבָרִים לְשֵׁם פָּעֳלָם וְדַבֵּר בָּהֶם לִשְׁמָן.

He who is truly a servant of G-d, will not be satisfied with serving Him minimally. He will not be content to take silver mixed with dross and lead, that is, divine service mixed with impure motivations, but rather only with the clean and pure as is befitting. Then he will be called "one who does a mitzva as it is stated", of which our sages of blessed memory said: "whoever does a mitzva as it is stated, will receive no evil tidings" (Shab.63a). Likewise they said: "do [good] deeds for the sake of their Maker, and speak of them for their own sake" (Nedarim 62a).

And what is this motivation that is clean and pure? Serving Hashem because it is the right thing to do i.e. because it is true:

וְעִנְיָנָהּ שֶׁלֹּא יַנִּיחַ הָאָדָם מָקוֹם לַיֵּצֶר בְּמַעֲשָׂיו, אֶלָּא יִהְיוּ כָּל מַעֲשָׂיו עַל צַד הַחָכְמָה וְהַיִּרְאָה וְלֹא עַל צַד הַחֵטְא וְהַתַּאֲוָה.

Its matter is for a man to not leave any room in one's deeds for the evil inclination, but rather, that all of his deeds be from the side of wisdom and fear of G-d, and not from the side of sin and lust.

I.e. pure motivations, based on the truth of the value of the actions themselves, and the One Who commands them.

כִּי אֵין דַּי לָאָדוֹן בָּרוּךְ הוּא בַּמַּעֲשִׂים לְבַדָּם שֶׁיִּהְיוּ מַעֲשֵׂי מִצְוָה, אֶלָּא הָעִקָּר לְפָנָיו שֶׁהַלֵּב יִהְיֶה טָהוֹר לְכַוֵּן בָּהּ לַעֲבוֹדָה אֲמִתִּית.

For to the Master of the world, the deeds alone are not sufficient, namely, to perform an act of mitzva. Rather, the primary importance before Him is that the heart be pure, so that its intent is to true service.

The introduction to chapter 19, as you brought, explains that there is a level above this, and that is not to do it just because it is right, true and wise, but also because you love Hashem, with a simple love that seeks only to please Him. This is yet another level of "lishma", which I believe the Rambam covers in the same halachot, e.g.:

וּמַעֲלָה זוֹ הִיא מַעֲלָה גְּדוֹלָה מְאֹד וְאֵין כָּל חָכָם זוֹכֶה לָהּ. וְהִיא מַעֲלַת אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ שֶׁקְּרָאוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אוֹהֲבוֹ לְפִי שֶׁלֹּא עָבַד אֶלָּא מֵאַהֲבָה

This is a very high level which is not merited by every wise man. It is the level of our Patriarch, Abraham, whom God described as, "he who loved Me," for his service was only motivated by love.

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