Author Archives: Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Da’at Tevunot 2:12 (# 91 – 95)

Da’at Tevunot 2:12 (# 91 – 95)

1.

Now, from another perspective, all of reality can be broken down into three epochs of time rather than the five we cited 1. There’s the current state of reality that will last for a total of six millennia which will be followed by a seventh millennium that will culminate in the utter ondoing of the universe as we know it, and then a point at which G-d will eventually create an entirely new order of reality (see Sanhedrin 97b). So, let’s expand on that 2.

We’re taught, Ramchal offers as illustration, that G-d will provide the righteous with “wings” at a certain point in time with which they’ll soar over the seas (Ibid. 92a). Now, setting aside the particular details we can derive from this statement that there’ll indeed be three epochs of time: the sixth millennia which we know of now, a seventh, and one in which an entirely different order of reality — known as the era of the resurrection of the dead — will come about, in which it will somehow be possible for the righteous to develop “wings” 3.

2.

As such, the way things stand now, the body 4 reigns supreme much like “a lord of the manor”, given that this world is its “home”. But at a certain point in the seventh millennium the righteous will ascend upward and the body will be like someone who’s suddenly somehow out of his element and away from home 5. The body will have some sort of presence then, but only the very subtle sort that Moses’ unearthly body had when he ascended to heaven while yet alive.

Our sages depicted the seventh millennium as one long Shabbos (Ibid. 97a) characterized by eternal rest without any labor. The implication we can derive from this is that the body will serve some sort of function there since there won’t yet be a total overturning of reality, but that once the new reality in which we’ll earn our heavenly rewards (see Eruvin 22) comes about, the body won’t reign any longer — given that it could only do that in the first place in order to enable us to earn that reward — and it will be subsumed to the rule of the soul which will eventually “bask in the celestial Goodness forever”, as Ramchal depicts it.

3.

Now, some would actually argue that we really shouldn’t discuss the seventh millennium and the new reality at all, since it will all be so arcane. But Ramchal asserts that we may speak of them to a point since we know something of their makeup as we saw when we discussed the interplay of the body and the soul. It’s just that since we couldn’t ever fathom the specific details we shouldn’t bother to try to go that far, Ramchal says.

As such, while we understand the sixth millenium and many of its details, we only dare speak about the epochs to follow that one — in which bodies will lose their reign, and souls will regain their original celestial status — in broad terms 6.

Footnotes: 

1                That is, reality in all of its phases can be depicted from the perspective of the ongoing relationship of body and soul as was done in 2:11, or from the larger perspective we’ll be offering here.

2                See Ma’amar Haikkurim, B’Geulah and Clallim Rishonim 9.

3                Ramchal spoke of an eighth, ninth, and tenth millennium (based upon the teachings of Sefer Brit Menucha) in Klach Pitchei Chochma 97, though he somehow didn’t seem to think it necessary to cite that here or in Adir Bamarom p. 191.

4                Once again see our several references in this section to the fact that the “body” in this context also refers to the sense of self, etc.

5                That will come about in the course of the aforementioned undoing of the world.

6                This completes section 2 of Da’at Tevunot which focused upon man’s role, his rewards and punishments, and on the resurrection of the dead.

(c) 2018 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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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).

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

Da’at Tevunot 2:11 (# 88 [cont.])

Da’at Tevunot 2:11 (# 88 [cont.])

1.

Whereas the soul will reign supreme in the ultimate epoch, as we saw 1, it will nonetheless have less and less of a presence the further down along the five epochs of time we go, when the body will have more 2.

And so the next epoch downward — the second — is the one in which the body will actually be more manifest, while the soul will be less active and somewhat demeaned then 3.

The body’s situation then would be like that of someone having a vague and general memory of things, like “someone who’d had a lot of troubles” in his life who nevertheless had only a “vague recollection of them” then, and whose mood was somehow “dampened”, as Ramchal himself puts it here in the text. That’s what we’ll experience when the soul won’t reign supreme any longer, and it would experience a sort of “heaviness of heart”, if you will, “without quite knowing why” 4.

2.

While the body will manifest itself indeed in the third epoch downward, it will only be able to do so to a degree 5.

The body will be manifest in the fourth epoch downward 6, but it will be “like the soul is in the world (now) — (which is to say,) a foreigner of sorts”, as Ramchal puts it. That’s to say that the soul will hold sway and the body will have to obey it. But the body would have to follow the “customs of the land” 7.

In other words, Ramchal offers, the body’s situation then would be like Moses’ was when he stood atop the actual and physical Mount Sinai yet dwelt in Heaven, if you will, at the same time, when even though he was still very much alive and a physical entity he nonetheless didn’t eat or drink the way one would act in Heaven 8.

3.

It’s in the course of the fifth and lowest stage, however 9, that the body is in its full flower and is “like the master of the house”, Ramchal says, with all of its faculties intact 10.

But there are potentially two degrees of that stage. The body could function on an animalistic level 11, or it could function on a holy one with noble and pure intentions 12 (as would have been the case had Adam and Eve not sinned). After all, we all need to eat and drink and the like, but we could do those things in a holy way 13.

Footnotes:

1                See 2:10 above.

2                It’s clear that a lot is being alluded to in this chapter rather than spelled out. We’ll do our best to provide some of what’s hinted at here.

The first thing is that the ultimate epoch cited above corresponds to the World to Come (see note 1 to 2:10 for the laying out of the chronology here as well the footnotes below). While there will be a body then, it will be a very subtle and hardly-detectable material but non-material and porous sort of body.

Now, given that the “body” under discussion isn’t just the physical self, but the personality, sense-of-self, etc. as we’d been indicating in our notes here all along, it seems reasonable to conjecture that this refers to the idea that while one’s immortal soul will be manifest in the World to Come, one’s sense-of-self, self-consciousness, self-awareness, and personality will only be amorphous at best or perhaps even negligible but present nevertheless.

3                This corresponds to the Day of Judgment.

4                That is, the self will be able to recall its life and its sins and their consequent sorrows then, but at a certain remove. And it would consequently be able to assess those sins and itself more objectively, in keeping with the spirit of the Day of Judgment.

5                This corresponds to the time of the resurrection of the dead, when the sense-of-self will be stronger, but it will be secondary to the sense of soul.

6                This corresponds to the messianic era.

7                Ramchal cites Breishit Rabbah 47:5 which says, for all intents and purposes, “When in Rome, (the body would have to) do as the Romans (i.e., souls) do” (see Baba Metziah 86a as well).

8                That is, the self will be so stunned by its radical change of circumstance in the messianic era that it could do nothing other than to acquiesce to its reality.

9                This corresponds to the world as we know it now.

10              As now, when we’re sure that we’re in charge of our circumstances and we believe that we needn’t acquiesce to our soul’s needs.

11              Giving in to the body’s needs alone and the ego’s satisfactions.

12              Acknowledging the ego and body’s needs, but dedicating them to Heaven, the way we’re expected to act on Shabbos, when we eat well while nonetheless sanctifying the meals through Kiddush and with the sense of the holiness of the day in mind all of the time (see Ch. 26 of Messilat Yesharim).

13           Ramchal has presented things from the highest level downward which makes it more difficult to grasp his points, so we’ll now present them from the lowest level upward.

The lowest level would be our current experience, where the body, as well as our sense-of-self or ego, hold sway and the soul is in check. His final point is that we can draw upon the soul even in this lowest of circumstances by living a physical life that’s still and all rooted in spiritual goals, otherwise we’d be nothing better than animals.

Things will then begin to change in the next, messianic era in that the soul will be more prominent while the sense-of-self and ego will begin to be less important in our minds and in reality. That will be all the more so true with the approach of the day of judgment then the resurrection of the dead, when the sense-of-self will grow more and more negligible, and the soul will shine more brightly and assertively. And the ultimate experience will be in the course of the World to Come, when we will experience just the barest, slimmest sense-of-self in the face of the fullest most robust reality of the soul — and the presence of G-d — possible.

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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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).

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

Da’at Tevunot 2:8 (# 82 – 84)

Da’at Tevunot 2:8 (# 82 – 84)

1.

We’ll soon touch on the epochs of time that the body and soul will experience together that we’d just alluded to 1. But we’d have to focus on something else beforehand.

Ramchal makes the point that the world is so stunningly awash in systems and processes that it’s hard for us mortal souls to capture it all. Didn’t the psalmist say, “You have done great things — You, O L-rd my G-d! Your wonders and Your thoughts are … too numerous to tell of” (Psalms 40:6); “How great are Your works, O L-rd! Your thoughts (alone) are very deep” (Ibid. 92:6), and, “How great are Your works, O L-rd! You have fashioned them all with wisdom; the (whole) world is full of Your possessions!” (Ibid. 104:24).

So he says that it would be best for us to speak of things in broad rather than in narrow and specific terms in order to be able to grasp this topic — or just about anything. After all, there are only so many broad categories, and while we can’t contend with a lot of specifics we can easily grasp the broad generalizations they fall under.

Indeed, our sages said that we’re to “always lay Torah concepts out in broad terms rather than in specific ones” (Sifrei, Ha’azinu 32:2) 2.

2.

In any event, let’s recall that G-d’s hiding or revealing His presence are the very root causes of the body and soul respectively. So we’d need to dwell upon those two phenomena if we’re ever going to truly understand the makeup of the body and soul.

For in fact these two phenomena play themselves out everywhere, with G-d’s presence being alternatively hidden and manifest, manifest and hidden, at one at the same time, as we’d already indicated 3. We’d also need to discuss the consequences of the combination of the two, and the predominance of one over the other.

We’d thus need to concentrate on three ultimate realities and events: G-d’s hiddeness versus His revelation of Himself, the reality of their functioning simultaneously, and the consequences of that combination as well as of the predominance of one over the other.

Footnotes:

1                As we’ll see, they include the sixth millennium (which we’re in the course of now, and only 200 some odd years away from completing at this point) and the more esoteric seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth millennia to come. The body and soul will interact in different ways in the course of each.

2                Ramchal always favored short, over-arching statements to close depictions of details. See his introduction to Derech Hashem and his letter 39 in the Yarim Moshe edition.

3                See 1:17 above

(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 2:7 (# 80 [middle) – 81)

Da’at Tevunot 2:7 (# 80 [middle) – 81)

1.

The idea just discussed that the body models one thing about G-d while the soul models another was best explained by a quote from the Zohar (3:257b) 1. The Zohar there also addresses the point we’d made early on that while we attribute many traits to G-d, those traits don’t depict G-d Himself but rather what He does when He interacts with us 2.

So it would do us well to address both of these things, then go on to relate them to the body and soul. The Zohar there also underscores the fact that the soul’s perfection alludes to G-d’s own perfection just as its unknowable nature alludes to G-d’s own unknowable nature.  So, we’ll touch upon that, too.

2.

Let it first be said that the traits that G-d exhibits here weren’t formed ad hoc when the world was created. For nothing about G-d ever suddenly appears out of the blue. G-d in fact always had the ability to manifest those traits within His being 3. It’s just that there came to be a point when one trait or another was appropriate to what was happening in the world and needed to be “called upon” just then, if you will.

3.

Now, the truth be known, we can’t even refer to G-d by a name, let alone depict Him 4. We call Him “G-d” in order to refer to Him, to be sure, but that’s not His actual name since we can only apply a name to something or someone that we can grasp, and we simply can’t grasp G-d. Also because a name defines whomever or whatever it refers to, and G-d Himself can’t be defined 5.

We likewise can’t attribute traits to something we can’t define or comprehend. And yet we seem to comprehend certain things about G-d, don’t we?

The point of the matter is that we comprehend what He does when He interacts with us, as when He seemingly exhibits compassion, governance, and the like. So we use those terms to depict Him even though those depictions don’t befit G-d Himself. But we only do that because He allowed us to.

We can now better understand something of the makeup of the body and soul, given all of this.

4.

As we know, the body is comprised of various component parts with distinctive functions 6 while the soul is a single, indivisible entity that’s utterly unlike the body 7.

And yet the soul lies behind the body’s functions. It’s what hears with the body’s ears, sees with the body’s eyes, and the like, even though the soul itself is beyond such things 8.  As such, the soul functions within the body’s components 9 and since the soul uses these component parts to do what it does, it’s somehow associated with those functions.

This contrast between the soul’s actual makeup and its functions in the body, then, is analogous to G-d’s makeup and His use of the traits attributed to Him when He interacts with the world.

For, even though He Himself is utterly removed from such traits, He nonetheless wants them to be attributed to Him. And so by virtue of the fact that He uses those traits to function in this world, He’s said to have those traits when He really doesn’t and He hasn’t any inherent connection to them 10.

We’ll soon see how this discrepancy between G-d’s being and His functions in the world also helps us to understand the relationship between the body and the soul, which itself will explain the human situation at all junctures 11.

Footnotes:

1                This theme will prove to be the thrust of this chapter, but that won’t become clear until the end since a number of other points will need to be made. That makes the chapter difficult, but keeping this idea in mind will help us to understand it. See footnote 10 below.

Ramchal explained this citation from the Zohar in a number of his works including Haga’aot Otzrot Chaim 9, Klach Pitchei Chochma 27, 29, and Iggerot Pitchei Chochma V’Da’at. Also see Eitz Chaim 1:1.

2                See 1:12 above where many of the very same points made here are first offered. The difference will lie in the fact that this idea is tied in here with the relationship between the soul and G-d’s interactions with the world.

3                So they could be said to lie latent somewhere deep in the Upper Reaches somehow, but not manifest.

4                The English term “G-d” itself, incidentally, is said to be derived from the Proto-Indo-European term for “that which is invoked” or prayed to, which thus refers to what G-d does rather than what He is.

5                This is a stunning statement, since we attribute many names to G-d and call out to Him by those names in our prayers to Him and the like. But the truth of the matter is that the four-letter name of Y-H-V-H referred to in the Torah which is said to be His “definitive name” (as opposed to E-L-O-H-I-M and the like which refer to His traits) only serves to depict His immortality (i.e., it contains the Hebrew words for “was”, “is”, and “will be”).     And, as the Kabbalists explain, the four letters of that name themselves actually stand for certain phenomena that function in creation and afterwards and the like, and have nothing directly to say about G-d Himself. But all of this is beyond the subject at hand.

6                And those various functions are analogous to the different depictions of G-d, as we’ll see.

7                The soul’s oneness is analogous to G-d’s own oneness which is utterly unfathomable.

8                Just like G-d’s own being is behind every trait that He exhibits in the world even though He’s beyond it.

9                Just as G-d, who is unlike anything in this world, functions within it by means of various traits.

10              This is the gist of what Ramchal is saying here. We already know that the body models one thing about G-d while the soul models another, as we indicated in footnote 1 above. He’s saying here that that theme also plays itself out in the difference between G-d’s essence and His role in the world and the soul’s.

For, just as the soul is unknowable, singular and beyond the doings of the world, G-d is likewise unknowable, singular and beyond the doings of the world. Yet both G-d and the soul interact with the world. The point is that just as the soul only “uses” the body’s many and variable parts to interact with the world even though it’s removed from those body parts by nature, G-d likewise “uses” or exhibits many and variable traits to interact with the world even though in His essence He’s removed from the world. So we see that the body models G-d’s ways when He interacts with the world while the soul models His ways when He doesn’t interact with the world.

11              This alludes to the five junctures of time to be discussed in 2:10 below.

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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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).

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

Da’at Tevunot 2:6 (# 80 [beg. – middle])

Da’at Tevunot 2:6 (# 80 [beg. – middle])

1.

Ramchal reveals an important insight here — that this principle of G-d’s alternately concealing or revealing His presence explains many things about our body and soul. And conversely that our body and soul explain many things about G-d’s hiddenness or revelation, too, since they’re all interrelated 1.

As such we’re told that not only is the body a product of G-d’s hiddenness, it also serves as a model of it, just as the soul serves as a model of G-d’s presence. And G-d’s concealing or revealing His presence also explains many things about ourselves, given that we were all created in G-d’s “image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26) 2 and we reflect all of His ways in our makeup.

So, let’s see how this works.

2.

As we’ve explained before, the body is rooted in darkness 3. In fact, even if you’d purify your body as much as you possibly could it would never be a soul, since the soul is a lofty and illuminated product of G-d’s presence while the body is simply not 4. The body is rooted in G-d’s hiddenness. Indeed, the body could only be purified to the point where body and soul nearly touch, but no further 5. For, your soul will always be a soul and a perfect entity, while your body will always be imperfect, no matter how much you purify it 6.

It’s also obviously true that your body is comprised of a large number of parts with specific functions: with eyes to see with, for example, ears to hear with, etc. But that’s not true of your soul. All of your soul’s “parts” 7 are merged together rather than separate. And that’s connected to the body’s being a product of G-d’s hiddenness and the soul being a product of G-d’s presence 8.

Now, this is all rooted in a well-known principle that perfection is rooted in oneness 10 and can’t be disproportionate 11. But there are times — when G-d’s presence is hidden — that He doesn’t want perfection to be in place, as when He allows for reward or punishment 12 for example. And when He sees to it that there are instances of multiplicity and disproportion 13 in the world 14.

3.

This paradigm also manifests itself in our having been created in G-d’s image, as cited above. Let’s see how.

Our body-parts correspond to the traits that G-d uses to interact with the world. And so our eyes correspond to the “eyes” that G-d observes and judges us with, our ears correspond to the “ears” that He listens to our prayers with, and our mouths correspond to the “mouth” that G-d uses to converse with, etc., as all of our body-parts correspond on some level to G-d’s traits in this world.

The fact that we’re comprised of a left and right side for our eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc. corresponds to G-d’s ways of interacting with us with either His “right”, loving side or His “left”, critical side 15, which He displays when His presence isn’t manifest 16.

It’s also true that just as our body-parts are differentiated by function, our experiences in this world are likewise all different from each other, as a consequence of G-d’s hiddenness. Whereas perfection, which is rooted in oneness as we said and in G-d’s presence, would undo all shortcomings, it wouldn’t be comprised of various parts, and it would see to it that everything achieves perfection 17.

4.

In any event, know that at bottom, the point is to have the soul take command of the body and purify it so that G-d might manifest His perfection here on earth and to rectify all of the world’s imperfections.

The body would then suffer judgment for having taken command of our souls, for having contributed to G-d’s hiddenness and for leaving humankind and the world to suffer all of the vicissitudes and upheavals that define the human situation.

So the body is equipped with all the parts it needs to contend with such vagaries and for the environment in which perfection is hidden away, and also to help bring perfection about. While the soul on the other hand has what it needs for perfection and in order to rectify each imperfection, so that it might be encouraged to do all of that – if only we’d improve our ways and allow the soul to reign 18.

Footnotes:

1                See Clallim Rishonim 23, “V’ha’pen hasheini hu”; and Klach Pitchei Chochma 4, end of perush, “shehanivraim atzmam”; and 9, perush, “ach yesh metziut achas”.

2                This will be reiterated below. But refer to the following works on this vital concept: Kuzari 4:3; Moreh Nevuchim 1:1; Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 4:8, Hilchot Teshuva 10:6; Siach YitzchakLikkutim, p. 286; Nephesh Hachaim 1:3; Michtav M’Eliyahu 1, p. 32; Derech Hachaim 3:14; Zohar Chadash 1:28b, etc.

3                 I.e., in the fact that G-d’s shining countenance is hidden from it. See 2:5:2 above.

4                Even though we said above in footnote 6 to 2:1 that body and soul actually derive from the same root, it’s still and all true that that reality changes once the two are manifested in the world.

5                According to R’ Yoseph Spinner, some older manuscripts eliminate what’s said from this point in our text all the way to the beginning of section 4 below. That of course disallows for much of this chapter’s insights, but it also does away with a lot of its obscurity and wordiness, which makes it so difficult to understand. (It’s unclear, though, whether Ramchal edited out the extra text or added it in later.)

Moving the text in question to these notes and explaining it with bracketed comments would have helped clarify things and made the text itself easier to read, but we decided against that simply because all of the existing versions of Da’at Tevunot include the text in question.

6                     This is an instance of our body and soul modeling G-d’s hiddenness or presence.

7                     I.e., all of its inchoate elements, functions, and gradations of holiness.

8                     This is another instance of our body and soul model G-d’s hiddenness or presence.

9                     … which is also a product of G-d’s presence just as the soul is…

10                  I.e., in a single, sheer cohesive entity without differentiations.

11                See Clallim Rishonim 6.

Interestingly, Ramchal is thus defining “perfection” here as an instance of amalgamation and of flawless proportion. A “perfect person” would thus be someone who’s consistent in his or her righteousness and would be an example of Rambam’s temperate, righteous personality (see Ch. 4 of Sh’mone Perakim).

12               For the sake of free choice in an imperfect world.

The other point is that since there’d only be goodness and reward if G-d’s presence were to be manifest; instances of reward or punishment thus only come about when His presence is hidden.

13              … which are instances of plurality and imperfection …

14                This is an instance of G-d’s hiddenness or presence manifesting itself in the world.

15                                See the second introduction to Tikkunei Zohar, Zohar 1:109b.

16                Thus is an instance of our body being a model of G-d’s hiddenness or presence.

17                  This is another instance of G-d’s hiddenness or presence manifesting itself in our body and souls.

18                  And this all is a vision of our overcoming G-d’s hiddenness and having Him

manifest His presence in the world, which is our life’s purpose.

 

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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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).

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

Da’at Tevunot 2:5 (# 76 – 79)

Da’at Tevunot 2:5 (# 76 – 79)

1.

Having spoken about the interplay of body and soul in various realms 1 we’ll now concentrate on them in conjunction with G-d’s ways in the world.

Now, all-in-all, there are physical phenomena and spiritual ones, Ramchal reminds us. The spiritual ones are far superior to the physical, in that while the physical subsist on a minimum amount of Divine illumination and in over-all scarcity, the spiritual are showered in a great deal of Divine illumination and in abundance 2. Also, whereas the spiritual with all of their Divine illumination and abundance are rooted in G-d’s manifest benevolence, the physical with their minimum amount of Divine illumination and their scarcity are rooted in G-d’s more covert benevolence 3. And while spiritual phenomena are rooted in holiness, physical ones are rooted in the mundane and in crassness 4. That explains why, given that we’re physical beings, most of our concerns are enmeshed in the physical and are frankly nonsensical and beneath us.

The reality behind this lies in the fact that hazy, dark physicality is a consequence of G-d hiding His countenance rather than manifesting it outright, while spirituality is a consequence of G-d shining His countenance, luminance, and holiness. For, at bottom G-d interacts with us by either concealing or manifesting His countenance 5.

But that pattern isn’t only true of how G-d interacts with the body and soul; it also serves as the model for the way material, body-related phenomena and spiritual, soul-related ones came about. For the crasser, turbid physical phenomena came about as a result of G-d having hidden His countenance from the first, while the more laudable spiritual ones came about in the light of His countenance 6.

2.

Now, we can either rectify the world or can ourselves be rectified within it through our Divine service 7. But the truth is that we can either have our physicality and its consequences hold sway over us, or allow our spirituality and its consequences to. If we follow our bodily inclinations rather than the dictates of the soul we’ll suffer all sorts of harm, whereas if we overcome our physical inclinations and rise above all of its nonsense by following the ways of the Torah instead, then the soul will indeed rule over and purify the body. And we will have rectified the world and ourselves 8.

We’ve all, in fact, seen how things are in this world, and we know only too well how quickly things come and go, and how preoccupied we all are with this and that. What’s apparently driving so much of what we do? Things like the desire to eat and drink, and all sorts of ephemera, at bottom. Can it be that we were created for that alone? No indeed: we were created to grasp G-d’s being 9, and to attain knowledge and wisdom rather than to be preoccupied with more and more material and baseless things.

Humanity has indeed debased itself and brought a lot of its own harm upon itself, and it has become more and more sullied through the ages. For while our ancestors were far wiser than we and more sharp witted, we’ve become fixated on physicality and materiality. How tragic is that, given that G-d has only created such things by turning His countenance away from them, as we’d said.

Is it surprising, then, how so roiled in darkness physical things are as opposed to things related to the soul, which derive their being from G-d’s full countenance and abundance? Indeed, if one allows his body to reign, G-d will correspondingly hide His countenance from him, and that person will be very far from G-d Himself, from wisdom and knowledge, and he’ll find himself engulfed in sheer physicality and the ephemeral 10.

3.

None of this is new, to say the least: Adam and Eve experienced a degree of this struggle themselves. As soon as they allowed their eyes and its blandishments to rule over them they experienced G-d’s hiddenness and were forced to depend on their own devices. As it’s written, “You’ll eat bread by the sweat of your brow” (Genesis 3:9) 11, and it’s said of us, “All of a person’s toil is for his mouth, and yet his soul is not satisfied” (Ecclesiastes 6:7) 12. Indeed, we grow more and more foolish as time passes.

There’s a rule of thumb that touches upon this that would serve us well to know. It’s that the narrower your purview is, the crasser are your thoughts and desires. After all, isn’t it true that children 13 have no concern or longing for the pursuit of wisdom. Indeed, they fly out of school as soon as the day’s over without giving a thought to important things. But it’s also true that as a person’s mind grows and his purview expands he longs for finer and more spiritual things. And that goes far to explain our circumstances.

Indeed, this truism is rooted in Adam and Eve’s sin, as a consequence of which we’ve all become preoccupied with nonsense. That was rectified for a while when we received the Torah 14, but humanity’s low status was reinstated when our people worshipped the Golden Calf and committed other sins. As a consequence, the world has been thrust into darkness.

Things would be otherwise if we’d only allow our souls to rule over our bodies. G-d would shine His countenance upon us then and we could reach the heights that the Holy Seraphim angels are on, as we’ll come to when G-d will pour His “spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 3:1).

All that has varied in the course of history, of course, with people being on a higher or lower levels than others and vice versa. But at bottom the point is that when there were people of higher caliber G-d’s countenance shone upon them and the world itself.

In any event, once we understand the makeup of the body and the soul and their roots in G-d’s either manifesting His countenance or hiding it which affects all of this, we’ll come to recognize how G-d interacts with the world both benevolently and otherwise. We’ll acknowledge the great wisdom involved in this, and come to understand how fundamental this is both to the human condition and to the functioning of the universe.

Footnotes:

1                See 2:1-4 in connection with this world, the afterlife, the resurrection of the dead, and the world to come.

2                See note 7 to 1:14 above about the mechanism behind G-d’s emanation of light.

3                I.e., in His hiding His countenance, as we’ll see below.

One thing to be derived from this, though, is that while there’s little Divine illumination and scarce signs of Divine benevolence in physicality, there’s some and sometimes even more than just some, otherwise it couldn’t exist because G-d wouldn’t want it to.

4                See Derech Hashem 1:3:2 about the contrasts between body and soul.

5                G-d actually interacts with us by both concealing and revealing His countenance by degrees, instant by instant.

See 1:8:2 above as well as note 3 there, and 1:14:3 for reference to G-d’s hiding and revealing His countenance. Also see Clallim Rishonim 16.

6                That’s to say that G-d created the spiritual realm full-facedly and lovingly while He allowed the physical to exist, to be sure, but “back-handedly”, if you will. For, while physicality certainly serves His purposes it also seems to countervail them.

7                Or neither may come about, as we’ll soon see. Ramchal’s point is that we’re both major actors in the course of G-d’s plans as well as beneficiaries of it, or neither, depending on our moral decisions and actions.

8                Much of what’s said above about the relative worth of body and soul, human and universal rectification, and the affects our actions have upon the world is reiterated elegantly in the first chapter of Messilat Yesharim.

9                So little is said about this point that this stark citation of it is stunning and memorable.

10              We made the point in note 7 to 2:4 that a lot wasn’t being said there about the subject at hand, and that’s also very true here. For, as it’s indicated in 1:15, 17, G-d will ultimately reveal His countenance to all and forever. Ramchal’s whole aim here, then, is to move us to goodness and teshuva rather than offer an opposing metaphysical viewpoint.

11              That is, you’ll have to work for your food because G-d will leave you to fend for yourselves by turning His countenance from you because you sinned against Him.

12              That is, we all work hard for our food and are dissatisfied because we’ve separated ourselves from G-d in the process.

13              … whose purviews are narrow …

14              When we were temporarily placed once again on the high pedestal that Adam and Eve had been on before their sin.

 

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 2:5 (# 76 – 79)

 

 

(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 2:4 (# 72 [cont.] – 75)

Da’at Tevunot 2:4 (# 72 [cont.] – 75)

What enable the soul to purify the body are the soul’s native power, inner incandescence, and the loftiness of its source 1. So great is all that, in fact, that the soul could actually instantaneously elevate and perfect the body when we’re born. But we’d lose our yetzer hara and free will accordingly, and be angelic and full of light and the knowledge of G-d from the first, which are not G-d’s intentions.

Indeed there’ll come a time when “the land will be as full of the knowledge of G-d as water covers the sea-bed” (Isaiah 11:9), when “I will take away (your) heart of stone … and give you a heart of flesh (instead)” 2 (Ezekiel 36:26), and when the soul will become even more exalted than the angels. But that’s not to happen yet. The soul is thus like the moon whose light was initially diminished 3 but will be restored in the future 4.

The soul is thus “dimmed” now, if you will; muted and diminished. Yet it also can’t be too diminished or it wouldn’t be able to do what it must do in the meanwhile, to say nothing of what it must do in the future. But that’s another matter 5.

2.

So, while the soul is naturally able to grow more and more splendorous with each mitzvah we do here, it’s still and all held captive while in the body and forced to face the challenges of the yetzer hara. But it will reach something of its potential in the Afterlife, thanks to those mitzvahs, which will then enable it to purify the body further in the course of the resurrection of the dead 6, after which the two will experience the world to come 7.

The soul does enjoy an elevation in our lifetime with each good thing we do but that elevation is largely imperceptible 8 even though it manifests itself in certain exalted individuals 9.

Footnotes:

1                This chapter is surprisingly redundant in the original. R’ Yoseph Spinner attributes that to a number of (superfluous) additions which were made after the first edition; and we’d offer that some of the redundancy is due to the fact that Ramchal purposefully set out to encapsulate his points at the end. So we’ve shortened and reordered it to make for easier reading.

2                I.e., a new inclination toward goodness rather than a yetzer hara, according to Rashi there.

3                See Chullin 60b.

4                See Isaiah 30:26.

5                See 1:2:3 above about G-d muting His own abilities, if you will, for our sake; also see 1:14:3, 1:15:3. The point is that the soul must be set just-so, so as not to overwhelm or “underwhelm”.

6                See Derech Hashem 1:3:12.

See Clallim Rishonim 6* for discussions of the Kabbalistic implications of this chapter which touch upon G-d allowing a bit of His being (known as the Kav) to return to the cosmos after having “removed” Himself from it (i.e., after the Tzimtzum) much the way the soul is restored to its luster in the course of the resurrection of the dead after having been dimmed.

7             A lot isn’t being said here. For just as the “body” being spoken of here isn’t the body alone, as we’d indicated above, the “soul” depicted here is also a multi-faceted entity. See Ramchal’s discussion of the various aspects of the soul in Derech Hashem 1:3:4, and see Nephesh Hachaim 1:15 about the complex interactions of the various aspects of the soul. Also see Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Ha’akudim Ch. 5 for a discussion of the fact that what happens on one level happens on all of them. All of this underscores the complexity and fluidity of the “soul” and the “body”, and their interactions. The point of the matter is that the combination of the two is entirely too complex for a simple understanding,

8                This is a subtle lead-in to the discussion of G-d’s hiddeness to follow.

9                See 2:2:2 above.

(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 2:3 (# 71-72 [beg.])

Da’at Tevunot 2:3 (# 71-72 [beg.])

1.

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.

2.

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.

3.

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.

Footnotes:

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

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 2:2 (# 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.

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.