Monthly Archives: August 2014

Preview of 1:4:5

It’s in fact the mitzvah system that lays out the parameters we’re to function within. Each imperative is intended to foster a degree of perfection, and each prohibition is meant to withhold a degree of murkiness and imperfection.

Each mitzvah has been designed with humankind’s true makeup and circumstances in mind, as well as with the degree of perfection needed, in addition to each thing’s own needs and conditions for perfection.

Indeed, G-d who knows all of this oversees everything and incorporated all of it in His mitzvah system.

אך הסדרים והגבולות האלה, הנה הם כלל המצות העשין והלאוין, אשר כל אחת מהם מכוונת אל תכלית הקנות באדם והעצים בו אחת ממדרגות המעלה האמיתית שזכרנו, והסרת אחד מעניני החשך והחסרונות, על ידי פועל המצות עשה ההיא, או המניעה מן הלא תעשה.

ואולם פרט המצות כלם, וכן פרטי כל מצוה ומצוה, הנה הם מיוסדים על אמתת מציאותו וענינו של האדם בכל בחינותיו, ואמתת עניני השלימות המצטרכים, כל דבר בתנאיו וגבוליו מה שצריך להשלמתו.

ואמנם החכמה העליונה שיודעת כל זה לאמתו, ויודעת כל עניני הברואים כלם ושימושיהם כמו שבראתם באמת, השקיפה על הכל, וכללה כל המצטרך, במצות שצונו בתורתו, וכמו שכתוב, ויצונו ה’ לעשות את כל החוקים וכו’ לטוב לנו וכו’:

(c) 2014 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 1:4:4

1:4:4

Despite the fact that we’re bound to materiality from the first and our souls are so stifled, nonetheless on some arcane level [1] G-d arranged things in such a way that we’d be elevated in the end anyway. In fact, the very problem will prove to offer the solution [2] and our physicality itself will enable us to turn darkness to light and the shadows of death into beams of light [3].

For when we function within the parameters that G-d established for us when it comes to physicality [4] and we have the right intentions [5], the physical things we do allow for perfection and enable us to be elevated. Those parameters take into account our state of being and are just what’s needed to allow us to draw close to G-d and to bask in His presence in this physical world and beyond. As such, when we use our physicality within those parameters we garner what you need to ascend and avoid what keeps us back from drawing close to G-d.

In fact, if it weren’t for the aforementioned decree of death [6], our souls would instantly become empowered and our body would be weakened, and we’d be purified enough to indeed draw close to G-d when we acted within those parameters. But since that decree is in place in fact, the soul itself is purified on the spot to be sure (on an inchoate level), but the body is made more only potentially pure — until the time when both will indeed achieve perfection in tandem.

 

Notes:

 

[1]       The Hebrew term for this level translates as “from the depths of the guidance (of) His wisdom”. Ramchal uses it and similar expressions in 1:5:6 and 2:3:1 and elsewhere below, as well as in Da’at Tevunot (11, 44, 48, 52, etc.), and in various other works. It refers to the Kabbalistic concept of Reisha d’La Ityada (“the unfathomable beginning”), which is the source of all inscrutable Divine decisions and reckonings. See Klallim Rishonim 34, Da’at Tevunot 168-170, Klach Pitchei Chochma 78-88, etc.

[2]       Ramchal’s term is, “man’s lowliness will (itself) prove to be his greatness (in the end)”.  See Klach Pitchei Chochma 49, and also see Zohar 1, 245b as well as Emunot v’De’ot 6:4 and Pardes Rimonim 31:5.

Let’s try to illustrate that excellent principle with an analogy. Suppose there was once an utterly ignoble soul who’d somehow hit bottom. He became a drunk and a derelict perhaps, as well as brash, mean, wayward, and wanton. Suppose after a time he came to realize what he’d done to himself, turned himself around, worked hard and invested wisely, and became a mentsch (a fine, upstanding individual). Let’s even imagine that he became a selfless and ardent philanthropist after a time, and an advocate for all sorts of good causes. Then suppose there was another individual then who’d been born into a good family, had a sterling upbringing, was educated in the best of schools, and eventually inherited a great deal of wealth. Then imagine that they both advocated for and contributed toward the same noble causes.

The first individual would certainly be lauded more than the second one for his benevolence. Everyone would speak in awe of how someone like him, who’d once been such a cur and a dog, had turned himself around so and become so good. Everything good he did would be tripled in value in everyone’s eyes as a consequence, while the self-same acts done by the second person would simply be admired, and no more. (“After all,” people would reason, “we’d only expect as much from him”.)

Indeed, the first person’s initial lowliness would itself prove to be his greatness in the end.

This is the logic behind our having been thrust into a world that seems to foil our soul’s dream of closeness to G-d. For by transcending our limitations and using the very same environment in which we could easily fail as a base for succeeding we will have met the greatest challenge of all, and our lowliness will have indeed proven to be our greatness in the end.

It’s important to realize, by the way, that we’re contrasting mankind with supernatural beings like angels with this point. For, while we have to contend with conflicting urges and inclinations and we’re always threatened with defeat, they don’t have to. Angels can’t help but do good and holy things — that’s all they’re “programmed” to do. As such, any goodness and holiness they bring into the world is only to be expected (like the acts of the second person we cited above), while any goodness and holiness we might bring into the world is a triumph of the human spirit and a personal victory (like the acts of the first person).

[3]       “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, light shone upon them” (Isaiah 9:1). See Ch. 26 of Messilat Yesharim for illustrations of overturning physicality to spirituality.

[4]       See 2:6:1-5 for a different discussion of these parameters.

[5]       Which is primarily to draw close to G-d but could also be to act selflessly and lovingly. But see Ramchal’s Sefer HaHigayon 5 which speaks of two people doing the same thing which could wind up being either reprehensible of laudatory depending on each one’s original intentions.

[6]       See 1:3:9.

 

(c) 2014 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 of 1:4:4

Granted, we’re bound to materiality from the first and our souls are stifled. But G-d has arranged things in such a way so that we’d be elevated in the end anyway. In fact, the very problem will prove to be the solution.

For when we function within the parameters that G-d established for us when it comes to physicality and we have the right intentions, the physical things we do allow for perfection and enable us to be elevated. For those parameters take into account our state of being and are just what’s needed to allow us to draw close to G-d and to bask in His presence in this physical world and beyond. As such, when we use our physicality within those parameters we garner what you need to ascend and avoid what keeps us back from drawing close to G-d.

In fact, if it weren’t for the aforementioned decree that we’re all to die, our souls would instantly become empowered and our body would be weakened, and we’d be purified enough to indeed draw close to G-d when we acted within those parameters. But since that decree is in place, the soul is purified itself on the spot (on an inchoate level) while the body is made more only potentially pure — until the time when both will indeed achieve perfection in tandem.

ד. ואולם מעומק עצת חכמתו ית’ היה לסדר הדברים באופן, שאף בהיות האדם שקוע בחומר בהכרח כמו שכתבנו, יוכל מתוך החומר עצמו והעסק הגופני, השיג את השלימות והתעלות אל הזוך ואל המעלה, ואדרבא, השפלתו תהיה הגבהתו, ומשם יקנה יקר וכבוד שאין כמוהו, בהיותו הופך את החשך לאור ואת הצלמות לנוגה יזרח.

וזה כי שם ית”ש גבולות וסדרים לאדם בתשמיש שישתמש מהעולם ובריותיו, ובכונה שיתכון בהם, אשר בהשתמש מהם האדם באותם הגבולות ובאותם הסדרים ובאותה הכונה שצוה הבורא ית’, יהיה אותו הפועל הגופני וחמרי עצמו פועל שלימות, ובו יתעצם באדם מציאות שלימות ומעלה רבה, יתעלה בו ממצבו השפל ויתרומם ממנו.

ואולם השקיפה החכמה העליונה על כל כללי החסרונות המוטבעים בענינו של האדם, ועל כל עניני המעלה והיקר האמיתי המצטרכים לו להיות ראוי לשיהיה מתדבק בו ית’ ונהנה בטובו, וכנגד כל זה סידר לו סדרים והגביל לו גבולות, אשר בשמרו אותם, יתעצם בו כל מה שצריך מן המעלה האמיתית שזכרנו, וישולל מענינו כל מה שהוא הרחקה מן הדביקות העליון.

ואלו לא היתה הגזירה גזורה שימות כמו שכתבנו לעיל, על ידי המעשים האלה היתה הנשמה מתחזקת וחשך הגוף מתחלש, באופן שהיה מזדכך על ידה זיכוך גמור, ומתעלים שניהם אל הדביקות בו ית’. ולפי שהגזירה גזורה, אין הדבר נעשה בפעם אחת, אך על כל פנים מתחזקת הנשמה בעצמה, והגוף מזדכך בכח אע”פ שאינו נעשה בפועל, וקונה האדם מצב שלימות בכח שיצא אחר כך לפועל בזמן הראוי לו:

 

 

(c) 2014 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 1:4:3

As to our surroundings and circumstances, they and everything that goes on in them is physical and murky, too. Yet we’re forced by our makeup to partake in all that; after all, we have to eat and drink, earn a living, etc.

As such, we’re stuck in the muck and mire by virtue of our physical makeup, our environment, and our concerns. So we would need to work very hard at transcending our situation, given all that [1].

Notes:

[1]       The gist of this chapter so far is that each one of us is in the thick of a terrible conflict, inside and out, between the essential parts of our own being (i.e., our body and our soul), on the one hand; and between our beings and the world’s demands of us and its makeup, on the other. (In fact, the way we resolve those conflicts defines who we are in the end, but that’s not our concern here.)

Thus, we’re each a brew of clashing forces and proclivities, caught between physicality and its “partisans” who want this and that, and spirituality and its own partisans who want that and the other thing. And we’re each thick in the mire of a subtle, often intangible battle-field of self-contradictions, conflicts of interest, and compromises.

And beside all of that, Ramchal also makes the daunting point that physicality is in fact at a distinct advantage. For it’s able to assert itself from birth and to gnaw away at our spirituality, the late-comer, our whole lives long. After all, the greatest, most manifest partisan of physicality we have is our body, which is always right there. While the greatest partisan of spirituality we have, the soul, is utterly intangible and it only manifests itself in the mind and its elusive thoughts. Hence, the soul is essentially stymied and frustrated as long as it’s in this world.

In fact, some would reason that, given all that, we should utterly stifle our physicality and try as hard as we can to deny its demands. Rambam cites the decision of some non-Jewish ascetics who thought as much and decided that “one should separate oneself from (all material things) and go to the opposite extreme, so that one wouldn’t eat meat, drink wine, marry, live in a nice house or dress in fine clothes, but dress only in sackcloth and hard wool, etc.” (Hilchot De’ot 3:1). But as he said elsewhere, they believed that “that was how a person draws close to G-d” — as if “G-d is the enemy of the body, and wants to destroy and annihilate it!” (Eight Chapters, Ch. 4), which is not at all true!

The question is, then, is there somehow or another a way to make use of the world’s physicality to our spiritual advantage? There is, and the rest of this chapter and the majority of what will follow in this work, will in fact expand upon that.

(c) 2014 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”.