Monthly Archives: December 2013

Derech Hashem 1:3:4

The class can be found here.

There was to be a fundamental difference between our worldly experience and our Afterlife one [1] — between the environment in which we struggle toward growth and perfection known as Olam Hazeh (“this world”), and the one in which we reap the fruits of our labors known as Olam Haba (“The World to Come”) [2].

This world would need to be set-up in such a way that the inner struggle between the soul and the body [3] could go on. That way materiality wouldn’t automatically hold sway over spirituality; and spirituality wouldn’t automatically dominate materiality. And while the latter would seem to be a good thing [4] it actually isn’t, given that our goal of achieving spiritual perfection and drawing close to G-d on our own would be thwarted [5]. And The World to Come needed to be the environment in which spirituality does indeed hold sway over materiality [6].

Notes:

[1]       As we indicated in note 3 to 1:3:1 above, we’re talking here about the ideal — the reality in place before Adam and Eve sinned. The equation was altered and the delicate balance of power between spirit and matter shifted after that, as we’ll see.

[2]       In fact, there are two usages of the term “The World to Come” in the tradition. The first one, championed by Rambam (Maimonides), is used to depict the place the soul goes to after death for reward or punishment (Hilchot Teshuvah Ch. 8); while the second, as used by Ramban (Nachmanides), is the place that (nearly) all will go to after the Messianic Era, the Great Day of Judgment, and the Resurrection of the Dead for eternal reward (Sha’ar HaGemul). Both can be termed the Afterlife.

Since death and reward and punishment hadn’t yet entered into the picture, as we’re talking about the time before Adam and Eve sinned, as indicated above, the term Olam Haba discussed here is clearly the one that Ramban addressed.

See Da’at Tevunot 88 for a full discussion of the stages in which the body and the soul respectively hold sway; also see Da’at Tevunot 126. And see 1:3: 10, 13 below.

[3]       Ramchal characterizes the soul here as (the seat of) “reason” as he did in 1:3:2.

[4]       Since it would allow us to arrive at spiritual perfection effortlessly and quickly.

[5]       So it would detract from our freedom of choice and cheapen our spirituality in the end.

[6]       Ramchal adds an interesting remark at the end. He depicts this world as a place “with the sort of natural laws that humanity would need” there, and The World to Come as the place “with the sort of laws that humanity would need” there, without saying what kind of laws or ways there’d be there (though he’s clearly referring to supernatural laws).

In essence, that says that each world has its own way of being and environment. The point is that the Afterlife will not simply be an extension of this world with the sorts of causes and effects we’re used to: it will be utterly different. We alluded to that in our remark above that “there was to be a fundamental difference between our worldly experience and our Afterlife one”.

(c) 2013 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman’s translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here at a discount.

You can still purchase a copy of Rabbi Feldman’s translation of “The Gates of Repentance” here at a discount as well.

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman 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 on www.torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal”.

Preview of 1:3:4

Each realm — the here-and-now world of struggles (Olam HaZeh), and the Afterlife world of reward and punishment (Olam Haba) — has to have its own makeup and needs if things are to work as planned.

ואולם כפי התחלף זמניו, כך ראוי שיתחלף מצבו ושאר מקריו. כי כל זמן ההשתדלות הנה צריך שיהיה בתכונה אחת, שיוכלו לימצא בו כל הענינים המצטרכים לו לפי ענין ההשתדלות הזה. פירוש – כי הנה מוכרח שתמצא לו המלחמה שזכרנו בין השכל והחומר, ולא יהיה לו דבר שיעכב את החומר מלשלוט ולעשות את שלו כפי השיעור הראוי לו, ולא דבר שיעכב את השכל מלשלוט כראוי לו ולעשות את שלו. וכן לא יהיה דבר שיגרום לחומר להתחזק יותר מן הראוי, וגם לא יגרום לשכל להתחזק יותר מן הראוי. כי אע”פ שמצד אחד היה נראה זה יותר טוב, הנה לפי הכונה האמיתית והענין הנרצה באדם, שהוא קנית השלימות בהשתדלותו, איננו טוב. ובזמן קיבול השכר הנה ראוי לו שיהיה במצב הפכי לזה, כי הנה כל מה שיהיה החומר שולט באותו זמן, הנה לא היה אלא מחשיך ומעכב על הנשמה שלא תתדבק בבורא ית’, ועל כן הנה ראוי הוא שלא ישלוט אז אלא הנשמה, והחומר יהיה נמשך אחריה לגמרי באופן שלא יעכב על ידה כלל. ואמנם על כן נבראו שני העולמות, עוה”ז ועוה”ב, עוה”ז המקום והחוקים הטבעיים שלו הם מה שראוי לאדם כל זמן ההשתדלות, העוה”ב המקום והחוקים שלו הם מה שראוי לו בזמן קיבול השכר:

(c) 2013 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————-

AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman’s translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here at a discount.

You can still purchase a copy of Rabbi Feldman’s translation of “The Gates of Repentance” here at a discount as well.

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman 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 on www.torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal”.

Derech Hashem 1:3:3

The class can be found here.

Nonetheless, G-d decreed that there’d be a limit to our need to strive for perfection, after which we’d be recompensed [1]. So there are two epochs of time over-all: that of humankind’s efforts and struggles, and that of its reward and recompense [2].

It’s in fact because G-d’s benevolence far exceeds His ill will when it comes to His interactions with us [3] that He allowed for a limited amount of time for our efforts, and a countervailing never-ending amount of time for reward and on-going perfection [4].

Notes:

[1]       The clear implication here is that there might not have been a time limit, and that we’d need to go on with the struggle forever. But we’re told that G-d decided otherwise, mercifully.

One might argue that the cost of that decision is our mortality, and would wonder if the decision is merciful at all. But given that at bottom life is a spiritual battlefield, a time limit is a gift. Those for whom life isn’t a spiritual arena, though, for whom it’s a “Garden of Earthly Delights” instead perceive death as unkind, but the point is that it’s no such a thing, and that the recompense in the Afterlife is more delightful than any worldly pleasure (while the penalty one experiences in Gehennom, which lasts at worst only 12 months and is followed by spiritual reward, is understandable and meant for purification).

The Afterlife will be discussed below in 2:2:1, etc. and elsewhere.

[2]       In fact there’s a third epoch: before humankind was created, but our concern here is humankind, as we’d said, so that third epoch is irrelevant.

[3]       See Sotah 11a, Sanhedrin 100a, as well as Yoma 76a for discussions of G-d’s kindness outweighing His strict judgment.

In fact, on all levels there’s more goodness than malevolence — more to be enjoyed or benefited from than to be endured in the world. For all-in-all (with notable exceptions) the world is largely at peace; there are more instances of kindness than cruelty; more health than disease; more order than chaos; more reason than insanity, and the like. And while we might not recognize that, it’s because our perspectives are skewed and cynical. (See Moreh Nevuchim 3:12.)

[4]       That indicates that one reaches ever higher, deeper, and achieves greater levels of perfection ad infinitum in the World to Come, given that one draws closer and closer to G-d whose Being is infinite.

(c) 2013 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————-

AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman’s translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here at a discount.

You can still purchase a copy of Rabbi Feldman’s translation of “The Gates of Repentance” here at a discount as well.

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman 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 on www.torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal”.

Preview to 1:3:3

But there has to be a time limit to the struggle. As such there are two epochs of time: one of effort and the other of recompense. Given that there’s more kindness in God’s interactions with us than strict judgment, though, the epoch of effort is far shorter than the one of recompense.

ואמנם גזר טובו ית’, שיהיה גבול להשתדלות הזה המצטרך לאדם להשיג השלימות, וכשהשלים השתדלותו ישיג שלימותו וינוח בהנאתו לנצח נצחים. על כן הוחקו לו שני זמנים, אחד זמן העבודה, ואחד זמן קיבול השכר. ואולם מדת הטוב מרובה, שהעבודה יש לה זמן מחוקק, כמו שגזרה חכמתו ית’ היותו נאות לזה, וקיבול השכר אין לו תכלית, אלא לנצח נצחים הוא מתענג והולך בשלימות אשר קנה לו:

(c) 2013 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————-

AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman’s translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here at a discount.

You can still purchase a copy of Rabbi Feldman’s translation of “The Gates of Repentance” here at a discount as well.

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman 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 on www.torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal”.

Derech Hashem 1:3:2

Class can be found here.

1:3:2

A certain cosmic condition had to exist if we were ever to achieve perfection on our own and to thus draw close to G-d, though. We humans had to have been comprised of two disparate phenomena: a body and a soul [1]. Ramchal depicts the body as “earthly” [2] and “murky”, and the soul as “intelligent” [3] and “clear” [4].

And each phenomenon would have to do its best to hold sway over us if we’re to have free will, and to provide ammunition for the battle we’d need to wage to have the soul eventually dominate.

The final point here is that once the soul dominates the body, both are then elevated and the individual eventually achieves perfection, whereas when the body dominates the soul, both are denigrated, and the individual is denied his or her perfection and is even said to be rejected by G-d [5]. How daunting a thought!

Notes:

[1]       In fact, not only are we comprised of the two separate phenomena of soul and a body, we’re likewise comprised of two separate proclivities: a body-orientation and a soul-orientation. The former inclines toward sin and the yetzer harah, and the latter toward goodness and the yetzer hatov (see 1:3:1).

Many would argue that the idea that we’re part-this and part-that is spurious. “We aren’t partly soul-oriented, partly body-oriented”, they’d insist, “we’re in fact both body and soul oriented.” While the point is well taken, it’s nonetheless misguided. The truth be known, if we were to pull back and look at humanity from a great distance — say from a “G-d’s eye-view” — we’d determine that we’re indeed body and soul oriented, that the breakdown into two opposing realms isn’t real, and that from that fuller perspective we’re indeed whole beings comprised of a body-soul. (Many make reference to this idea when they speak of the “mind-body connection”, by the way.)

But despite the utter truth of that, looking at things from that perspective is misleading — and counterproductive. For we don’t experience ourselves from a “G-d’s eye-view”; our very real, very human struggles, and our victories, too, are based on the fact that we experience a very real and compelling split in ourselves. One huge and electric part of us experiences ourselves as wholly of this earth, while another experiences ourselves as transcendent. So the point about our being both of body and soul at the same time is wasted.

Granted, there are great and holy individuals who know there isn’t a split, and don’t struggle within their beings. But the great preponderance of us simply don’t experience that. So it would be best to accept the reality we now know if we’re ever to encounter and cooperate with utter reality as we’re bidden to in this life.

See 3:1:1-2 below where Ramchal refers to the various levels of the soul. Also see Da’at Tevunot 69-70, Derech Eitz Chaim, and Klallim Rishonim 28 for discussions on the combination of body and soul.

[2]       Or what we’d term “down to earth” and “practical”.

[3]       Or what we’d term “theoretical” and “idealistic”.

[4]       On one level the body is termed “earthly” because it’s comprised of the same elements everything else on earth is. And the soul is termed “intelligent” because the least earthly thing we experience is pure abstract thought.

The two other depictions of body and soul — “murky” and “clear” — offer another insight. For we find that while murkiness and clarity are indeed two points on an illumination continuum, still and all, neither is an extreme. For were we to draw such a continuum we’d lay it out thusly (with an infinite number of degrees in between): Pitch black — murky — clear — glaringly bright.

Ramchal’s point thus seems to be that being body-oriented (i.e., “murky”) isn’t at all the most material you can be — being “pitch black” or evil is. And that being soul-oriented (i.e., “clear”) isn’t at all the most spiritual you can be — being “glaringly bright” or G-dly is.          The argument would then be that we’d each do well to determine just where we lie on the extended line over-all, and to strive higher.

[5]       As Ramchal put it in Messilat Yesharim (Ch. 1), “The world was created for our usage. But we stand in the midst of a great balance: should we be attracted to the world and distanced from our Creator, both we and the world with us would be damaged; but if we would master ourselves and clutch onto our Creator, and make use of the world’s things to help us in our Divine service, both we and the world with us will be elevated”.

Also see 1:3:12 below regarding the soul’s effect on the body, as well as Da’at Tevunot 126.

(c) 2013 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————-

AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman’s translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here at a discount.

You can still purchase a copy of Rabbi Feldman’s translation of “The Gates of Repentance” here at a discount as well.

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman 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 on www.torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal”.