Category Archives: Hashkapha

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.

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 2:4 (# 72 [cont.] – 75)

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 2:4 (# 72 [cont.] – 75)

What enables the soul to purify the body is its great native power. So great is it that the soul could instantaneously elevate the body so that we’d be inherently full of light. A day will come when that will happen, but not yet.

So the soul has to be tempered. It’s able to grow with each deed we do, but it’s held captive in the body for the meanwhile. But it will reach something of its potential in the Afterlife which will enable it to purify the body during the resurrection of the dead.

The soul will then benefit greatly for having purified the body – it will ascend higher and higher yet. The soul enjoys an elevation even when we’re alive with each good thing we do, not just in the Afterlife or the resurrection of the dead. It’s just that the kind of elevation it experiences while we’re yet alive is largely imperceptible.

ואמנם, מה שצריך להבין עתה הוא שיעור כחה של הנשמה שניתן לה לעמוד בתוך הגוף הזה. וזה, כי אם היה כחה רב ואורה גדול מאד – ודאי היתה נותנת הארה גדולה כל כך לגוף שהיה מתעלה במציאותו, וחסרונותיו היו נשלמים רגע אחד, ויצר הרע – הוא העיקר בחסרונות שרצה בם האדון ב”ה לצורך הבחירה והשכר ועונש – הנה לא היה שולט באדם כלל, כמו שאינו שולט במלאכים מפני רוב הארתם ושלמות ידיעתם וחשיבותם. תדעי לך שהרי לעתיד לבא נאמר (ישעיהו יא, ט), “לא ירעו ולא ישחיתו בכל הר קדשי כי מלאה הארץ דעה”; ובאותו הזמן נאמר (יחזקאל לו, כו), “והסירותי את לב האבן מבשרכם” וגו’, לגודל מעלת הנשמה שתגדל בזמן ההוא. ואמנם מצד אחר, הנת אם היתה הנשמה במציאותה העצמי שפלה ולא גדולה, לא היתה יכולה לעמוד בכל כך יקר וגדולה אשר יעשה לה לעתיד לבא, להיות יותר ממלאכי השרת:

אבל הענין הוא, שהנשמה במציאותה ושרשה גדולה היא מאד מאד, אבל כדי שתבא בגוף הזה – הנה הקב”ה ממעט אורה וכחה, ומשאיר לה רק אותו השיעור הראוי לגוף בעולם הזה. והנה היא באותה שעה כירח זאת שנאמר לה (חולין ס ע”ב), “לכי ומעטי את עצמך”, ולעתיד לבא (ישעיהו ל, כו), “והיה אור הלבנה כאור החמה”. והנה בידה טובה – להתעלות מעילוי לעילוי עד תקפה העליון, לפי שלמות מעשיה. והנה לפי מיעוט הכח אשר ניתן לה בעולם הזה, היא עומדת סוגרת ומסוגרת בתוך הגוף העכור הזה כל ימי צבאה, להתנסות ולהבחן בנסיונות היצה”ר, שעל כן הושם באדם, וכמאמרם ז”ל (זוהר ח”א, קו ע”ב), “לא נברא יצה”ר אלא לנסות בו את בני האדם”. ולפי כשרון מעשיה – כך זוכה לעצמה עילוי, להתעלות ממדרגה למדרגה. והנה בזמן הגמול אז מוצאות כל הנשמות פעולתם אתם, ומתעלות במעלתם על פי מעשיהם, ובמעלתם זאת ישובו ויזככו את גופותיהם בזמן התחיה, ויתענגו על רוב שלום לנצח נצחים, וכמו שביארנו לעיל:

נפקא לן מינה – ששורש גדול צריך שיהיה לנשמה מצד עצמה, ומקורה צריך שיהיה נכבד עד מאד, עד שתהיה ראויה לכל היקר אשר יהיה לה לעתיד לבא. אבל משפילים אותה, להגביה אותה ולהטיבה באחריתה, בשום עליה האדון ב”ה את חקו לאמר, לכי ומעטי את עצמך, ליכנס בגוף העכור הזת, ולהיות בו כל ימי חיי הבלו. ושם שם לה חק ומשפט – כל התורה הזאת לעבדה ולשמרה, אלה הדברים השייכים לה בהיותה בגוף הזה. ואמנם, מפני שכבר תש כחה וחלש אורה הרב במיעוטה זה, נשאר הגוף עכור כאשר הוא היום הזה, ואף על פי שהיא בתוכו. אך לפי צדקת מעשיה נידונת לעתיד לבא, בהתעלות בעילוי מעלותיה, אשר בבואה שנית בגוף באור חדש ההוא, הנה תעשה בו מה שאינה יכולה לעשות עתה, והוא, שתזככהו הזיכוך הגמור, להחזירו עצם נכבד ובהיר, וכמו שביארנו. כי מה שבתחלה, כדי לבא בגוף, היתה צריכה למעט אורה, הנה בביאה שניה זאת, אדרבה, יש לה לבא בכל אור, כדי שתעשה הזיכוך שלם כראוי:

והרי עתה תועלת לנשמה עצמה בהשלימה את הגוף – להתעלות היא מעילוי לעילוי, ולהוסיף כח על כח ויקר על יקר. ולא זו בלבד, אלא אפילו בזמן היותה בעולם הזה בתוך הגוף – יש לה עילוי ויתרון כפי מעשיה, כי אינו דומה נשמת אדם שעסק בתורה ובמצוות והשיגה ידיעה בכבוד קונה, לנשמה חסרה מכל אשה. אבל אין עילויה מגיע שתוכל לשנות הגוף, שיהיה זיכוכו נראה לעינים, כי אם במתי מספר, השרידים אשר בחר ה’ בם, כמשה רבנו ע”ה, חנוך ואליהו. אך זולתם, אף על פי שיגיע לה יתרון ממעשיה, לא יגיע כל כך שיראה גם בגוף. אבל לא ימנע טוב מבעליו לעתיד לבא, איש כפי מעשיו:

(עג) אמרה הנשמה – קבץ הכלל מכל מה שאמרת:

(עד) אמר השכל – זה הכלל, הגוף – בריאתו חשוכה ובעלת חסרונות, ויש לו זיכוך על ידי הנשמה. הנשמה – מקורה גדול, אבל ממעטת עצמה בבואה בגוף, שלא תרבה לו הזיכוך בבת אחת, ולא תשנהו מבריאתו; אבל מעט מעט תפעול בו את הצריך במעשים הטובים. ואחר כך תתעלה בעילוים לפי מעשיה, ויגדל כחה לפי עילויה, ותרבה הזיכוך בגוף לפי גודל כחה, עד שיהיה ראוי לעמוד עמה יחדיו לחזות בנועם ה’ ולבקר בהיכלו, לעד ולעולמי עולמים:

(עה) אמרה הנשמה – הרי הבנתי מה שדי לי עתה בענין התחיה הזאת והגמול העתיד. עתה צריכים אנו להשלים הענינים שהתחלנו בם:

(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.

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 2:3 (# 71-72 [beg.])

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 2:3 (# 71-72 [beg.])

Purifying the body is thus the soul’s main objective. And it will be rewarded for that because the body’s being righteous allows for an enhancement of G-d’s glory and for the elevation of all of creation, too.

But the soul can’t bring this about until the body first dies. Once the body’s impurity is isolated from it and it comes back to life, the soul re-enters it and the glow that the soul earned in the Garden of Eden then shines upon the resurrected body, and the soul then mends all the bad that the body had experienced.

We’ve thus explained mankind’s obligations and its rewards. And we’ve discussed the fact that since the body is imperfect, the soul must have its light shine upon it and purify it. Both body and soul are to be rewarded once this purification process is completed.

(עא) אמרה הנשמה – מצאנו תועלת שלמות לגוף, וזכות לנשמה, אבל לא תועלת שלמות לנשמה:

(עב) אמר השכל – עוד נדבר מזה בס”ד. נשלים עתה עניננו. הנה זה הזיכוך הוא עיקר הפעולה אשר לנשמה בעולם הזה, ואחר זה יש לה ענינים אחרים, ואין כאן מקום ביאורם. ועל ענין זה אמרו (זוהר ח”א, מדרש הנעלם, קטו ע”א), “ר’ חייא אמר, תא חזי – עד שהגוף עומד בעולם הזה, הוא חסר מן התשלום לאחר שהוא צדיק והלך בדרכי יושר ומת ביושרו – נקרא שרה בתשלומו”, עכ”ל. והנה זה כל פרי צדקתה – עילוי כבודו של מקום ב”ה, המתעלה בשלמות בריותיו, שהכל ברא לכבודו, וזה כל אשר יולד מן המעשה הטוב כלפי מעלה, אשר על כן נקבע לו שכר מלמעלה, כי כנחת רוח שעשה לפניו ית’, כן יעשה לו:

אך החטא גורם – חטאו של אדם הראשון לעבור כוס המיתה על כל הברואים, ואין מקוה. על כן לא תעצור כח הנשמה לעשות הזיכוך הזה קודם המיתה, וזהו ענין הצדיקים שמתו בעטיו של נחש, כמאמרם ז”ל (בבא בתרא יז ע”א), שלא יכלו להשתלם אפילו ברוב מעשיהם בלא זה. אבל אחר ששב העפר אל הארץ כשהיה, וזוהמא שהטיל נחש בחוה פסקה ממנו לגמרי, אז כשישוב ויבנה – תרד בו הנשמה בכל תוקף מעשיה הטובים וזיו אור העליון שנהנית ממנו בגן עדן כפי מעשיה, ותאיר בו בגופה אור גדול, שבו יזדכך לגמרי, ושב ורפא לו מכל הרעות אשר נעשה עלול להם בראשונה. וענין זה נתפרש במדרש הנעלם, פרשת וירא, וזה לשונו, “אמרו רז”ל – הנשמה,בעודה במעלתה ניזונת באור של מעלה, ומתלבשת בו, וכשתכנס לגוף לעתיד לבא – באותו אור ממש יכנס” וכו’, ע”ש. ועוד שם (קטז ע”א), הקב”ה מעייל האי גופא תחות ארעא עד דמתרקב כוליה, ונפקא מיניה כל זוהמא בישא”, ע”ש:

והנה בידינו עתה ענין עבודת האדם וענין קיבול שכרו, הם הם שני הזמנים הכוללים כל מציאותו. כי עתה בעולם הזה הנה הגוף גס וחשוך בעל החסרונות, ויש לנשמה להגביר עליו ההארה והקדושה לזככו ולזהירו. וכשנשלם הזיכוך הזה – הוא זמן קבלת השכר, כי יחדיו יהיו לקבל שכר טוב כל הימים:

(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.

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.

 

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 2:1 (# 59-68)

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:19 (# 58)

We’d now do well to discuss man, given that all we have to talk about is centered on him, since his existence is the whole point of G-d’s actions, and since it’s man who serves G-d. Understanding man will thus help us to understand all that preceded him, given that he was its goal. We’ll concentrate, though, on his makeup, his actions, and on the consequences of those actions.

We’ll first touch on the subject of the resurrection of the dead, which we’d cited early on. We’ll concentrate on the point that since G-d granted man both a body and a soul to use in his Divine service it only follows that both should enjoy the ultimate reward. But we’d also need to dwell on the whole idea of man’s body and soul being initially joined together, then separated, then fully joined in the end, since those phenomena certainly have their effects on a person.

(נט) אמרה הנשמה – בענין הזה כבר ישבתני ישוב גמור. עתה, הייתי חפצה. להבין מציאות האדם, כי זה לדעתי מה שצריך להבין אל נכון, כי הרי עליו סובבים והולכים כל הדרושים, ומשא העבודה – עליו הוא:

(ס) אמר השכל – הנה צדקת בדבריך, האדם הוא הכונה התכליתית בכל מעשיו ית”ש. על כן, רק מי שיבין את ואת על בוריו,ידע תוכיות כל הקודם אליו, כי מגמת הכל הוא רק לבא אל התכלית הזה:

(סא) אמרה הנשמה – אף כאן יהיה לנו לדרוש הרבה מאד:

(סב) אמר השכל – על שלשה דברים צריכים אנו לדבר, על מציאותו של האדם, על מעשיו, ועל פרי מעשיו:

(סג) אמרה הנשמה – אם כן, הדרוש הוא רחב ביותר:

(סד) אמר השכל – אבל ריש מילין נאמר, ואידך פירושא נניח לחכם ויחכם עוד:

(סה) אמרה הנשמה – דבר דבריך:

(סו) אמר השכל – כאן צריכים לבא אל ענין תחיית המתים, שאנו מאמינים בו ודאי בלי שום ספק:

(סז) אמרה הנשמה – הלא זה אחד מן הדברים שכבר העירותיך לבארם, כי חפצה אני לעמוד על תוכן ענינם:

(סח) אמר השכל – הנה ענין תחיית המתים בקיצור ובכלל פשוט הוא. כי כאשר ברא הקב”ה את האדם גוף ונשמה לעבוד ולמשא, שניהם כאחד, את כל עבודת הקודש, התורה והמצוה אשר נתן להם, הנה ראוי הוא שגם בקבלה השכר הנצחי יחדיו יהיו, כי לא יתכן שיהיה הגוף עמל ולא לו, והרי אין הקב”ה מקפח שכר כל בריה (ב”ק לח ע”א). אבל מה שצריך להתבונן הוא על פרטי החיבור הזה של גוף ונשמה, בהתחברם, בהפרדם, ובשובם להתחבר חיבור גמור; כי הן כל אלה יפעל אל עם כל האדם, והוא לא דבר ריק הוא ודאי. על כן אלה הפרטים הם שצריכים ביאור, וביאור רחב ומספיק:

 (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 1: 19 (# 58)

Da’at Tevunot 1: 19 (# 58)

1.

We’re now at the end of the first section of Da’at Tevunot in which Ramchal has set out to explain how G-d interacts with us as well as what His ultimate plans for the universe are, and he’s about to broach the recondite subject of the resurrection of the dead. His aim here, though, is to underscore the point made just before that it’s G-d’s will alone that steers everything 1.

He’ll do that by citing the well-known statement that “G-d is the site of the universe while the universe isn’t the site of G-d” (Breishit Rabbah 68:9). But we’d need to uncover some things before we could come to understand how that statement illustrates the point that it’s G-d’s willingness alone that upholds the universe’s very moorings.

2.

As Ramchal made the point early on 2, we know that only G-d’s existence is imperative 3. His point here is that everything else exists only because He wants it to 4. After all, aren’t we told that G-d’s will controls the great amorphous “upper waters” (Breishit Rabbah 4:3, Ta’anit 10A) and the colossal “support beams” that bear heaven and earth (Chagigah 12b); that it’s His “outstretched arms” which the cosmos rest and depend upon for stability (Ibid.); and that He bears everything here down below from up above (Yalkut Shimoni 1:964) 5? But the truth of the matter is that G-d Almighty didn’t need anything else: He single-handedly created and maintains the universe simply because He wants it to exist.

Knowing that, we can now understand the statement that “G-d is the site of the universe while the universe isn’t the site of G-d”. It means to say that while G-d Himself needs nothing in the background for Him to exist 6, the universe, on the other hand, simply couldn’t exist without G-d in the background wanting it to exist 7. For, indeed, it’s G-d’s will alone that serves as the reality behind everything since nothing could exist without it.

For, He existed before anything else could have, though certain ancient thinkers denied that, claiming instead that both He and the universe always existed. But that’s not true as the universe isn’t immortal — G-d had to want to create it, as nothing could exist without that in the background. Indeed, G-d wasn’t at all impelled by any “need” to create the universe: He created everything completely “out of the blue” and by dint of His own will.

3.

Ramchal then cites something that seems to contradict this. The psalmist wrote, “May G-d’s glory endure forever; May He always be pleased with 8 His handiwork” (Psalms 104:31). Doesn’t that seem to imply that it’s His handiwork — we — who please Him; that somehow we’re able to see to it that He’s glorified forever; and that He’s thus in some way better-off by our existence?

But of course that’s not so, and the explanation is as follows. Being that nothing could exist without G-d’s willingness for it to exist, the only reason why it could be implied that we have those abilities is because He wanted there to be entities that could please and glorify Him. Indeed, everything exists, is interacted with and continues to exist only because G-d wants that to be so 9.

Footnotes:

1                Refer to the end of 1:18. Also see Clallim Rishonim 4.

2                See 1:5 above and note 1 there.

3                I.e., only His existence is indispensable while everything else is expendable.

4                As such, everything then becomes indispensable because He wants it to exist. It’s just that they’re not inherently indispensable like G-d is. There are very many deep implications to this idea, but suffice it to say it follows that whatever exists is thus purposeful, intended, and indispensable, without exception.

5                That’s to say that while these statements set out to explain the “mechanics” of G-d’s control, G-d doesn’t literally take hold of the upper waters or the support beams, and He doesn’t have arms to bear the cosmos, but He does will all of those things to function the way they do so the universe can exist.

6                Because His existence is imperative and depends on nothing else, as we said.

7                That is, while G-d’s willingness for the universe to exist functions as the “site”, “space” or “setting” within which everything is situated – its background, His existence requires nothing of the sort.

Understand it also as underscoring the fact that while G-d can contain the entire universe and thus all of reality, and more, in His being, His being is too large for the universe to contain.

8                Or, by

9                Ramchal is making an important albeit erudite point here. He’s reiterating the important idea that not only is G-d’s being imperative but His will and thus His utter sovereignty (after all, what greater proof of His sovereignty is there than the fact that He need only stop willing for the universe to exist and it will!) are also utterly imperative.

See Ramchal’s own comments to Klach Pitchei Chochma 1, and see our first note to 1:5 above.

(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).

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