** Chovos HaLevavos - Duties of the Heart **by Rabeinu Bachya ibn Paquda zt'l
free english translation
Note: If one has time to read only one of the gates, I recommend #4, the Gate of Trust in God. But Gates 1-3 are the heart of the entire book.
About the Translator: Rabbi Yosef Sebag studied in various yeshivas under great Torah scholars such as Rabbi Dov Shwartzman zt'l (~2 years), Rabbi Nachman Bulman zt'l, Rabbi Nissan Kaplan (~5 years). He also completed degrees in physics and electrical engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and was a research associate in nuclear physics for some time before heading off to yeshiva.
He says: While translating this, I heavily consulted with the out of print translation by Rabbi Moses Hyamson zt'l (former head Dayan and chief Rabbi of the British Empire between 1911 and 1913), which came to my possession on its own in a miraculous way.
The Chovos Halevavos is one of the earliest of the classic Jewish mussar (ethics) works. It was originally translated from Arabic by Chacham Yehuda ibn Tibon zt'l. The commentaries wrote that Chacham Tibon was a singular, master translator who was able to translate the book in such a way that the full depth and all the allusions to different facets and multiple interpretations were preserved, as Maimonides (who knew Arabic) wrote: "I recognized in your words that your heart plumbed the depths of the matter and uncovered the hidden secrets" (Masoret edition pg.58). As is known, the torah way is to condense volumes of information in very few words, carefully crafting ambiguities to allow for different allusions and interpretations, as the Talmud (Sanhedrin 34a) expounds the verse "Is not My word like fire, and like a hammer that shatters a rock into pieces?" (Jer.23:29) - "As the rock splits into many fragments, so one verse may convey many meanings."
For this reason, the hebrew is difficult to understand and was studied mainly by high-level torah scholars. I have translated select commentaries to help bring out some of its depth.
• mp3 Classes by Rabbi Ezriel Tauber
• mp3 Classes by Rabbi Avraham Chaim Feuer
• see also audio by Rabbi Avigdor Miller who was a living example of the teachings of the book. sample audio available here