Monthly Archives: May 2017

Da’at Tevunot 2:2 (# 69-70)

Da’at Tevunot 2:2 (# 69-70)

1.

Why, we might wonder, do we have a separate body and soul rather than a combination of the two, as G-d could very well have created us to have from the first 1?  The answer to that lies in the fact that our body and soul each plays a distinct and vital role in G-d’s ultimate intention behind the creation of the universe, which was for Him to be as benevolent to His created beings as possible 2. For, our initially having a separate body and soul enables us to perfect ourselves 3.

This question also touches on the idea discussed early on about just what our imperfections are rooted in and what enables us to rectify them 4.

2.

Our imperfections are rooted in the makeup of our body 5, which is material, dense and dark, and thus unable to bask in G-d’s holiness. As, “only those fully prepared to can pass through the King’s gate and visit His palace” 6, as Ramchal words it. And one who’s under the sway of all sorts of untoward desires certainly couldn’t do that.

So G-d granted us another vital element, the soul, which was hewn from the inchoate “stuff” beneath G-d’s Throne of Glory, which is by its very makeup capable of purifying our body and making it holy. In fact, purifying and elevating our body is the soul’s major function on earth 7.

In fact there have already been instances of individuals whose soul had so perfected their body that the two joined together before the World to Come. Moses was one such person, as was made manifest by the beams of light that emitted from his face 8, Enoch who entered Heaven with both his body and soul intact was another 9, and Elijah was another 10.

But the soul can only purify the body in this world by means of the mitzvah-system and by complying with the directives of the Torah. As such, the more engaged one is in Torah study and mitzvah observance, the more easily is one able to have his soul purify his body 11.

Footnotes:

1                That is, why aren’t we already the fully conjoined combination of body and soul we’ll be after the resurrection of the dead? After all, G-d could very well have created us whole and fully perfected from the first, so why did He decide not to?

But see footnote 6 to 2:1 above which cites a source that says that body and soul were created as one at first, so which is correct? The answer is that while body and soul had been one in their ultimate root, they were soon separated for the purposes soon to be enunciated.

2             See 1:1:3.

That’s to say that our having a separate body and soul enables G-d to be more benevolent to us than if we’d been created as a combination of the two, for ….

3                In order to eventually reap the benefits of that benevolence.

                  See the third chapter of the first section of Derech Hashem for much of the above.

4                Ramchal raised a number of vexing questions early on in Da’at Tevunot that we weren’t yet able to answer, which we will in the course of the book. Relevant to the subject at hand, we said in 1:2:1, “we know that G-d wants us to perfect … ourselves”, but “what is human perfection in fact” and “how do we come to it”? And in 1:2:3 we asked, “given that we’re indeed imperfect, what then can we draw upon to perfect ourselves?” We’ll now begin to touch upon that.

5                The “body” in question includes one’s whole worldly self, including his mind, personality, memories, and the like — not just his rank physicality. It could be termed “the self” versus the soul as “the Self”.

6                Which is our ultimate goal (See 1:2:1-2).

7                Some think the soul is here to be purified itself, but that’s simply not so: it’s already pure, as we ourselves affirm every day when we recite, “My L-rd! The soul you have granted me is (inherently) pure!” (Morning Prayers).

As Ramchal underscored in the first chapter of Messilat Yesharim, “G-d … breathed into us a soul so exalted and distinguished — a soul greater than the angels themselves” that it’s manifestly out of place in this world. For what it’s meant to do, in fact, is to ready the body for the place in the World to Come, which both body and soul will then enjoy.

But it’s important to understand that body and soul are interdependent. See Sanhedrin 91b.

8                See Exodus 34:29-35. That is, Moses’ body was so pure that his soul’s light already shone through it on earth.

9                See Genesis 5:22-24.

10              See 2 Kings 2:11,

11              See Ch. 1 of Messilat Yesharim.

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————-

Rabbi Feldman’s new annotated translation of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag’s “Introduction to the Zohar” is available as “The Kabbalah of Self” on Kindle here. His annotated translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here and his annotated translation of Rabbeinu Yonah’s “The Gates of Repentance” is available here.

He has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 2:2 (# 69-70)

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 2:2 (# 69-70)

But, why did G-d create us as a conglomerate of a body and a soul rather than as a single entity as He very well could have?

The answer lies in the fact that each one plays a particular and vital role in His ultimate goal for the universe, which was to be as benevolent to us as possible by enabling us to overcome our shortcomings and to perfect ourselves on our own. Well, our shortcomings are rooted in the makeup of our bodies while our ability to overcome those shortcomings and to achieve perfection are rooted in the makeup of the soul, which enables us to purify and elevate the body by means of the mitzvah-system.

(סט) אמרה הנשמה – ודאי דבר זת צריך ביאור, מה זאת עשה אלהים גוף ונשמה בשתי יצירות, ולא יצירה אחת, שיהיה האדם מציאות אחת, בלא שיהיה מורכב כמו שהוא עתה; כי ודאי לא יבצר ממנו ית’ מזימה לעשותו חי בעצמו, בלא חילוק זה של גוף ונשמה. ואמנם אחשוב, כי כשנדע זה, יהיה פתח פתוח לפנינו ליכנס לשאר הפרטים:

(ע) אמר השכל – הכונה העליונה, הלא שמעת כבר, היותה אך להטיב אל האדם, לזכות במעשיו במה שיתקן עצמו וישלים בריאתו. והרי כאן ענין החסרון והשלמות שזכרנו למעלה. כי האלהים עשה הגוף הזה חומר עב וחשוך, בלתי ראוי לאור באור קדושתו ית’ מפני מוגו השפל, כי אין לבא אל שער המלך ולבקר בהיכלו אלא שלמי ההכנה, קל וחומר ממלכותא דארעא. וזה החשך אשר מוטבע הוא בחוקו של הגוף הזה, הוא השם בקרבו את כל התאוות הרעות השולטות בו, ועושה אותו עלול לכל המקרים הרעים המוצאים אותו.

וזאת שנית – עשה הנשמה הטהורה, החצובה מתחת כסא הכבוד, והורידה ונפחה בתוך הגוף הזה לטהרו ולקדשו. וזה מה שצריך להבין, כי אין סוף הכונה בביאת הנשמה בגוף לשתחיה אותו בחיי ההבל האלה, אבל עיקר ביאה זו הוא לזכך אותו זיכוך ממש, להעלותו משפל מדרגתו החמרית וחשכה אל המדרגה העליונה, להיות כמלאכי השרת. ודבר זה מצאנו כבר במשה רבנו ע”ה, שזכה וזיכך את חמריותו, עד ששב למדרגת מלאך ממש, וכבר ראו כל ישראל כי קרן עור פני משה. יחנוך ואליהו נתעלו לשמים בגופם ממש, אחר אשר זככו את חמריותם זיכוך גדול.

אך הדרך אשר בו תוכל הנשמה לזכך את גופה, הלא הוא במעשה המצוות וקיום התורה, כי נר מצוה ותורה אור. וכל מה שהיא מרבה לקנות תורה ומצוות – מרבה זיכוך לגוף ההוא, וזכות לעצמה – שהיא מקיימת רצון קונה:

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————-

Rabbi Feldman’s new annotated translation of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag’s “Introduction to the Zohar” is available as “The Kabbalah of Self” on Kindle here. His annotated translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here and his annotated translation of Rabbeinu Yonah’s “The Gates of Repentance” is available here.

He has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Da’at Tevunot 2:1 (# 59-68)

Da’at Tevunot 2:1 (# 59-68)

1.

We’ll now concentrate on humankind, whose existence is the whole point of G-d’s actions, and who are the only entities who serve G-d 1. In fact, understanding humankind will help us to understand all that preceded this discussion, given that humankind was the target of all that was spoken of there.

And we’ll concentrate on three things when it comes to that: on man’s makeup 2, his actions, and on the consequences of his actions 3. Then we’ll touch on the subject of the resurrection of the dead, which we’d cited early on 4.

2.

The first thing to concentrate on when it comes to that last point is that there’d have to be an eventual resurrection of the dead and a subsequent reconnoitering of body and soul because, given that G-d granted man both a body and a soul to use in his Divine service, it only follows that both would be rewarded in the end, not just the soul 5. After all, isn’t it said that “G-d withholds reward from no one” (Baba Kama 38A)?

And we’d also need to dwell on the astounding fact of man’s body and soul being initially joined 6, then separated, then fully joined in the end, since those phenomena certainly have their effects on a person 7.

Footnotes:

1                That is, up to now we’d concentrated on G-d’s being and His full sovereignty; we’ll now concentrate on ourselves and the role we play as the subjects of His sovereignty in the playing out of G-d’s great designs. And also, the truth be known, because nothing whatsoever is quite as absorbing, labyrinthine, and evocative to us as humanity.

Ramchal follows this same pattern in the first three chapters of Derech Hashem in fact, going from the study of G-d to that of humankind.

2                I.e., on his being comprised of a body and soul, as well as on…

3                I.e., on the things that affect his body and soul in life, the Afterlife, and in the World to Come (in fact, Ramchal’s real object of interest will prove to be the latter, given that the resurrection of the dead  — the professed subject at hand — is “merely” a stop along the way to the World to Come).

4                See our discussion in “Ramchal’s Introduction”.

5                Others reasons for the resurrection will be discussed later on in this chapter.

Besides, if only the soul were to be rewarded, then the body would have been nothing more than an indentured servant of sorts who worked long and hard for the soul, who — while it was indeed fed, clothed, and provided for in life — would still-and-all have nothing of its own to claim in the end.

6                He’s ostensibly speaking about the simple fact that our bodies and souls are conjoined when we’re conceived, but on a more esoteric level he’s referring to the idea cited in Iggrot Pitchei Chochma v’Da’at 19 about the original and fundamental unity and self-sameness of body and soul.

7                Now, the whole idea of the dead coming alive — stepping back into their old bodies as if they were pants and shirts, dusting themselves off, and going on with life again — is stupendous, though it’s actually hardly more astonishing than the phenomenal idea of human beings being conceived and born then dying in the first place. Still and all, the idea of the resurrection of the dead is too out of our experience for us to accept outright. Yet belief in the eventual resurrection of the dead is a tenet of our faith that’s cited many times. We’re told, for example, that “your dead will be revived” (Isaiah 26:19), and that “many that sleep in the land of dust will awaken” (Daniel 12:2). The most straightforward and lengthy depiction of it, of course, is the one laid out in Ezekiel 37: 1-14.

In fact, we cite the resurrection of the dead in our daily and special prayers (E.g., Elokai Neshama Shenanatta Bi, in Shemone Esrei, as Keil Malei Rachamim, etc.).

Also see Berachot15b, Ketuvot 8b, Kiddushin 39b, Megilah 7b, Sanhedrin 90-91, Shabbat 88b, Yoma 72; Rambam’s  Commentary to Perek Chellek and Hilchot Teshuvah 3:6, 8; TosafotBaba Kama 16b veHu); Emunot v’De’ot 6:7; Ramban’s Torat ha-Adam (end of Sha’ar ha-Gemul); and Sefer HaIkkurim 4:30.

Also see Ramchal’s own Ma’amar HaIkkurim “B’inyan HaGemul”.

In his discussion of the combination of body and soul elsewhere Ramchal harkens to the idea that this refers to the next level of discussion in the Kabbalistic writings after the aforementioned Tzimtzum and Kav (see note 1 to 1:15 above): the creation of the arcane and largely unfathomable realm known as Adam Kadmon (“Primordial Man”). See his remarks in Clallim Rishonim 8, Klach Pitchei Chochma 30-31,35, (c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————-

Rabbi Feldman’s new annotated translation of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag’s “Introduction to the Zohar” is available as “The Kabbalah of Self” on Kindle here. His annotated translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here and his annotated translation of Rabbeinu Yonah’s “The Gates of Repentance” is available here.

He has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.