Monthly Archives: November 2015

Derech Hashem 2:2:5

2:2:5

 

Delving into it even more so we see that while the reward and punishment system we’d depicted above is certainly rooted in Divine Justice [1], it’s also based on the realities of the human condition [2].

For as we explained [3], our actions affect our very beings [4] aside from our spiritual status, making us either more perfect and exalted or sullied and faulty, in perfect proportion to those actions [5].

Now, the mostly righteous person who managed to accrue a lot of spiritual splendor [6] and stature has nonetheless also become somewhat sullied from the few sins he’d committed, and he’s thus not yet ready to attach himself onto G-d’s presence. So G-d mercifully decreed that he’d be purified by the kinds of trials and tribulations calibrated to remove the impurity from him [7]. Then he’d be pure enough to enjoy that great reward.

Just know, however, that one would have to experience the exact degree of purification that would correspond to his status.

Know, too, that sometimes the cleansing process can’t be carried on a physical level so it must be done on a spiritual one [8]. It’s just that we can’t fathom the  very many calculations that go into all of that.

 

Footnotes:

 

[1]         I.e., it’s rooted in the idea that the fair and just thing to have happen is for the good to be rewarded for their selfless dedication to the good and right, and the wrongful to be punished for their selfish disregard of it. The point of the matter, though, is that there’s another, higher aim than that, which is seeing to it that as many individuals as possible be able to bask in G-d’s presence in the world to come, as was pointed in 2:2:3 above.

[2]         This refers to our very human impurities as discussed below.

See 1:4:2 as well Adir Bamarom p. 341.

[3]         See 1:4:4,10.

[4]         … inside and out, in that they affect our physical beings much the way that good or bad food affects our bodies, and good or bad habits affect our personality, and the like.

The point is that being and doing good allows a certain impalpable still point of holiness and perfection to nestle and glow in our being while being and doing bad allows a certain opaque, noisome, and unctuous blemish to fester there.

[5]         See Zohar 1, 24a and 131b; 3, 86b, 99b, and 128a; and Sh’nei Luchot HaBrit 1, 26b.

[6]         See Klach Pitchei Chochma 32 for a discussion of this phenomenon.

[7]         See 2:2:9 and 2:3:8 below and Da’at Tevunot 40, 54 as well as Berachot 5a, Zohar 3, 153a.

That’s to say that, as all-encompassing as it is and touching upon all elements of our being as it does, suffering — both the kind we experience in life or in the Afterlife — undoes all blemishes and utterly scours away at all stains, much the way weeping purges sorrow, and admitting fault unburdens the heart.

[8]         This goes to explain why there needs to be an Afterlife in the first place: to allow for the sorts of processes that can’t be carried on within the physical, emotional, or psychological realms we mortal beings imagine would be enough to purify — as well as to reward — us.

 

(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”.

 

Preview of 2:2:5

While the reward and punishment system depicted is rooted in Divine Justice, it’s also suited to the human condition.

For our actions become a virtual part of our being and affect our status exactly to the appropriate degree.

The mostly righteous person has nonetheless also become somewhat sullied because of the few sins he’d committed. So G-d decreed that he’d be able to be purified by means of the trials calibrated to remove the impurity from him.

But you’d have to experience the exact degree of purification. Sometimes the cleansing process must be carried out on a spiritual level. It’s just that we can’t fathom the calculations that go into all of that.

והנה כשתעמיק עוד בענין תראה, שמלבד היות ענין זה נמשך על פי המשפט והדין כמ”ש, הנה הוא מיוסד עוד על פי המציאות הנברא.

וזה כי הנה כבר ביארנו שהמעשים הטובים מעצימים הם באדם בגופו ונפשו מציאות שלימות ומעלה, והפכם המעשים הרעים מעצימים בו מציאות עכירות וחסרון, והכל בשיעור מדוקדק כפי מה שהם המעשים לא פחות ולא יותר.

והנה האיש הצדיק שהרבה בעצמו שיעור גדול מן הזוהר והמעלה, אך מצד אחר מפני מיעוט מעשים רעים שעשה, הנה נמצא בו תערובת קצת חשך ועכירות, כל זמן שיש בו התערובת הזה איננו מוכן והגון לדביקות בו ית’. על כן גזר החסד העליון, שימצא לו צירוף, והוא כלל היסורין, ששם ית”ש בסגולתם להסיר מאותו האדם העכירות ההוא, וישאר זך ובהיר מוכן לטובה בזמן הראוי.

ואמנם כפי שיעור העכירות שקבל האדם במעשיו, כך יהיו היסורין שיצטרכו לצירופו. ואפשר שלא יהיה בכח היסורין הגופניים להסיר העכירות ממנו, ויצטרכו לו יסורין נפשיים. והכלל מתפרט לפרטים הרבה, אי אפשר לשכל האדם להקיף על כלם:

 

(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 2:2:4

2:2:4

Mercifully, there’s another means of achieving a place in the World to Come.  It comes down to a different way of being purified if you’ve been very wrongful but not wrongful enough to be annihilated [1], and it involves the realities of Gehenom [2].

Those individuals would be disciplined there [3] and then could be a part of the World to Come when the latter comes about. In fact, in the end there’d be very few who’d be annihilated — only the utterly wicked [4].

Thus there are three realms in which we’re judged: the World to Come. this world, and the Afterlife. But the particulars behind all of this are known only to G-d since He alone knows all of the details involved and the appropriate reactions to them [5]. All we know is that at bottom His intention is to allow for a community of perfected beings who’d be able to bask in His presence forever to come about, and that that requires all of these details.

Footnotes:

[1]         As we discovered in 2:2:3, the  utterly wrongful and evil will be annihilated in the end, while the somewhat or even very wrongful will not. But how then would the wrongfulness of the very or somewhat wrong be undone enough for them to be a part of the World to Come?

[2]         That is, by experiencing Gehenom the wrongful could experience the World to Come in the end.

There are two facets of the Afterlife (which we began to explore in note 4 to 2:2:3, and addressed in note 2 to 1:3:4 and note 2 to 1:3:11): “Gan Eden”, and “Gehenom”. Gan Eden (which translates as “The Garden of Eden” since it’s the spiritual counterpart of the earthly Garden depicted in Genesis) is where the soul delights in G-d. And Gehenom (which is usually taken to be “hell” but is actually different) is where the soul suffers the consequences of its misdeeds.

The point is that there’s yet another realm, aside from the world we know of, in which we’re to be judged, the Afterlife.

While punishments will be meted out in Gehenom, to be sure, understand of course that they’ll be spiritual in nature. After all, the body will have been buried in the ground by then, so whatever happens afterwards would be non-physical by definition. The sort of “pain” the soul suffers in Gehenom can perhaps best be depicted as an existential anguish and moral discomfort brought on by catching sight of oneself for the first time.

And while there will be reward in Gan Eden for the righteous that’s somewhat analogous to the World to Come experience of basking in G-d’s light, it’s still-and-all a far more dilute version of it.

Thus, the Afterlife is where the soul goes after death, and the World to Come is where body and soul re-unite after the Resurrection of the Dead (see 1:3:10-11).

See Ramchal’s remarks in Ma’amar HaIkkurim, “Gemul” and “B’Gan Eden v’Gehenom; Klallei Pitchei Chochma v’Da’at (10); Kina’at Hashem Tzevakot (2); Otzerot Ramchal, “Iyov” p. 185; and see Rambam’s introduction to Perek Chellek in Mishna Sanhedrin, Ra’avad’s introduction to Sefer Yetzirah, and Ramban’s Sha’ar HaGamul on Gehenom.

[3]         Notice that the term “being purified” is used above rather than “being disciplined” as used here. The point is that the discipline isn’t an act of revenge on G-d’s part or of a mean-spirited “settling of scores” so to speak. For G-d doesn’t benefit by one being disciplined — the individual himself does, in that he’s cleansed of his sins and thus becomes fit to be in G-d’s presence in the World to Come.

[4]         In point of fact, though he doesn’t say as much here (perhaps because Derech Hashem was intended to be a popular work with fewer fine distinction than others of his works) Ramchal indicates elsewhere that not a single one of us will be annihilated!

He says that, one way or another, we will all be cleansed well enough to be present in the World to Come. See his comments in Da’at Tevunot 38-44 and in Klach Pitchei Chochma 1-4. Also see Leshem Shevo v’Achalma, “Hakdamot v’Sha’arim” from 6:4 to the end of Ch. 9 there which cites numerous classical sources; and Sanhedrin 104b, as explained by Reb Tzadok HaCohen in his Likutei Ma’amarim (16).

[5]         For only He can read and hear out our hearts; only He can catch each and every nuance of good and bad in every choice we make; and He alone knows what will rectify each individual soul in the end.

(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”.

 

Preview of 2:2:4

There’s another means of rescuing the wrongful from annihilation and it involves the realities of Gehenom. Those individuals would be disciplined there and then they could then rewarded for their mostly good deeds in the World to Come. In the end there’d be very few who’d be annihilated in fact — only the truly wicked.

Thus there are three realms in which we’re judged: in the World to Come. in this world, and in the Afterlife. But the specifics of that are known to G-d alone since only He knows all of the details involved and the appropriate reactions. All we know is that at bottom His intention is to allow for a community of perfected beings who’d be able to bask in G-d’s presence forever, and that requires all of these details.

ד. ואמנם גזר עוד חסדו ית’ להרבות ההצלה לבני האדם, שימצא עוד מין צירוף אחר למי שיתכן בו הצירוף, דהיינו למי שגבר בו הרע תגבורת גדול, אך לא כל כך שיהיה משפטו להאבידו לגמרי, והוא כלל עונשים שהיותר רשום בהם הוא הדין בגהינם.

והכונה בו הוא להעניש החוטא כפי חטאיו, באופן שאחרי הענשו לא יהיה עוד חוב עליו על המעשה הרע שעשה, ויוכל אחרי כן לקבל הגמול האמיתי כפי שאר מעשיו הטובים. ונמצא שעל ידי זה, האובדים ממש יהיו מזער לא כביר, כי הנה לא יהיו אלא אותם שגבר בהם הרע שיעור כל כך גדול, שאי אפשר שימצא להם מקום בשום פנים להיות נשארים בגמול האמיתי ובהנאה הנצחיית.

והנה נמצא הדין מתחלק לשלשה חלקים, כי עיקרו הוא לעולם שאחר התחיה כמ”ש, אך המעשים הראוים ליגמל קודם לכן, הנה יש מהם שיוגמלו בעוה”ז ויש מהם שיוגמלו בעולם הנשמות. אכן משפטי הדין הזה בפרטיו איננו נודע כי אם לשופט האמיתי לבדו, כי הוא היודע אמתת מציאות המעשים ותולדותיהם בכל בחינותיהם ופרטיהם, ויודע מה מהם ראוי שיגמל בזמן אחד ובדרך אחד, ומה בזמן אחר ובדרך אחר.

ומה שידענו אנחנו, הוא רק כלל דרכי ההנהגה הזאת על מה היא מיוסדת ואל מה היא סובבת, והוא מה שביארנו שתכלית כל הענין הוא לקבץ קיבוץ שלמים שיהיו ראוים ליקבע לנצח בהתדבקותו ית’, וכדי שענין זה ישתלם כראוי, הוצרכו הענינים הקודמים האלה כלם, להכין ולהזמין הענין הזה התכליתי וכמ”ש:

(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 2:2:3

The class can be found here.

2:2:3

Given free will, people and their actions can either be wholly good or bad, or mostly good or bad [1]. But that fact would seem to thwart the existence of a realm in which all are good and perfect that we just spoke of. What, then, does G-d do to ensure such a realm? He judges our actions and beings in the different ways, as we’ll see.

Now in fact, it wouldn’t be fair of G-d to judge only some or even only most of a person’s actions and overlook the rest [2].Each and every thing we do, be it momentous or not, a part of the majority of our actions or not, will indeed be judged [3]

But G-d decided to proffer the reward or punishment for each deed both in this world and the World to Come, the minority, mostly out-of-character actions here, and the majority, mostly in-character actions there.

Now, since the latter is the realm in which one’s ultimate judgment is to be carried out [4]. The reward for one’s goodness in the World to Come will be a constant and eternal state of attachment onto G-d’s presence [5], while the punishment there will be the denial of that [6].

G-d made it so that one’s experience of either one of those realms of judgments would depend on the majority of his deeds. So, the few good things that the wrongful will have done in life and the few bad things that the righteous will have done will be judged in this world, and one will either succeed or suffer here accordingly [7].

That way, every action we take will in fact be judged, not just the majority of them, and the World to Come will be comprised of souls that would be utterly free of blemishes [8], and the souls of the righteous there could full bask then in G-d’s presence without the incidence of any wrongful elements which would have no claims to a place there.

Footnotes:

[1]         The latter is true of most of us, for in truth none of us is monolithic; each one has his or her good and bad side, or at least a relatively good or bad one. And there’s not a thing we do that isn’t a veritable cacophony of good and bad intentions and elements at the same time. Who among us, for example, hasn’t donated to charity to impress others? The charity has been helped to be sure, but we’re often still the callous and self-centered person we were when we started. And who hasn’t been insensitive to others when meaning to “help them grow”?

So it’s never quite right of anyone to claim to be wholly righteous or wrongful. Still and all, the great majority of us are mostly good with a smattering of self-serving badness, while some of us are mostly bad, and somewhat good.

[2]         That is, since most of us are an admixture of good and bad, how are we to be judged? If we’d only be judged for some — even for the majority — of our actions, then not everything we do would seem serious enough to be taken into consideration, which simply isn’t true. So, …

[3]         That’s so the wrongful can be rewarded for their few acts of goodness, and the righteous can be penalized for their few wrongful acts, proving that each action does in fact count. After all, wouldn’t it be logical to penalize the mostly-wrongful since they were wrongful over all, and wouldn’t it likewise be logical to reward the mostly-righteous since they were righteous over all?

See Messilat Yesharim Ch. 4.

[4]         That is, while one will be judged in this world as we’ll see below as well as in the Afterlife (see 1:3:4,11 above), one’s ultimate experience of reward or punishment will only come about in the World to Come. That’s because of the nature of the reward or punishment that comes about there, as we’ll now see.

[5]         Indeed, can there be a better reward than that?

[6]         And indeed, can there be a harsher punishment than that?

[7]         That way one will have been cleansed of his few bad deeds if he’d been predominately good in life and he’ll be found to be wholly righteous in the end accordingly. And conversely, one’s few good deeds will have been recompensed for if he’d been predominately bad in life, and he’ll be found to be wholly wrongful in the end accordingly.

This solution touches upon an ancient point of contention that still irks at many people: why do the good oftentimes suffer in life and the wrongful prosper? We’d expect truly righteous people to be blessed and to enjoy life’s bounties as much as we’d expect wrongdoers to suffer right out. After all, isn’t G-d just, and wouldn’t that be the fairest of all circumstances?

This will explored in 2:2:5 and 2:3:8 below and elsewhere in Ramchal’s works.

[8]         By then.

 

(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”.