Monthly Archives: December 2014

Preview of 1:4:11

The ultimate reason to keep the mitzvot is to draw close to G-d and to bask in His light, and the whole point of refraining from sins is to avoid drawing away from Him.

The specific roles that mitzvot play are rooted in deep mysteries and in man’s own and the world’s makeup, as we indicated, but we’ll address some of that later.

יא. נמצא לפי כל מה שהקדמנו, שהכונה באמת בכל המצות תהיה אליו ית’, להתקרב לו וליאור באור פניו. והמניעה מן העבירות, להמלט מן ההתרחק ממנו, וזה התכלית האמיתי שבהן. אך הענינים בפרט יש בהם עומק גדול, כפי פרטי עניני האדם והבריאה וכמש”ל, ונדבר עוד בקצת מהם בחלק בפני עצמו בעזר האל ית’:

(c) 2014 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”.

Derech Hashem 1:4:10

The class can be found here.

1:4:10

At bottom, though, our spiritual standing ultimately depends on G-d either “shining His countenance” upon us or “withholding” it from us [1]. For, the more G-d shines His countenance upon us, the purer and more perfected we become, while the more it’s withheld from us, the less pure and perfect we become.

But the truth of the matter is that either phenomenon depends on us and our decisions, since G-d Himself doesn’t withhold His countenance of His own volition but only in response to our turning away from Him [2]. Hence, it’s our deciding to draw close to Him or not that determines the outcome.

We manifest His shining His countenance upon us by fulfilling His mitzvahs [3] and deny ourselves it by sinning, measure for measure. It’s the mitzvah system that enables that manifestation, in that each time we engage in it we expose ourselves to a greater illumination of G-d’s countenance, while each time we ignore it we allow it to be withheld to a degree and we demean our beings.

 

Notes:

[1]       That’s to say that even though your spiritual status is largely determined by your following the mitzvah system (1:4:5), loving and fearing G-d (1:4:8), and by engaging in Torah study (1:4:9), it’s ultimately determined by G-d drawing closer to or further from you, which is the mechanism that brings it about.

As to the significance of G-d shining or withdrawing His “countenance” from someone, that comes to this. As we all know, when someone looks intently at someone he admires, his face brightens and he senses himself growing warmer; well, that’s all the more so true if he looks intently at someone he loves. Thus, G-d shining or withholding His countenance is a barometer of His feelings towards someone.

As such, while there’s a lot that we can do to draw close to G-d on our own, what’s most effective is doing all we can to have G-d want to draw close to us. For like all close relationships, a bond with G-d should be reciprocal. It isn’t enough to try your best: you need to “convince” Him to succeed as well, so to speak.

See 1:2:3 above (and note 7 there for references) as well as 1:5:8, 2:8:3, 3:1:3, and 4:5:1 below for more on this idea.

[2]       That is, while G-d is always inclined towards loving us and peering upon us intimately and warmly, we oftentimes reject that love, disappoint Him, and have Him “look away”, if you will.

[3]       Recall that loving and fearing G-d, and studying His Torah referred to in note 1 above are mitzvahs, too, albeit especially potent ones.

 

(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 1:4:10

We learn that our spiritual status depends entirely on G-d either “shining His countenance” upon us or “withholding it”.

Either phenomenon depends upon us, since G-d Himself doesn’t “withhold His countenance” of His own volition but only in response to our turning away from Him. We experience the manifestation of His countenance and closeness to Him by fulfilling His mitzvahs and deny ourselves it by sinning, measure for measure.

י. ואולם סבת כל מצבי האדם חשכתו ובהירותו, הנה היא הארת פניו ית’ אליו, או התעלמו ממנו וכמש”ל. כי הנה כל מה שהאדון ב”ה מאיר פניו, מתרבה הזוך והשלימות במי שהגיע לו הארתו, וכפי שיעור ההארה כך הוא שיעור השלימות והזוך הנמשך ממנה, והפך זה, ההעלם.

ואמנם האדון ב”ה מאיר תמיד למי שיתקרב אליו, ואין מניעת טוב מצדו כלל, אלא מי שלא יתקרב אליו יחסר הארתו, והמניעה מצד המקבל לא מצד המשפיע. והנה גזרה החכמה העליונה, שהעושה אותם הענינים שצוה, דהיינו כלל כל המצות כלן כמש”ל, בכל מעשה מהן שיעשה, יהיה מתקרב על ידו מדריגה מה ממדריגות הקורבה אליו ית’, ותגיע לו על ידי זה מדריגה מה ממדריגות הארת פניו, כפי הקורבה שנתקרב לו, ויתעצם בו מדריגה מן השלימות, שהיא תולדת מדריגת ההארה ההיא, והפך זה העבירות, כל מעשה מהן שיעשה האדם ח”ו, הנה יתרחק על ידו ממנו ית’ מדריגה מה, ויתוסף עליו על ידי זה מדריגה ממדריגות העלם הארתו, ית’ והסתר פניו, ויתעצם בו על ידי זה מדריגה מן החסרון שהיא תולדת מדריגת ההעלם ההוא:

(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 1:4:9

Sorry, but the class isn’t up yet at www.torah.org

1:4:9

The best way to draw close to G-d, though, is through Torah-study [1] — by reciting [2] and studying it, and by comprehending it. For G-d actually granted us texts that were composed by Him which are the Torah itself and the Books of the Prophets in His love for us. They have the unique ability to endow anyone who reads them with the highest levels of spiritual achievement — when he reads them in a holy and pure way [3] and with the intention to fulfill G-d’s intentions.

Anyone who tries to understand and know what has been passed down to us from the Torah’s commentators [4] grows greater and greater in the process  [5] — especially if he tries to grasp its esoteric and mystical levels, for anyone who aspires to that reaches the highest and most perfect soul levels [6]. And in fact, not only does anyone who dwells on Torah acquire those levels but creation itself is likewise elevated [7].

Notes:

[1]       That is, G-d wanted us to know His wishes for us and He wanted us to be able to go back to the statement of those wishes again and again. He also wanted us to withdraw from the world in the course of each and every day in order to re-read that statement. That series of wishes is the essential backdrop of Torah-study.

See 4:2:1-7 for more about Torah study.

[2]       The original reads higgayon which can be translated as either “reciting” or “reflecting upon”. But it’s obvious based on 4:2:2 below that Ramchal is referring to the former.

As such, Torah-study works on two levels: on a mere recitative one, and on a deeper, cognitive one (spoken of immediately following this). That’s is, we can grow in our inner beings by merely uttering words of Torah (in the original Hebrew) given that the words themselves are infused with an inscrutable steam and thrust of their own. Needless to say, merely uttering scientific, historical, literary and other such texts does nothing to deepen our being, despite the truth and elegance of their pronouncements, because the words themselves aren’t cosmically significant.

[3]       See 4:3:1.

[4]       This is apparently referring to the Talmud and other works of The Oral tradition as well as the classical commentaries based on them.

[5]        We affect our inner beings because we’re nibbling at the very core of G-d’s will for us, so to speak, and communing with His very Being in some inexplicable way. It’s somewhat analogous to communing with an author’s mind while reading his or her work deeply and slowly. But just as you can never truly commune with an author through his works, because so much is left unsaid — that’s all the more so true when it comes to communing with G-d Himself while delving into His Torah. The best way to put it, perhaps, is that you’re communing with G-d’s will for us at the time, rather than with G-d Himself.

[6]       Ramchal stressed the importance of the study of Kabbalah in quite a number of places. See, for example Adir Bamarom pp. 1, 15, 22, and 113 and Derech Chochma. In fact, he himself authored dozens of Kabbalistic books and booklets.

[7]       See Messilat Yesharim Ch. 1 and Kohelet Rabbah to Ecclesiastes 7:13.

 

(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”.