Category Archives: Jewish Thought

Derech Hashem 2:4:7

Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:4:7

Their righteous earn a place in the world to come, too 1. But their experience there would be unlike our own 2.

They’ll serve a supplementary and subservient role there, though, like clothing to a body 3. As that is all they could ever hope for, given the phenomena we’d cited above 4.

Footnotes: 

1                     See Sanhedrin 105a, Hilchot Teshuva 3:3; though also see Zohar Chadash 78d and T.Y. Berachot 9a.

A “righteous gentile” is defined classically as a non-Jew who accepts the seven Noachite Mitzvahs (see 2:4:6) with certain conditions (see Hilchot Malchim 8:11). In any event, this underscores the idea that an individual can be judged for his own actions, rather than one of a multitude of descendants of a particular “branch”.

2                     Thanks to the merits of our ancestors and to the eternal covenant that G-d and we entered into. See more about this in Avodat Hakodesh 2:41, Reishit Chochma Yirah” 13, and in a number of other traditional sources.

3                     This arresting image can either be off-putting (a piece of clothing rather a full human being) or perhaps even flattering (along the lines of “clothing makes the man”), but Ramchal has a wholly unexpected take on it in Adir Bamarom. He speaks there (p. 609) of humankind having been born with souls and clothing at first, and that the latter had to be removed once Adam and Eve sinned and to be “converted” (i.e., returned to their native purity by becoming a part of the Jewish Nation), which would ultimately happen (see p. 353 there) and be the ultimate act of rectification.

4                     That is, given our people’s role in the wake of Adam and Eve’s sin and in the course of G-d’s intentions for humanity.

(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 2:4:7

Preview of Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:4:7

Their righteous earn a place in the world to come, too. But it will be unlike our own. They’ll serve a subservient role there, like clothing to a body. As that is all they could ever hope for.

ז.  ואולם לעוה”ב לא תמצאן אומות זולת ישראל, ולנפש חסידי אומות העולם ינתן מציאות בבחינה נוספת ונספחת על ישראל עצמם, ונטפלים להם כלבוש הנטפל לאדם, ובבחינה זו יגיע להם מה שיגיע מן הטוב, ואין בחקם שישיגו יותר מזה כלל:

(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 2:4:6

Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:4:6

That’s not to say that non-Jews are dispensable, though, G-d forbid. No one is. It’s just that they were assigned a lesser role, but only as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s error 1. Still and all, having been created in the image of G-d 2, they too have souls, though unlike our own 3. And they too were bestowed with some mitzvahs that provide them spiritual and material well-being as well, which are known as the “Seven Noachite Mitzvahs” 4.

In any event, the way things would have been had Adam and Eve not sinned, and the way things are now that they did sin was all set in place from the first 5. As such, their relative status and assignment are like all other instances of harm and retribution that come about as a consequence of one thing or another, as our sages point out 6.

Footnotes:

1           See Adir Bamarom p. 469.

2                See Pirkei Avot 3:14.

3                Zohar 47a.

4                See Genesis 2:24, 9:37, Sanhedrin 56b, and M.T. Hilchot Melachim 9:1. Also see Adir Bamarom p. 380 and Klach Pitchei Chochma 30.

The seven mitzvahs include bans against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, incest and related sexual deviations, robbery, and against eating flesh torn from a live animal; the seventh mitzvah is the imperative to establish a judicial system to enforce the other six.

5                This accentuates the point that Adam and Eve were indeed free to choose to sin or not, since “alternative universes” were arranged from the first to accommodate either reality.

6                Avodah Zarah 5a.

 

(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 2:4:6

Preview of Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:4:6

Those others aren’t dispensable, though; they were simply assigned a lesser role as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s error. And they too have souls and were likewise bestowed with mitzvahs which are known as the seven “Noachite Laws”.

In any event, the way things would have been had Adam and Eve not sinned and the reverse was all set in place from the first. And the circumstances of those others are like all other instances of retribution for actions taken.

ו. ואולם לא היתה הגזירה להאביד את האומות האלה, אבל היתה הגזירה שישארו במדריגה השפלה שזכרנו, והוא מין אנושיות שהיה ראוי שלא ימצא אלו לא חטא אדה”ר, והוא בחטאו גרם לו שימצא.

ואמנם כיון שיש בהם בחי’ אנושיות, אע”פ שהיא שפלה, רצה הקב”ה שיהיה להם מעין מה שראוי לאנושיות האמיתי, והיינו שיהיה להם נשמה כעין נשמות בני ישראל, אע”פ שאין מדריגתה מדריגת נשמות ישראל אלא שפלה מהם הרבה. ויהיה להם מצות, יקנו בהם הצלחה גופיית ונפשיית גם כן כפי מה שראוי לבחינתם, והם מצות בני נח.

והנה מתחלת הבריאה נזמנו כל הדברים להיותם כך אם יהיה שיחטא אדם, וכמו שנבראו כל שאר ההיזקים והעונשים על התנאי, וכמאמרם ז”ל:

(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 2:4:5

Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:4:5

Now, just as all of Adam and Eve’s descendants were originally divided into source “trees” with “branches”, each subsequent “tree” was able to yield its own “branches” which could then produce their own off-springs 1.

Abraham’s “branches” 2 could only number 600,000, which is the number of Jews who left Egypt, received the Torah at Mount Sinai 3, and inherited the Land of Israel 4, who thus comprised the essential Jewish Nation. All Jews who descended from them are considered their “branches” and off-spring.

The other nations were given one more opportunity to achieve their spiritual potential — when the Torah was given to us and they, too, were offered it 5. Had they in fact accepted it, they’d have been given the same spiritual potential as the Jewish people, but they declined it. Their fate was then sealed and the gate 6 was permanently closed 7. Still and all as we said, any individual non-Jew can decide to attach him- or herself onto Abraham’s “tree” 8.

Footnotes:

1                Without restriction.

2                On the other hand.

3                Ramchal spoke of the centrality of the revelation at Mount Sinai in a number of his works. See for example Da’at Tevunot 78, 159, Tikkunim Chadashim 21, 33, 42, and Klach Pitchei Chochma 30.

4                He also spoke of the centrality of the Land of Israel in several of his works. See for example Adir Bamarom p. 235; also see Ma’amar Hachochma (Tephillat Rosh Hashanah) for the relationship between it and the Jewish Nation.

5                See Avoda Zara 2b.

6                Of access to that special level.

7                See 2:4:2 where it’s said that “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”.

8                That’s to say that the Jewish Nation was purposely set up from the start to be a small, “tight” corps of agents of change and rectification which can take on new members but will never be large.

(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 2:4:5

Preview of Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:4:5

Just as Adam and Eve’s descendants were divided into “trees” and “branches”, each subsequent “tree” was able to yield its own “branches” which could then produce their own off-springs.

But Abraham’s “branches” could only number 600,000, which was the number of Jews who left Egypt, received the Torah, and inherited the Land of Israel, who thus comprised the essential Jewish people. All Jews are their “branches” and offspring.

The other nations were offered the Torah and had they accepted it they’d have been given the same potential as the Jewish people, but they declined the offer. Their fate was then sealed, though an individual non-Jew can always decide to attach himself onto Abraham’s “tree”.

ה.  וצריך שתדע שכמו שכלל תולדות האדם מתחלק לאילנות שרשיים וענפיהם עמהם כמ”ש, כן כל אילן ואילן בפני עצמו, יבחנו בו הענפים הראשיים, שמהם נמשכים ומתפרטים כל שאר הפרטים. ואמנם ענפי אילנו של אברהם אבינו ע”ה, הכוללים, הנה הם עד ששים רבוא, שהם אותם שיצאו ממצרים ונעשית מהם האומה הישראלית, ולהם נחלקה ארץ ישראל. וכל הבאים אחריהם, נחשבים פרטים לתולדות הכוללים האלה. והנה לאלה ניתנה התורה, ואז נקרא שעמד אילן זה על פרקו. ואולם חסד גדול עשה הקב”ה עם כל האומות, שתלה דינם עוד עד זמן מתן התורה, והחזיר התורה על כלם שיקבלוה, ואם היו מקבלים אותה, עדיין היה אפשר להם שיתעלו ממדריגתם השפלה. וכיון שלא רצו, אז נגמר דינם לגמרי, ונסתם השער בפניהם סיתום שאין לו פתיחה. ואך זה נשאר לכל איש ואיש מן הענפים בפרטיהם, שיתגייר בעצמו ויכנם בבחירתו תחת אילנו של אברהם אבינו:

(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 2:4:4

Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:4:4

But G-d graciously saw to it that others could leave their root nation and join the family of Abraham if they’d care to 1. For G-d had made Abraham the father of converts 2, telling him that “all the families of the earth will be blessed through” him (Genesis 12:3).

If they don’t try to do that, though, then they’ll just naturally stay aligned with their root nation.

Footnotes:

1                Thus, becoming a Jew comes down to leaving one’s own people and attaching onto the Jewish people (rather than only onto the Jewish religion). Like any other one, the Jewish people has its own ways and values, but rather than being molded by climate, circumstance, and the like, Jewish ways and values are rooted in Abraham’s dreams for his family of drawing close to G-d.

In fact, our sages pointed out that we went into – and continue to be in — exile in order to accept converts (Pesachim 87b).

See Ramchal’s insights into the place of converts in Otzrot Ramchal p. 149 and in Adir Bamarom pp. 353, 469.

Interestingly enough, a Jew can never leave the Jewish people himself (even if he “converts” or strays from Jewish practices or values), given that a Jew is always a Jew (see Sanhedrin 44a).

2                See Midrash Tanchuma, Lech Lecha 6.

Preview of 2:4:4

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

G-d allowed people to leave their root nations and join the family of Abraham instead if they’d care to. For, G-d had made Abraham the father of converts.

But if they don’t try to do that they’ll stay aligned with their root nation.

 ד ומרוב טובו וחסדו ית’, גזר ונתן מקום אפילו לענפי שאר האומות, שבבחירתם ומעשיהם יעקרו עצמם משרשם, ויוכללו בענפיו של אברהם אבינו ע”ה אם ירצו. והוא מה שעשהו ית”ש לאברהם אב לגרים, ואמר לו, ונברכו בך כל משפחות האדמה. ואולם אם לא ישתדלו בזה, ישארו תחת אילנותיהם השרשיים כפי ענינם הטבעי:

 

(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 2:4:3

Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:4:3

Recall that originally there’d been root souls and offshoots 1. The root souls were to have regained Adam and Eve’s original high spiritual stature, their offshoots were to follow in their wake 2, and all of humanity was to have remained on that exalted plane 3.

But there were to have been two time periods for this to have worked itself out, though. There was a fixed period in antiquity during which the gates 4 were left wide open and when everyone could have become a root him- or herself and been worthy of being on the level of Adam and Eve before their sin. And all of his or her descendants would have been on that level, too. This opportunity was available from the time of Adam and Eve themselves up to the time of the destruction of the Tower of Babel 5.

For, there were indeed people at that time who strove for personal perfection, like Enoch 6, Methuselah 7, Shem 8, and Eber 9. They and others of their caliber could very well have become root souls to their particular offshoots, who’d then have served as bearers of G-d’s message for mankind, as we Jews do. But none of them did. Only Abraham, the father of the Jewish Nation, did, which is why only we, his descendants, came to inherit his spiritual bounty 10.

There eventually came to be 70 primal nations in all 11. And each one plays its own particular role in the larger scheme of things 12 while yet remaining on the level of humankind in its fallen state.

Thus while mankind may seem the same as it always has been there’s actually a profound difference between then and now. For, again, up to the time of the Tower of Babel all of humankind existed in the age of potential root souls and was dealt with accordingly; while afterwards, a new era began — the era of offshoots, which we’re still in the midst of.

Footnotes:

1                See 2:4:2 above.

2                I.e., to have “inherited” their high status, if you will.

3                But that would not have guaranteed that they would have achieved the ultimate spiritual status that Adam and Eve would have reached had they not sinned. See Adir Bamarom p. 29 for a discussion of that ultimate level in this context as well as note 3 to 2:4:2 above.

4                … of possibility and heavenly down flow …

5                See Genesis 1:26 to 11:1-9. Abraham, who’ll be cited below, lived within this time period, as is indicated in Breishit Rabbah 38:6 and elsewhere.

See Ramchal’s remarks about this in Ma’amar HaGeulah.

6                Genesis 5:21-24.

7                Ibid. 5:25.

8                See Breishit Rabbah 63:8.

9                See Seder Olam 1. Also See Adir Bamarom p. 13 about Shem and Eber.

10              Ramchal’s overarching point here is that we are the Chosen People only because we are the offshoots of Abraham who was singled out among others in his primal epoch to serve as a root soul. We ourselves would not have been the Chosen People had he not succeeded since there’s nothing inherently worthy about us to have earned that merit on our own. The Enochites and Methusalites could have been, but that didn’t happen.

Ramchal wrote extensively about the difference between Abraham and the righteous individuals who preceded him. See Adir Bamarom pp. 8,29,31,218, Biurim Al Tanach, Parshat Lech Lecha (as found in Otsrot Ramchal pp. 18, 20), and Messilat Yesharim Ch. 4.

11              With many subsequent subdivisions. See Genesis Ch. 10 and 1 Chronicles 1:5-23.

12              See Sukkah 55a and Sotah 36b.

 

(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 2:4:3

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.