Monthly Archives: January 2015

Preview of 1:5:2

We’re aware of physical phenomena, but we simply can’t fathom spiritual ones because they’re out of our experience, so all we can say about them is what we’ve been taught by our tradition.

We’re taught that everything in the physical realm has its counterpart in the transcendent forces which those physical phenomena devolve from. Thus, the transcendent forces are the roots of all physical phenomena and physical phenomena are the offshoots of the forces, and the two are bound to each other.

We’ve also been taught that everything that happens in this physical realm is under the rule of the angels who allow for those events and bring about innovations.

 ב. הנבראים הגשמיים ידועים הם אצלנו, וחוקותיהם ומשפטיהם הטבעיים בכללם מפורסמים. אך הרוחניים אי אפשר לנו לצייר ענינם היטב, כי הם חוץ מדמיוננו, ונדבר בהם ובעניניהם רק כפי המסורת שבידנו.

והנה מן העיקרים הגדולים שבידנו בענין זה הוא, שכנגד כל מה שנמצא בנמצאים השפלים, נמצאים למעלה כחות נבדלים, שמהם משתלשלים ויוצאים בסדר אחד של השתלשלות שגזרה חכמתו ית’, השפלים האלה, הם ומקריהם, ונמצאים הכחות ההם שרשים לנמצאים השפלים האלה, והנמצאים השפלים ענפים ותולדות לכחות ההם, ונקשרים זה בזה כטבעות השלשלת.

עוד מסורת בידנו, שעל כל עצם וכל מקרה שבנמצאים השפלים האלה, הופקדו פקידים מן הסוג המלאכיי שזכרנו למעלה, ומשאם לקיים העצם ההוא או המקרה ההוא בנמצאות השפלות כפי מה שהוא, ולחדש מה שראוי להתחדש בשפלים כפי הגזירה העליונה:

 (c) 2015 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 1:5:1

The class can be found here.

1:5:1

In general, reality is comprised of two realms: a physical one and spiritual one [1]. The physical realm itself is comprised of the things that we can experience with our senses [2], be they the more astronomical sorts of things like the stars and planets, or the more terrestrial ones like the earth, seas, and sky, and all the other things that we can sense.

The spiritual realm is comprised of immaterial things that we can’t experience with our senses. They’re either souls which are the purely spiritual phenomena that enter into, are circumscribed by and are deeply connected to bodies so as to affect them in various ways and at different stages [3]. Or they’re transcendent phenomena that never enter into physical bodies like the “forces” [4] and angels [5]. The transcendent phenomena exist on different levels, they each have unique natures, and they’re so highly variable that each would seem to be in a class of its own, but they’re all of one sort.

There’s one specific entity, though, that’s a cross between the physical and spiritual in that it can’t be detected by the senses and isn’t bound by the constraints and laws of physicality,  and yet it’s very different from angels and forces (despite some similarities). These entities are known as “demons” [6]. And they, too, have specific inborn attributes and make-ups, and are also so highly variable that each would seem to be in a class of its own, but are likewise all of one sort.

It’s important to know that only humans consist of the two opposite components of an exalted soul and a lowly body. For while animals have “souls”, those souls aren’t actually spiritual phenomena — even though they’re the most spiritual of material phenomena. And while the same sort “soul” is in humans as well given that we too are mortal beings, we nonetheless also have immortal souls [7] which is an utterly unique entity that’s completely different than a body and incomparable to it, and which comes to us from and is connected to G-d for the reasons we explained above [8].

 

Notes:

[1]       See Ma’amar HaIkkurim, “B’Ruchniyim”, and Da’at Tevunot 78.

[2]       Or with devices that expand on them, regardless of how vast or minute, blunt or subtle they may be.

[3]       The idea that “souls … affect (bodies) in various ways and at different stages” refers to the relationship between bodies and souls in life, in the afterlife, in the resurrection of the dead, and in the world to come.

[4]       They’re termed “the roots of (all) created phenomena” in 4:6:13 below and are referred to as the Sephirot by the Kabbalists. See Ma’amar HaChochma, “HaSephirot” and elsewhere about them.

[5]       See 4:6:13 below as well as Pitchei Chochma v’Da’at 108-109, Klallei Pitchei Chochma v’Da’at 5,  Da’at Tevunot 116, 118, 126, 160, Derech Eitz Chaim p. 137, Messilat Yesharim Ch. 6, Adir Bamarom pp. 260, 195.

[6]       As demons are the most foreign to us of all of the above, they call for explanation. For one thing, it’s pointed out in the Talmud that demons are all around us all the time. They’re more numerous than we, and we’d in fact be thunderstruck and undone if we were actually able to see them (Berachot 6A). So they’re obviously a force to be reckoned with. For an exposition about them see Chagiga 16a, Yevamot 122a, Zohar 3:76b, etc. Also see Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalms 106:37 for Biblical references to them.

Rambam denies their existence in his commentary to Avodah Zarah 4:7 and in Mishne Torah, Avodat Kochavim 11:6, but the Gaon of Vilna excoriates him for that opinion (Yoreh Deah 179:13). See Ramchal’s Iggerot 50 and Derech Eitz Chaim p. 142. Also see Eitz Chaim 50:8 for the Ari’s understanding of them.

[7]       As it’s said, “And G-d the L-rd formed man out of the dust of the ground and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7).

The type of soul that both animals and humans have is known as the Nephesh, while the one that’s unique to humans is known as the Neshama. See 3:1:1-6 below on the different parts of the human soul.

See Rambam’s Sh’mone Perakim, Ch. 1 as well as Ramchal’s Da’at Tevunot 24 and Adir Bamarom pp. 47, 275.

[8]        In short, only human beings are comprised of the two components of reality itself, both physicality and spirituality, at one and the same time. The forces, angels, and the like are spiritual but not material, and animals are physical but not spiritual (though they have something akin to a soul), and “demons” which seem to be a combination of the two aren’t really so (since they’re not physical, yet they’re also not angelic).

That’s why we humans are referred to as microcosms of the universe (see Tanchuma, Pekudei 3), given that only we are comprised of those two components. Ramchal apparently makes this point to underscore his ongoing idea about our unique situation in the universe.

(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 1:5:1

Reality is comprised of a physical component, which include the things we experience with our senses; and a spiritual component, which include the things we cannot experience with our senses, including souls, “forces”, angels, and demons (which are actually part spiritual and part physical).

Only humans are comprised of a spiritual soul and a physical body, no other entity does. While animals have “souls” too, they’re different type than ours (though we have that type, too). It’s just that we have immortal souls aside from that one.

א. חלקי כלל הבריאה שנים, גשמיים ורוחניים. הגשמיים, הם המורגשים מחושינו, ומתחלקים לעליונים ותחתונים. העליונים, הם כלל הגרמיים השמימיים, דהיינו הגלגלים וכוכביהם. התחתונים, הם כלל מה שבחלל הגלגל התחתון, דהיינו הארץ והמים והאויר, וכל מה שבהם מן הגופים המורגשים. הרוחניים, הם נבראים משוללים מגשם, בלתי מורגשים מחושינו, ומתחלקים לשני מינים, האחד נשמות, והשני נבדלים. הנשמות, הם מין נבראים רוחניים, התעתדו לבא בתוך גוף, ליגבל בתוכו וליקשר בו בקשר אמיץ, ולפעול בו פעולות שונות בזמנים שונים. הנבדלים, הם מין נבראים רוחניים, בלתי מעותדים לגופות כלל, ונחלקים לשני חלקים, הא’ נקרא כחות, והב’ מלאכים. וגם הם ממעלות רבות ושונות, ולהם חוקים טבעיים במציאותם כפי מעלותיהם ומדריגותם, עד שבאמת נוכל לקרותם מינים רבים של סוג א’, שהוא הסוג המלאכיי. ואולם נמצא מין אחד של נבראים שהוא כמו אמצעי בין רוחני וגשמי, והיינו שבאמת אינו מורגש מחושינו, וגם אינו נגבל בכל גבולי הגשם המורגש וחוקו, ומצד זה נקראהו שלא בדקדוק רוחני, אבל נבדל בענינו מן הסוג המלאכיי, אע”פ שיתדמה לו באיזה בחינות, ויש לו חוקים פרטיים וגבולים מיוחדים כפי מציאותו באמת, ונקרא זה המין השידיי, שהוא מין השדים, ואולם גם הוא יתחלק לפרטים אחרים, שישוב המין הכללי סוג לגביהם והם מינים אליו. והנה נבחן ונבדל מין האדם לבדו, להיות מורכב משני מיני בריאה נבדלים לגמרי, דהיינו הנשמה העליונה והגוף השפל, מה שלא נמצא בשום נברא אחר. וכאן צריך שתזהר שלא תטעה לחשוב שיהיה ענין שאר הבעלי חיים כענין האדם, כי אין נפש הבעלי חיים אלא דבר גשמי מן הדקים שבגשמיות, ומענינו נמצא גם כן באדם, בבחינת היותו בעל חי, אמנם זולת כל זה יש באדם נשמה עליונה, שהוא מין בריאה בפני עצמו, נבדל מן הגוף לגמרי ורחוק ממנו עד מאד, שבאה ונקשרת בו בגזירתו ית’, על הכונה שזכרנו בפרקים שקדמנו:

(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 1:4:11

The class can be found here.

1:4:11

So at bottom the ultimate intention behind all of 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 [1].

While these are the overarching reasons for the mitzvot in general, their specific roles are rooted in deep mysteries that are dependent on man’s own and the world’s makeup, as we indicated [2]. But we’ll address some of that at a later point [3].

Footnotes:

[1]       Ramchal concludes this chapter by underscoring the fact that mitzvot serve a deeper, far more compelling role in the world than we imagine. For they’re not just “good deeds” or lovely expressions of cultural pride; they’re agents of sweeping change and consequence.

See a reiteration of these points in Messilat Yesharim Ch. 1 where Ramchal says that “our sages … taught us that we were created to delight in G-d and enjoy the radiance of His Divine presence ….” and that “the means to bring you to this goal are the mitzvot”; and where he also said that “it’s only fitting … that there be no goal in any of your actions, large or small, other than to get close to G-d and to eradicate the barriers that separate you from Him”.

Let it also be said that we see from here that G-d is both the originator of the mitzvah system and its objective, nothing or no one else. That’s to say that it and the Torah itself derive from Him and lead us back to Him as well, thus forming a perfect circle. And that is its most important point.

[2]       See 1:4:5. Also see 4:1:5 and 4:4:10 below as well as “Da’at Tevunot 2” (6).

[3]       See Section 4 below.

 

(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”.