Da’at Tevunot 2:3 (# 71-72 [beg.])
Purifying the body 1 is the soul’s main objective in this world, as we’d said 2. And the soul will be rewarded for that 3 because by doing that it enabled the body 4 to become righteous. And that allows for an enhancement of G-d’s glory and for the elevation of all of creation, given that everything was created so G-d could be glorified 5. After all, the soul delighted Heaven that way and will be rewarded for that 6.
Understand, of course, that the soul undergoes other things in the Afterlife, but that’s not our concern here 7.
But to our great adversity, Adam and Eve’s error brought death into the equation 8. So the soul can’t bring on the aforementioned perfection until the body first experiences death 9. And the necessity of death for all helps explain why certain rare utterly righteous individuals had to die when they didn’t deserve to — because of “the advice of the serpent 10” (Bava Batra 17a).
Once the body is separated from its impurity 11 and comes back to life 12, the soul re-enters the body – along with all of the merits the body had earned beforehand in life. And the glow that the soul had earned in the Garden of Eden 13, because of its merits would then shine brightly upon the resurrected and purified body. And the soul will then further mend all the bad that the body had experienced beforehand 14.
We’ve thus explained mankind’s obligations and its rewards for it in the course of the two time periods encompassing all of reality 15. And we’ve learned that since the body is imperfect, the soul must have its light shine upon it and purify it, and both body and soul are to be rewarded 16 once this purification process is completed.
1 By means of the mitzvah-system (see 2:2:2).
2 See 2:2:2, and Zohar 1:115a which Ramchal cites in the text.
3 See 2:4 below.
4 See note 5 to 2:2 above where we pointed out that the term “body” here includes one’s self, personality, etc.
5 See Psalms 29:2 and Isaiah 43:5:7.
6 The point remains, though, that the soul also blooms on its own in the here and now – albeit in very subtle but vital ways beyond our ken; but it doesn’t yet live up to its full potential.
7 Ramchal’s concern here is the resurrection of the dead, not the Afterlife. See a discussion of the Afterlife in Derech Hashem 1:3:11.
Let’s clarify the chronology and “geography” involved here since it can be confusing: body and soul are together in life, the body then dies and the soul experiences the Afterlife (i.e., the Garden of Eden and Gehenom), body and soul are then reunited in the course of the resurrection of the dead, and the two then experience the World to Come.
8 Had they not erred, the soul would have purified the body right there and then, and our mission would have been accomplished from the first. See 3:14 below as well as Derech Hashem 1:3:6.
9 The point is that perfection could have and in fact should have come about quickly and easily, but it was delayed by the introduction of death and the need for the body to be purified very, very slowly.
10 To Eve and then Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.
11 See Derech Hashem 1:3:12.
12 At the resurrection of the dead.
13 After the body had died.
14 See Zohar 1:113b, 116a which is cited by Ramchal in the text.
15 I.e., this world (including the Afterlife), and the World to Come (after the resurrection of the dead).
16 In the World to Come.
(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
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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).