Category Archives: Hashkapha

Preview of 2:4:3

Preview of Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:4:3

The root souls we’d spoken of above were originally to have regained Adam and Eve’s spiritual stature, and their offshoots were to follow in their wake, and all of humanity was to have remained on that exalted plane forever.

But there was to have been a fixed period in antiquity for this to have happened by: from the time of Adam and Eve themselves up to the time of the destruction of the Tower of Babel.

There were indeed people at that time who strove for personal perfection. They and others of their ilk could very well have become roots souls to their particular offshoots. But none of those individuals did. Only Abraham, the father of the Jewish Nation, did.

There subsequently came to be 70 primal nations in all, and each plays its own particular role in the larger scheme while yet remaining on the level of humankind in its fallen state. We’re thus still in the midst of the era of offshoots.

        ג והנה ראתה החכמה העליונה היות ראוי שזה ההשתדלות יתחלק לשרשיי וענפיי. פירוש – שיהיה בתחלה זמן ההשתדלות לשרשים שבתולדות, ואחר כך לענפים שבהם. והיינו כי המין האנושי כלו היה צריך עדיין שיקבע ענינו כראוי, ויתוקן מן הקלקולים שנהיו בו. ולפי סדר ההדרגה, הנה היה ראוי שיוקבעו בראשונה, שרשיהם וראשיהם של תולדות האדם, לעמוד במדריגה מתוקנת, ויעמדו בה הם וענפיהם, כי הענפים ימשכו תמיד אחר השרש.

והנה הגביל הזמן להשתדלות השרשי הזה, שמי שיזכה מכלל הנמצאים באותם הזמנים שהיה שער זה נפתח והיה בידם להגיע לזה הענין ויכין את עצמו כראוי, יקבע לשרש אחד טוב ויקר, מוכן למעלה הרמה, הראויה למי שהוא אדם במצב הטוב ולא אדם במצב המקולקל. וכן ישיג שיותן לו להוציא תולדותיו הראוים לו, כלם בבחינתו, פירוש – באותה המדריגה והמצב שכבר השיג הוא בשרשיותו.

והיה הזמן הזה מאדה”ר עד זמן הפלגה. והנה כל אותו הזמן לא חדלו צדיקים דורשים האמת לרבים, כגון, חנוך מתושלח שם ועבר, ומזהירים אותם שיתקנו את עצמם. וכיון שנתמלא סאתם של הבריות, בזמן הפלגה, שפט במדת משפטו ית’ היות ראוי שיגמר זמן ההשתדלות השרשיי, ויהיה קצם של הדברים, שיקבע מה שראוי ליקבע בבחינת השרשים, לפי מה שכבר נתגלגל ונהיה עד עת הקץ ההוא.

ואז השגיח ית”ש על כל בני האדם, וראה כל המדריגות שהיה ראוי שיקבעו בם האנשים ההם כפי מעשיהם, וקבעם בם בבחינתם השרשיית כמ”ש. והנה כפי מה שהונחו הם, כן נגזר עליהם שיהיו מוציאים התולדות, כפי מה שכבר שוער שהיה ראוי לשרש ההוא. ונמצאו כלם מינים קבועים בעולם, כל אחד בחוקו וטבעו, ככל שאר המינים שבבריות, וניתן להם להוציא תולדותיהם בחקם ובחינתם ככל שאר המינים.

ואמנם נמצאו כלם לפי המשפט העליון, ראוים לישאר במדריגת האנושית השפלה שהגיעו לה אדה”ר ותולדותיו מפני החטא, ולא גבוהים מזה כלל. ואברהם לבדו נבחר במעשיו ונתעלה, ונקבע להיות אילן מעולה ויקר, כפי מציאות האנושית במדריגתו העליונה, וניתן לו להוציא ענפיו כפי חקו.

ואז נתחלק העולם לע’ אומות, כל אחד מהם במדריגה ידועה, אבל כלם בבחינה האנושיות בשפלותו, וישראל בבחינת האנושיות בעילויו.

והנה אחר הענין הזה נסתם שער השרשים, והתחיל הגלגול וההנהגה בענפים, כל אחד לפי ענינו. ונמצא שאע”פ שלכאורה נראה ענינינו עתה וענין הקודמים שוה, באמת איננו כך. אלא עד הפלגה היה הזמן שרשי האנושיות, ונתגלגלו הדברים בבחינה זו. וכשהגיע קץ זמן זה, נקבע הדבר כפי המשפט, והתחיל זמן אחר שהוא זמן הענפים, שעודנו בו עתה:

 (c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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Rabbi Feldman’s new annotated translation of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag’s “Introduction to the Zohar” is available as “The Kabbalah of Self” on Kindle here. His annotated translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here and his annotated translation of Rabbeinu Yonah’s “The Gates of Repentance” is available here.

He 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 torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Derech Hashem 2:4:2

Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:4:2

Adam and Eve — who were everyone’s ancestors, of course 1 — were on a far greater spiritual level than any one of us, as we’d already explained 2. They deserved great homage and eternal life, and had they not sinned they’d have achieved greater and greater heights 3.

They’d then have had as many descendants as G-d saw fit for there to be, and they’d have all delighted in His benevolence along with Adam and Eve. It’s just that those descendants were to be comprised of different levels in that some would have been primary and others secondary, “roots” and “branches” 4.

But Adam and Eve descended far downward when they sinned and became sullied with all sorts of murkiness and impurity, as we’d also pointed out 5. As a consequence their descendants – we ourselves — slid to a level that almost precluded them from reaching the exalted and immortal level originally due them.

That’s not to say that we’re incapable of ascending higher than the level we’d sunk to, or that Adam and Eve were denied the chance to return to their original level even though they’d descended so. Humanity has been granted the freedom to choose to ascend to a very great level. It’s just that there’s a time limit within which we can do that, not unlike the time limit each one of us has in this world to rectify ourselves and attain a place in the World to Come 6; after all, everything that requires effort has a time limit.

Footnotes:

1                This point will matter later on when it’s explained why the Jewish Nation alone was chosen.

2                See 1:3:6-8.

Ramchal depicts them in Adir Bamarom (p. 29) as being so pure at first that they could have single-handedly finished off the order of perfection that G-d set in motion. All wrong would have been turned to right there and then, as will eventually happen, and all of creation would have been utterly purified.

3                See 1:3:13 for our connection to that, and Da’at Tevunot 40, 126 for more about their sin.

4                I.e., major family lines and minor ones.

5                See 1:3:8 and 1:4:2.

6                See 1:3:3.

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————-

Rabbi Feldman’s new annotated translation of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag’s “Introduction to the Zohar” is available as “The Kabbalah of Self” on Kindle here. His annotated translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here and his annotated translation of Rabbeinu Yonah’s “The Gates of Repentance” is available here.

He 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 torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Preview of 2:4:2

Preview of Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:4:2

Adam and Eve – who were all of our ancestors — were on a far greater spiritual level than we are. They deserved great homage and eternal life, and had they not sinned they’d have achieved even greater heights.

They’d have had many descendants who would have delighted in G-d’s benevolence along with them. And those descendants would have been comprised of different levels: primary and secondary levels, like “roots” and “branches”.

But Adam and Eve descended very far when they sinned and became sullied. As a consequence their descendants were almost precluded from reaching the exalted level originally due them. But that’s not to say that we’re incapable of ascending higher, or that Adam and Eve were denied the chance to return to their original level. Humanity has been granted the freedom to choose to ascend to a very great level. It’s just that there’s a time limit to that.

ב אדם הראשון קודם חטאו היה במצב עליון מאד ממה שהוא האדם עתה, וכבר ביארנו ענין זה (בחלק א’ פרק ג’). ומדריגת האנושיות לפי המצב ההוא היתה מדריגה נכבדת מאד, ראויה למעלה רמה נצחיית כמו”ש. ואלו לא היה חוטא, היה משתלם ומתעלה עוד עילוי על עילוי. והנה באותו המצב הטוב היה לו להוליד תולדות, מספר משוער מחכמתו ית’, על פי אמתת מה שראוי לשלימות הנהנים בטובו ית’, והיו כלם נהנים עמו בטוב ההוא.

ואמנם התולדות האלה שהיה ראוי שיוליד, נגזרו ושוערו מלפניו ית’ משוערים בהדרגות מיוחדות, פירוש שיהיה בהם ראשיים ונטפלים, שרשים וענפים, נמשכים זה אחר זה בסדר מיוחד כאילנות וענפיהם ומספר האילנות ומספר הענפים הכל משוער בתכלית הדקדוק

והנה בחטאו ירד מאד ממדריגתו, ונכלל מן החשך והעכירות שיעור גדול וכמש”ל. וכלל המין האנושי ירד ממדריגתו ועמד במדרגה שפלה מאד, בלתי ראויה למעלה הרמה הנצחיית שהתעתד לה בראשונה, ולא נשאר מזומן ומוכן אלא למדריגה פחותה ממנה פחיתות רב, ובבחינה זאת הוליד תולדות בעולם, כלם במדרגה השפלה הזאת שזכרנו.

ואמנם אעפ”כ לא חדל מהמצא בכלל מדריגת המין האנושי מצד שרשו האמיתי, בחינה עליונה מן הבחינה שהיה המין הזה אז בזמן קלקולו. ולא נדחה אדה”ר לגמרי שלא יוכל לשוב אל המדריגה העליונה, אבל נמצא בפועל במדריגה השפלה ובבחינה כחניות אל המדריגה העליונה. והנה נתן האדון ב”ה לפני התולדות ההם שנמצאו באותו הזמן, את הבחירה, שיתחזקו וישתדלו להתעלות מן המדריגה השפלה ולשים עצמם במדריגה העליונה. והניח להם זמן לדבר, כמו ששיערה החכמה העליונה היותו נאות להשתדלות הזה, ועל דרך מה שמנחת עתה לנו, לשנהיה משיגים השלימות והמדריגה בקיבוץ בני העוה”ב כמש”ל. כי הנה כל מה שהוא השתדלות צריך שיהיה לו גבול:

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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Rabbi Feldman’s new annotated translation of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag’s “Introduction to the Zohar” is available as “The Kabbalah of Self” on Kindle here. His annotated translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here and his annotated translation of Rabbeinu Yonah’s “The Gates of Repentance” is available here.

He 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 torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Derech Hashem 2:4:1

Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:4:1

One of the most profoundly significant ways G-d interacts with humanity is by differentiating between ourselves, the Jews, and other people 1.

Now, we’re all the same on the surface, of course 2, yet when it comes to the concerns of the Torah our people is set apart from all others 3. We’ll do what we can here to explain this as best as we can and to show how we’re all alike and how we’re different.

Footnotes:

 1                That is, while the previous chapter dwelt on how G-d interfaces with individuals, this one will focus in on how G-d interacts with the Jewish Nation as a whole, His “chosen people” (see Deuteronomy 7:6), His “kingdom of priests and holy nation” (Exodus 9:16), as opposed to how He relates to others.

2             Aside from being comprised of the same physical components, we have deeper connections, too: all of us have a spiritual side, we’re all given free will, we all have the potential to be good or bad, etc.

3                 When Shakespeare’s famous Jewish character, Shylock, protested anti-Jewish discrimination by intoning, “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?” (“Merchant of Venus” Act 3, Scene 1) his point was that we Jews are just like other people in many, many ways, and that we’re not to be feared or loathed. But in a certain sense, Shylock was off-the-mark (for he was mouthing Shakespeare’s admirable indictment against anti-Semitism and wasn’t addressing the themes we’ll be dwelling upon here.)

For despite all appearances — despite the fact that most people would be hard pressed to pick a Jew out in a crowd with any certainty (unless someone was wearing the tell-tale outward signs of a Jew) — we Jews are different. Take away one fold after another, one layer after another of physical, emotional, and social likeness to others, and somehow all that gives way to a different breed.

For like every other one, the Jewish Nation has its unique national genius which sets it apart from the others. The point is though that our national genius touches on a very special phenomenon: the ability to draw close to G-d through His Torah. For we Jews can draw close to Him in ways no one else can, thanks to the Torah. The fact that we might be attractive, intelligent, gifted, and the like isn’t what sets us apart: it’s that all-important potential to draw close to G-d that way.

Many of us — Jew and non-Jew — will squirm at the idea and grow ill at ease, since it’s a decidedly un-modern one that’s awash in political incorrectness. But be that as it may, the idea isn’t our own; it’s stated outright in the Torah.

We’ll thus spend time exploring the implications of our distinctiveness, including the ideas that every other nation could have wound up being “the Jewish Nation” had things worked out differently in antiquity; the idea that Abraham alone deserved to be the root of the Jewish Nation, and no one else; the fact that other nations had been given a “second chance” later on but didn’t take advantage of it; that other peoples thus function differently on a cosmic level; and more.

At bottom there’s no reason to grow arrogant at our standing. It has nothing to do with us per se and everything to do with our G-d-given task in this world.

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————-

Rabbi Feldman’s new annotated translation of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag’s “Introduction to the Zohar” is available as “The Kabbalah of Self” on Kindle here. His annotated translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here and his annotated translation of Rabbeinu Yonah’s “The Gates of Repentance” is available here.

He 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 torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Preview of 2:4:1

Preview of Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:4:1 “Israel and the Other Nations”

One of the most profoundly vexing ways G-d displays His interactions with humanity is by differentiating between ourselves and other people.

We’re all the same on the surface, of course, but somehow our people is set apart from all others. We’ll do what we can here to explain this.

א. מן הענינים העמוקים שבהנהגתו ית’ הוא ענין ישראל ואומות העולם, שמצד טבע האנושי נראה היותם שוים באמת, ומצד עניני התורה הם שונים שינוי גדול ונבדלים כמינים מתחלפים לגמרי. והנה עתה נבאר בענין זה ביאור מספיק, ונפרש מה שבו מתדמים זה לזה, ומה שבו מתחלפים זה מזה:

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————-

Rabbi Feldman’s new annotated translation of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag’s “Introduction to the Zohar” is available as “The Kabbalah of Self” on Kindle here. His annotated translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here and his annotated translation of Rabbeinu Yonah’s “The Gates of Repentance” is available here.

He 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 torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Derech Hashem 2:3:12

Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:3:12

It’s important to know that two sorts of things occur to us, overall: the things that function as “means” 1 and others that function as “ends” 2. Things function as “ends” when they’re brought on by one of the phenomena cited above in this chapter 3, and they’re “means” when they only occur to bring on something or another that you’ll experience 4.

This principle is best illustrated by the verse that reads, “I will thank you, G-d, for being angry with me” (Isaiah 12:1) 5. Our sages explained that it refers to those times when things that seemed to have been bad at first proved to be good in the end — as when, for example, your cow breaks its leg on the way somewhere yet you uncover a buried treasure there (see Breishit Rabbah 42:1), or when you missed your boat and find out that it sunk at sea (see Niddah 31a) 6.

And while all sorts of bad and good things could come about either for your sake or for someone else’s, nonetheless at bottom the point is that it’s G-d’s will that determines just whom it’s going to happen to and the circumstances under which they’ll come about, and for the ultimately very best of reasons 7.

Footnotes:

1                To an end, but are themselves just seemingly incidental.

2                Unto themselves, and are thus purposeful.

3                That is, when they occur with the goal of testing our spiritual mettle.

4                That is, when they occur without a specific goal in mind.

But let’s dwell on a couple of things now, for nearly everything in this entry is confusing.

For one thing, why are the things brought on by the circumstances cited earlier on said to be ends unto themselves? Aren’t they in fact means to an end – to our achieving spiritual growth? (See 2:3:1 where it’s pointed out that we’re all placed in various circumstances to test our mettle.)

5                This verse doesn’t seem to bolster the points made above. Ramchal cites it elsewhere in his writings to allude to a specific idea which we’ll expand upon below, but why is it here?

6                This entire paragraph doesn’t seem to follow what’s been said until now. What are we to understand from it?

7                This paragraph is also off-kilter too, somehow. What’s its point?

Let’s try to explain all of this now, as Ramchal’s points here are erudite and not at all obvious.

Ramchal cites the verse from Isaiah — “I will thank you, G-d, for being angry with me” — in a number of his works (see for example Da’at Tevunot 118, 128 and 155, Clallim Rishonim 7, Iggerot Pitchei Chochma v’Da’at p. 404 and elsewhere) for a specific and important point. For while the verse clearly has Messianic implications in its context (especially in light of the chapter in Isaiah that precedes it), Ramchal understands it to also refer to that Post-Messianic Age — when G-d’s very presence and sovereignty will be manifest, and when all bad will be overturned to good.

As such, the verse should be understood to read as follows: “I will (eventually) thank you, G-d, for having been angry with me” in the past and having had bad things come my way. Because I’ll come to recognize that like my apparent bad fortune when my cow broke its leg, when I missed my boat — all of the bad I’ve gone through will prove to be fortunate in the end.

“And” — to quote from the final paragraph above — “while all sorts of bad (at-first) but (ultimately) good things could come about …, at bottom, … it’s G-d’s will that determines just whom it’s going to happen to and the circumstances under which they’ll come about… for the ultimately very best of reasons” – which is, to reveal His presence and turn all of bad into goodness. (See 2:3:1 for the idea that “G-d distributed these challenges among us all as a part of His plans for us”; and 2:3:4 where it’s said that “G-d brings all of this about … so as to ultimately benefit humankind”.)

For it will ultimately be proven then that nothing is incidental – everything is purposeful (see Adir Bamarom p. 248, Klach Pitchei Chochma 49 [in the comments]) and meant for the end we just indicated, even if we don’t experience that just yet.

Thus, the ultimate point here is that everything is part of G-d’s plan to have us and the universe at large reach perfection, to have everything resolve itself in the end, and for us to honestly say, “I thank you, G-d, for (once) being angry with me” (Isaiah 12:1).

 

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————

Rabbi Feldman’s new annotated translation of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag’s “Introduction to the Zohar” is available as “The Kabbalah of Self” on Kindle here. His annotated translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here and his annotated translation of Rabbeinu Yonah’s “The Gates of Repentance” is available here.

He 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 torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Preview of 2:3:12

Preview of Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:3:12

Two sorts of things happen to us overall: circumstantial and intentional ones. Things are “intentional” when they happen because of one of the factors cited earlier in this chapter, and they’re “circumstantial” when they only occur to bring something else about.

And so while one’s fortune might seem to be bad for one reason or another, it could prove to be good. Indeed, purposeful events could come about either for your sake or for others’. Nonetheless, at bottom, it’s G-d’s will that determines whom these things are to occur to and under what circumstances, and for the best of all reasons.

יב ואולם צריך שתדע, שהמקרים הקורים לבני האדם יש בהם שני מינים, האחד – מקרים תכליתיים, והשני – אמצעיים.

פירוש – תכליתיים, מקרים שיהיו נגזרים על האדם להיותם ראוים לו מצד אחת מהסבות שזכרנו למעלה. ואמצעיים, מקרים שיקרו לו כדי שעל ידם יגיע לו מקרה אחר שראוי לו.

והוא כענין, אודך ה’ כי אנפת בי, שפירשו ז”ל, שנשברה רגל פרתו ונפלה ומצא סימא תחתיה. או שימלט ממקרה שראוי שלא יגיע לו, כגון שנתעכב ולא הלך בספינה שהיה רוצה לילך, וטבעה הספינה בים. וגם אמצעיים אלה אפשר שיהיו לצורך עצמו של האדם שיקרו לו, ואפשר שיהיו לצורך זולתו, לשתבא על ידי זה טובה או רעה לזולתו. ואמנם החכמה העליונה כמו שתשער הענינים שראוי שיגיעו לאדם, תשער גם כן האמצעיים שעל ידם יגיעו לו, עד שימצא הכל נגזר בתכלית הדקדוק למה שהוא היותר טוב באמת:

 (c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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Rabbi Feldman’s new annotated translation of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag’s “Introduction to the Zohar” is available as “The Kabbalah of Self” on Kindle here. His annotated translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here and his annotated translation of Rabbeinu Yonah’s “The Gates of Repentance” is available here.

He 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 torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Derech Hashem 2:3:11

Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:3:11

Thus we find that all sorts of things contribute to our standing in the world, be they beneficial or harmful. The point isn’t that everything that happens is a direct result of one or another of the causes we’d cited throughout this chapter, but rather that each contributes in one way or another. And that G-d wisely evaluates absolutely everything 1 to bring on the great rectification 2.

It’s actually impossible for each specific cause to bring on the exact same effect as there are times when they cancel each other out. As when you may deserve to be wealthy thanks to your ancestors’ merits while your own deeds would have you be poor and the overarching agenda would suggest either one or the other 3. And the same can be true when it comes to your own actions, as one thing you did could have earned you a reward while another could cancel it out.

The point is that G-d’s wisdom weighs and balances everything to bring on what’s best and sees to it that one factor results in one thing and another in another, and that everything that happens is in some way or another a consequence of one or another of these factors. We have no way of knowing the specific details involved of course, but our knowing the general principles 4 is nonetheless a great advantage 5.

Footnotes:

1                That is, each cause and effect, and everything else.

2                … as that is His ultimate goal; our particular lives are secondary to that. See 2:3:1 for an allusion to that.

3                Here we have a conflict between one determinant in your life versus another, and the overarching universal aim. Only G-d Almighty could balance all that and determine which will play itself out in your own life.

4                That we’d cited.

5                See the second section of Ramchal’s Introduction above and our note 2 there for more on general principles. And wee Da’at Tevunot 164 and Clallim Rishonim 34 for other insights.

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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Rabbi Feldman’s new annotated translation of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag’s “Introduction to the Zohar” is available as “The Kabbalah of Self” on Kindle here. His annotated translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here and his annotated translation of Rabbeinu Yonah’s “The Gates of Repentance” is available here.

He 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 torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Preview of 2:3:11

Preview of Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:3:11

Thus, all sorts of things contribute to our standing. Not everything that happens is a direct outcome of the causes cited, but each contributes to our situation. And knowing what will bring on the great rectification of creation, G-d evaluates everything to bring it about.

There are times when the causes actually cancel each other out. You may for example deserve to be wealthy thanks to your ancestors’ merits while your own deeds would have you deserve to be poor, and the overarching agenda would suggest you be either. And the same can be true when it comes to your own actions, as one thing you did could have earned you a reward while another could cancel that out.

The point is that G-d’s wisdom weighs everything and sees to it that one factor results in one thing, and another in another, and that everything that happens is a consequence of one or more of these factors. We have no way of knowing the details, but our knowing the general principles is nonetheless a great insight.

יא.  נמצאו לפי כל מה שביארנו, סבות שונות ומתחלפות למקרי בני האדם בעוה”ז, אם לטוב ואם למוטב. ואמנם אין הענין שכל מקרה שיקרה ימשך מכל הסבות האלה, אבל הענין הוא, שמכל אלה הסבות ימשכו מקרים לבני האדם בעולם, וימצאו מקרים נמשכים מסבה אחת, ואחרים מסבה אחרת.

ואמנם החכמה העליונה היודעת ומשקפת תמיד על כל מה שהוא נאות לתיקון כלל הבריאה, הנה היא שוקלת בעומק עצתה כל הדברים ביחד, ועל פי זה מנהגת את העולם בכל פרטיו.

כי אולם אי אפשר לכל הסבות האלה, שיולידו תולדותיהם תמיד בשוה, כי פעמים רבות אפשר לאחת שתכחיש את חברתה. כי הנה דרך משל, אפשר שלפי זכות האבות יגיע לאדם אחד עושר, ולפי מעשיו עוני, ולפי החילוק הכללי עושר או עוני. ואפילו לפי המעשים עצמם, כבר יעשה איש מעשה אחד, יהיה הדין בו שתבא לו טובה אחת, ומעשה אחר, יהיה הדין בו שתחסר לו הטובה ההיא.

ואולם החכמה העליונה שוקלת ומכרעת את הכל על הצד היותר טוב, ומזמנת לכל איש ואיש ענינים ממין אחד וענינים ממין אחר, פירוש – ענינים נמשכים אחר אחת הסבות, וענינים נמשכים אחר סבה אחרת, אמנם לא יקרה מקרה לאדם שלא יהיה כפי אחת מן הסבות שזכרנו. והפרטים אי אפשר לאדם שידעם כלם, וכבר ידענו הרבה כשידענו כללי הענינים למיניהם וכמ”ש:

(c) 2017 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 2:3:10

Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:3:10

We’d seen before that G-d grants us various means of achieving perfection 1 and we’ll find that there’s yet another one 2. We’re taught that we’re incarnated again and again, and that that enables us to either rectify things in this life that we’d damaged in previous ones, or to perfect things now that we hadn’t been able to before 3.

The individual soul 4 will be judged at the end of all of these incarnations based on everything that happened to it in the course of them and on its standings in them 5.  In any event, your current spiritual or material successes or failures may thus be a consequence of what happened to you in past lives.

It’s important to know that G-d’s judgments about your standing in this life are utterly precise and that He takes all exigencies into account 6. And He’ll see to it that in the World to Come, which is where your ultimate standing will manifest itself, you’ll bear no blemish that wasn’t your own doing but was a consequence of the situation G-d placed you in and the burden you had to bear then.

Needless to say, very many of your past-life events might dispose G-d to arrange one thing or another to happen to you in your present one, but at bottom the operative principle is always that G-d’s “works are perfect and all of His ways are just” (Deuteronomy 32:4) 7. It’s just that we haven’t the wherewithal to know what to take into account when it comes to all of that, yet what we do know is that they’re among all of the other things that go into determining your circumstances in life and that lead to your eventual perfection.

Footnotes:

1                See 2:2:4 and 2:3:8.

2             … which also helps to explain our spiritual or material successes failures, as we’ll soon see.

3                Ramchal’s point is that we thus all have numerous chances to better ourselves in the course of different lives, and that what you would have succeeded at on a spiritual level in a previous life might explain your spiritual or material success here in this one just as what you’d failed at then could explain your current failings.

Many don’t realize that reincarnation is a factor in the Jewish Tradition, but it certainly is. We grant you that Judaism doesn’t tout it as much as others do, but that’s probably because there’s the concern that if you depend on being reincarnated you might not exert yourself in the here and now to grow spiritually, thinking that you can always “come back and try again”, so to speak. In any event, one’s actions in past lives certainly help explain some seemingly unjust and otherwise inexplicable things like the suffering of the young and the righteous, etc. in this one.

Ramchal cited reincarnation a number of times in his works. He offered the very fascinating idea that each one of us is comprised of five soul-components termed nephesh, ruach, neshama, chaya, and yechida, and that each one of them are themselves comprised of a nephesh, ruach, neshama, chaya, and yechida of their own, etc. His point is that any one of those elements might have to be reincarnated themselves depending on circumstances, which opens our eyes to the complexity of factors that go to explain our situation in this life (Ma’amar HaChochma).

He indicates that one is only given three chances to be reincarnated and no more, since one shouldn’t be given a chance to fail yet again, though others say we’re given seven chances or as many as needed (Pitchei Chochma v’Da’at 119-123). And see Clallot HaIlan HaKodesh 10:3 and Peirush al Ma’amar HaZohar Reish Mishpatim (found in Ginzei Ramchal p . 272) for the role that reincarnation plays in the grand design aside from one’s own personal growth.

And for other traditional discussions of reincarnation see Zohar 1:94a, 186b, 3:215a; Tikkunei Zohar 22b, 76b, etc. Also see Sefer HaBahir 195, Ramban’s Sha’ar HaGemul, and Ari’s Sha’ar HaGilgullim.

4                I.e., you, who will have lived again and again.

5                That’s to say that reincarnation isn’t necessarily a gift: one could lower his standing in one life or another as well as raise it, and you’ll be judged for the lot of them.

6                I.e., those of your past lives and your current one.

7                I.e., G-d’s judgments are perfectly attuned to everything, and He’s utterly fair.

(c) 2016 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”.