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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

———————————————————-

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 1:19 (# 58)

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:19 (# 58)

We’re taught that “G-d is the site of the universe while the universe isn’t the site of G-d” (Breishit Rabbah 68:9). But what does that mean? Ramchal contends that it illustrates the point that it’s G-d’s willingness alone that upholds the universe’s very moorings.

As Ramchal made the point early on, we know that only G-d’s existence is imperative. The point here is that everything else exists only because He wants it to. Thus, “G-d is the site of the universe while the universe isn’t the site of G-d” means to say that while G-d Himself needs nothing in the background for Him to exist, the universe simply couldn’t exist without G-d in the background wanting it to exist.

For, He existed before anything else could have, though certain ancient thinkers denied that. But the universe isn’t immortal — G-d had to want to create it, as nothing could exist without that in the background. And let it be reiterated that both G-d’s existence and His utter sovereignty are imperative, nothing else.

(נח) אמר השכל – אפרש לך יותר הקדמתי זאת, ותביני ענין עמוק; וכן תביני מאמרם ז”ל (ב”ר סח, ט), “הוא מקומו של עולם ואין העולם מקומו”:

הנה, אין שום דבר מוכרח המציאות אלא מציאותו ית’, וכל הנמצא זולת זה אין לו מציאות אלא בחפצו ית’, ונמצא תלוי ועומד רק ברצונו ית’. ועל כן נקרא, שכל המציאות המצוי תלוי במאמרו ית’, כענין מה שאמרו במים העליונים (ב”ר ד, ג; תענית י ע”א) וכענין זה אמרו ז”ל (חגיגה יב ע”ב), “הארץ על מה עומדת – על העמודים וכו’, וסערה תלויה בזרועו של הקב”ה”. וכן אמרו עוד (ילק”ש ח”א, תתקסד), “בשר ודם למטה ממשואו, אבל הקב”ה למעלה ממשואו, שנאמר (דברים לג, כז), ומתחת זרועות עולם”. המשילוהו בזה כאילו הוא תומך כל המציאות בכל פרטיו, והוא עומד עליהם מלמעלה:

וכלל והענין הוא הדבר אשר דברתי, שכיון שאין המציאות המחודש ממנו ית’ מוכרח אליו כלל, אם כן הרי הוא נתמך רק על מה שרצונו הפשוט רוצה בו. ותביני מאד שרק רצונו וגזירתו זאת הוא המקום לכל הנמצאים, וזולת זה לא היה מקום כלל. ועל כן הוא ית”ש קדום ודאי, אך אין בריאתו קדומה, ולאפוקי מהמינים שאומרים, כיון שהוא קדום צריך שגם העולם יהיה קדמון. כי עד שלא רצה וגזר בזה, לא היה מקום לנבראים לימצא; אדרבה, לפי מציאותו ית’ אין להם ענין, כי אינם כדבר המוטבע בחוק טבעו של האדם, אלא הוא לבדו ית’ יש לו לימצא בהכרח ולא זולתו, וזה פשוט. אלא ברצותו בהם, וגזר גזירה זאת שימצאו הנמצאים, אז יש להם מקום, ולא בלא זה. ונמצא, שכשגזר בזה – הרי נתן מקום לכל הבנינים שבנה אחר כך:

ועוד תביני, שאף על פי ועכשיו אנו יודעים שהקב”ה שמח על כל מעשיו, והם לכבוד אליו, כענין שנאמר (תהלים קד, לא), “יהי כבוד ה’ לעולם ישמח ה’ במעשיו”, לא נחשוב מפני זה שבזמן שלא היו נמצאים אלה, אם כן היתה חסרה ממנו ית’ שמחה או כבוד ח”ו. אלא כבר אמרנו, האדון ית”ש במציאותו הפשוט – אין מקום לנבראים עמו כלל, כי אינם שייכים בענינו. אבל ברצותו בהם, אז מפני החפץ והרצון הזה נמצאים לו לשמחה, כביכול, ולכבוד. כי ודאי החפץ הזה הוא הנותן מציאות הנמצאים האלה, ונקרא שאינו מושלם, אם אין מציאותם נעשה. והרי זה כמקום העומד ליבנות עליו בנינים, שהוא חלל עד שלא נמלא מן הבנינים ההם. ולא הנבראים לבד, אלא אפילו כל דרכי ההנהגה והחוקים, מיני ההשפעה שזכרנו, שהם לפי ערכנו ולא לפי ערכו, אין להם ענין כלל אלא ברצותו במציאות הנמצאים. על כן רק על פי החפץ הזה חידשם כולם, ואינם מוכרחים בו; אבל גם הם בכלל הבנינים הממלאים את המקום הזה, כי אלו ואלו צריכים להשלמת החפץ הזה, וזה פשוט. והרי ביארנו מה שדי לנו בענין הזה:

(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 1:18 (# 56 [cont.] – 57)

Da’at Tevunot 1:18 (# 56 [cont.] – 57)

1.

This needs to be said too, before we come to the end of this first part of Da’at Tevunot. It’s that it’s vitally important to recall that G-d’s own ways are utterly and unfailingly perfect, yet He interacts with us in this imperfect world. How so? — by specifically accommodating His actions to the reality of the reward and punishment system that He established. Indeed, He tailors each of His ways here to the needs and makeup of that system 1.

And G-d’s own perfect ways will continue to accommodate themselves to the reward and punishment system as long as it will go on 2. But at bottom it is perfection that undergirds all of reality — even when the system of reward and punishment is at play, since perfection is what guides and moves everything along 3.

It’s just that as long as G-d’s utter sovereignty lies hidden away as it must for the meanwhile, things will go on the way we’ve thus depicted them for as long as G-d’s wisdom deems that they must. In any event, things will return to the original state of perfection in the end.

And so we’re presented with three components to factor into G-d’s interactions with us: the eventual revelation of His sovereignty, the day to day ethics-based system of reward and punishment, and G-d’s accommodating His perfection to that system. It follows then that we’d need to grasp all three if we’re ever to truly understand things here in the world.

Never forget, though, that it’s G-d’s will that steers all of the above and drives it; and that everything depends on His infinite abilities and will 4, He chose each thing’s makeup and ways, and everything is under His control.

Footnotes:

1                Ramchal doesn’t make this point here but he’s alluding to the fact that even though we can’t really grasp that yet, that’s the reality. For, just as we humans can only perceive the universe through the filters of space, time, and our senses, we can likewise only perceive G-d’s actions through the filter of the reward and punishment system that He set up rather than on their own.

The closest analogy to it – though it’s far from perfect – is the fact that we only understand our parents’ conduct when we’re young by the ways they reward or punish us for our actions, when that really says very little about themselves and their capacities.

                  It’s also fair to say that the fact that the reward and punishment system is the stage upon which the human experience plays itself out now – and will be until G-d’s sovereignty is exhibited — might explain why we often focus more on Divine retribution than on Divine love.

See Clallim Rishonim 6, “Harashimu” which discusses the Kabbalistic notions relevant here (i.e., the rashimu versus the kav), as well as Ibid. 23 “Inyan Hamochin”.

2                That’s to say that much the way that the soul undergirds the body (by keeping it alive, etc.) yet it accommodates itself to the body’s ways (by enabling it to express its physical needs, etc.), G-d’s perfection will continue to undergird the universe yet accommodate itself to the moral needs of society and human interactions as long as it has to (see 2:6 below for a discussion about the relationship between body and soul on this level).

3                See Clallim Rishonim 6, “V’od yesh”.

4                After all isn’t it said that, “The heavens were made by G-d’s word; by the breath of His mouth all their host (were made)” (Psalms 33:6); that “You, G-d, You are the only one. You made the heavens, the highest heavens and all their hosts, the earth and all that is upon it, the seas and all that is in them. You (alone) grant them all life” (Nehemiah 9:6); that we’re to “Lift up (our) eyes on high and see who has created these!” (Isaiah 40:26); and that “It was I (G-d alone) who made the earth and created mankind on it; it was My hands that stretched out the heavens; I commanded all their host” (Isaiah 45:12).

 

(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 1:18 (# 56 [cont.] – 57)

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:18 (# 56 [cont.] – 57)

G-d’s own ways are perfect yet He interacts with us through the relative system of reward and punishment, and still-and-all leads everything toward perfection. We’d thus need to know how all of these elements interact.

The ultimate factor to recall though is that, despite the contradictions indicated above, everything is always and exclusively a product of G-d’s will.

והנה צריך שתדעי כי ההנהגה המתיחסת ממש לאדון ב”ה היא הנהגת השלמות, כי הוא שלם, פועל והולך בשלמותו. ובהיות שכבר סידר ושם החוקים והסדרים למה שיגיע אל הנבראים לפי דרך הטוב ורע, הנה יחשבו תולדות החוקים והמדות ההם כדבר הבא מאליו, לפי מה שנחקק והוכן בכל מדה ומדה:

ואמנם, כל זמן שהנהגת הטוב ורע צריכה לשמש, מפעולת השלמות עצמו ימשכו הפעולות הבאות מחוקי הטוב ורע.; וזה, כי על כל פנים מקור הכל הוא השלמות, ואפילו מה שנעשה לפי הטוב ורע, הוא סיבוב וגלגול שהולך אל נקודת השלמות, אלא שכל זמן העלם היחוד צריך שילכו הדברים כסדר הזה. על כן מן השלמות עצמו ימשכו ממילא הפעולות ההמה, כיון שלפי הרצון והחכמה העליונה אותם הדברים צריכים לצאת ממקור השלמות עצמו כל זמן העלם היחוד. וסוף כל סוף, פרי פעולת השלמות יהיה, החזיר כל הנהגה אליו לגמרי… והרי זה ענין שלישי להבחין בכל מדה ממדותיו ית’, והוא, הימשך תולדות המדה ההיא מכח פעולת השלמות עצמו, והרי זה כמו דבר אמצעי בין השלמות ובין המדה לפי ענינה, והוא מתחלף בכל מדה לפי התחלף ענין המדה, כי לפי ענינה כך היא מתפעלת מן השלמות. ויש להבחין גם באמצעית הזאת ענינה העצמי ודרך העשותו, וכמו שנבאר להלן:

ואמנם עוד יש לנו לדעת, שכל הענינים האלה כולם תלויים רק ברצונו ית’, שאין להם לא מציאות ולא הויה וקיום כלל אלא ברצונו ית’, השולט ביכלתו הבלתי בעלת תכלית, כי הוא אמר ויהי הוא צוה ויעמדו. ועל כן כח רצונו ית’ נודע בכולם, שהוא לבדו המקיימם בכל עניניהם, בכל חלקיהם ופרטיהם, כמו שכל הנבראים עצמם הוא לבדו המקיימם בכל תכונותיהם וכל אשר בהם, שאין להם ולא לשום ענין שבהם מציאות זולתו:

(נז) אמרה הנשמה – זה פשוט אצלי ואין לי ספק בו:

(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 1:17 (# 54 – 56 [beg.])

Da’at Tevunot 1:17 (# 54 – 56 [beg.])

1.

There’s something not to be denied about G-d’s interactions with us, and it’s this 1. There are times when He acts in an open and above-board sort of way with us, as when He punishes or rewards us for our deeds, “showing us His hand” if you will and directly responding to our actions, measure for measure.

And then there are times when His actions don’t quite fit that pattern and His reactions aren’t at all straightforward, as when He functions in response to what Ramchal terms His own “profound counsel” 2 — His own plan which aims to lead us all toward the ultimate rectification and sees to it that everything contributes to that end.

In fact, that only stands to reason. After all, haven’t we been taught that “everything done by Heaven is (for the) good” (Berachot 60a); and hasn’t the prophet said, “In that day we will say, ‘I will praise You, G-d; for though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away and You have comforted me” (Isaiah 12:1)3?

Indeed, we’ll come to understand for ourselves in the end that behind everything that happens in the world lies the fact that G-d will eventually make His ways known to us, that only goodness and blessings will come about despite our travails, that utter goodness will always rise up out of the bad, and that no one will ultimately be rejected as a consequence of his sins so much as “treated” for and cleansed of them, and that everything will be set right. It will become clear that all G-d intended from the first was to rectify things.

2.

It will also become manifest in retrospect that G-d’s ways have always been far more “awesome, and infinitely wide and deep” than we imagined, as Ramchal puts it, and staggeringly beyond our ken. And it will be understood how “even the least significant of His actions is so full of wisdom and depth that it’s impossible to plumb them”.

For, while G-d’s actions “may seem to be straightforward” at times, still-and-all “their contents are (in fact) esoteric” and a by-product of G-d’s occult plan to do good; and they’ve always been rooted in “goodness rather than harm” even if we can’t “see them or understand (them in that light) now”. For, we can only grasp a “drop from the great sea” of His deeds and intentions 4.

We’ll also eventually come to know that even when He chides us and has us suffer trial and tribulation, things are not what they appear to be — it’s all for the good, as G-d only means to rectify us. He isn’t set on rejecting wrongdoers as the notion of “retribution” would seem to indicate. For, as He Himself said, “Have I any pleasure at all when a wrongdoer dies? …; (I’d rather) he repent of his ways and live!” (Ezekiel 18:23).

That’s to say that we’ll sooner or later see through the apparent and peer onto the meant. For, “as soon as G-d enlightens our eyes with insight”, Ramchal says, “we’ll come to understand (in retrospect) through the very things that happened” to us themselves before we became aware all contributed to His goal 5.

So let it be reiterated that whatever happens to us now as a consequence of our bad or good actions is still-and-all rooted in our ultimate perfected state, when “the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped” (Isaiah 35:5), For we’ll come to see and to understand the truth of G-d’s ways then as we never could before, and we’ll catch sight of the wisdom that runs through them like a rivulet of quicksilver 6.

Footnotes:

1             This chapter returns to 1:15 and reiterates the important idea expressed there that G-d is always tilting the cosmos in the direction of perfection, and that nothing could ever thwart that. But it does underscore another point, which we’ll address below.

The truth be told, there are several instances in Da’at Tevunot, here and there, where Ramchal seems to be redundant. But it’s our contention that he purposefully repeats himself in order to underscore just how vitally important it is for us to grasp the things being said.

But see Klallim Rishonim 7 for other shades of meaning suggested here. They touch on the mystery of the “immanent” versus the “transcendent” lights spoken of by the Kabbalists. Ramchal contends that the imminent lights represent the way things seem to be while the transcendent ones represent things beyond our ken.

2             See 6:1:2 below, Clallei Milchamot Moshe 7, and Breishit Rabbah (Eikev) for use of this unusual and captivating turn of phrase.

3                That is, “In that day”, i.e., in the end, “we will say, ‘I will praise You, G-d; for though You were once angry with me,” I have come to understand that “Your anger is now turned away and You have comforted me instead”.

4                This is Ramchal’s additional stance here, referred to in note 1 above: that not only can’t we understand G-d Himself but that even His actions are frequently unfathomable.

5                That’s to say, we’ll eventually sit stunned assessing it all and say, “Now I understand why this and that (seemingly bad thing) happened to me – it was so that thus and such (good thing) could come about”.

6             Ramchal is careful to point out here in the text, though, that the overwhelming benevolence that we’re to experience will only come our way to the degree that we can handle it — it will not be to the degree that G-d’s own inherent essential benevolence could express itself. That’s to say that even though there’s much more to remark about the stupendous things we’re to experience than we’ve indicated, the point remains that there’s an even more stunning level that can’t even be cited.

Ramchal sets out to encapsulate this chapter at the end which we’ll offer here rather than above to avoid redundancy.

As he puts it, “G-d’s own inherent perfection is utterly unfathomable. But since He wanted to express His benevolence through acts that are in our ambit and not beyond it, He brought about various things that would eventually have us achieve perfection and a state of rectification. This factor underlies all His actions (here) and is their common denominator. Some and only some of this hidden factor can be caught sight of in G-d’s actions themselves when G-d wants us to open our eyes (to the truth of things), but G-d’s awesome and profound wisdom keeps the vast majority of it hidden away and unfathomable.”

(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.