Monthly Archives: March 2015

Derech Hashem 1:5:5

1:5

Indeed, G-d set it up so that everything relevant to our free will would freely affect the Transcendent Forces to the degree and depth He wanted them to [1]. But this isn’t only true of our actions: it’s also true of what we say and think [2]. Still-and-all, we can only influence them to the degree and depth that G-d Himself established — no more and no less [3].

Notes:

[1]       That’s to say that there are times when the Transcendent Forces hold sway in the universe and affect us as well as everything else commandingly, and there are times when we hold sway in the universe and affect everything including the Transcendent Forces commandingly. Yet G-d Almighty still and all rules and utterly so. It’s just that He uses various tangible and intangible things — ourselves included — to accomplish His ends in the physical world.

That having been said, it’s nonetheless true that G-d has placed specific limits on the degree to which we can affect the Transcendent Forces, and He has enabled certain of the things we do to affect them and others not to. Hence, my lifting up a cup of coffee and sipping from it doesn’t do very much to change the machinations of the universe, while my lifting a Kiddush cup and sipping from it on the Shabbos has global ramifications.

[2]       In fact, since our words and (even more so) our thoughts are “closer to the bone”, their effects are often deeper yet than our actions and can do more harm or good.

See 3:2: 1, 5 below and Da’at Tevunot 126. Also see the first gate of R’ Chaim Volozhin’s Nephesh HaChaim which expands upon this idea in depth.

[3]       See the Kabbalistic implications of this in Ramchal’s Pitchei Chochma v’Da’at 100.

(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”.

Preview of 1:5:5

ה. והנה סידר האדון ב”ה, שכל הענינים אשר תפול בהם בחירתו של האדם, יגיעו להניע בתנועה הבחיריית את הכחות ההם, באותו השיעור והמדריגה שחקק להם. והיינו כי לא מעשיו לבדם יניעום, אלא אפילו דיבורו ואפילו מחשבתו. אך שיעור התנועה ומדריגתה, לא יהיו אלא באותו הגבול שגזרה והגבילתה החכמה העליונה:

 G-d set it up so that everything relevant to free will would affect the Transcendent Forces to the degree He wanted them to. But this isn’t only true when it comes to our actions: it’s also true when it comes to what we say and think.

And we can only influence them to the degree that G-d Himself established.

(c) 2015 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 1:5:4

The class can be found here.

1:5:4

According to what we’d said, everything begins up above and streams down below. But there’s one exception to that which touches on man’s place in all of this. Since G-d wanted man to have free will [1] He enabled him to circumvent this pattern and to initiate actions on his own from down below so as to stream upward [2].

So there are two contradictory thrusts in the universe: the natural state of things going from up above downward starting with the Transcendent Forces [3], and the free-will based one [4] going from down below upward starting with man’s freely made actions [5].

Now, as a rule, we can only control physical things, since we’re physical beings ourselves who do physical things [6]. But given that there’s a connection between the upper and lower realms [7], those upper realms are indeed affected when lower realm things are set off, and they thus affect an unexpected stream upward from down below.

Still-and-all we must remember that not all of man’s actions are free, since some of them are decreed upon him based on reward and punishment [8]. So, the latter sorts of actions are initiated up above as usual, while the former [9] are initiated down below [10].

 

Notes:

[1]       See note 2 to 1:3:1 for a discussion of free will.

[2]       … as well as downward and sideways.

That is, while everything in the physical world is a passive and powerless recipient of whatever streams down upon it from up above, man alone can actively and freely affect that stream and even have it turn back upon itself so that it streams upwards.

Man is thus a true and very potent anomaly in the universe — as long as he acts out of his free will. If he were to simply accept the stream from above without input, then he too would be a passive recipient of what’s above and would affect nothing in the heavens.

Of course there are things we simply can’t do even if we freely decide to — like fly off into the distance on our own. So it’s important to point out that the freedom of will we have is the freedom to make ethical and mitzvah-related choices — to do particular things that affect others and the world at large, or to refrain from doing them. Everything else is beyond our control.

Understand, though, that man could very well affect things in the material world even when he doesn’t act out of free will, since the laws of physics, chemistry, and the like all come into play despite man’s intentions.

[3]       This is known philosophically as the “deterministic” system (because it’s the one determined by G-d without man’s input).

[4]       This is termed the “non-deterministic” system (since it isn’t determined beforehand).

[5]       We’re thus to see the playing-out of the universe as a great dance within which the Transcendent Forces sometimes lead and we follow; and other times when we lead and the Forces follow.

[6]       See the end of note 2 above.

[7]       See 1:5:2.

[8]       That is, G-d Himself isn’t beholden to our free will; He is above it and can affect changes despite our freely made actions.

See 2:3:4.

[9]       I.e., man’s freely made actions.

[10]     See Ma’amar HaIkkurim, “b’Hashgacha” and Sefer Derech Eitz Chaim.

 

(c) 2015 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”.