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.

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

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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 2:3:12

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.

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

———————————————————-

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 2:3:10

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

———————————————————-

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 2:3:9

Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:3:9

We’ve spoken about people succeeding or not 1 based on their spiritual standing 2, but we’ll now focus on how it touches on certain aspects of nature we’d cited before 3.

It comes to this: sins just naturally sully and pervade our beings and the world at large 4 and they have G-d’s light grow dimmer and dimmer 5. But that light becomes brighter and brighter again 6 the more thoroughly sin is cleansed, and we become purer as a consequence of that cleansing 7.

But, what cleanses? It’s tribulations that cleanse us and the world overall. And it’s the tribulations that the righteous and pious who don’t deserve to suffer but who do so nevertheless whom we’d cited 8 that manage to cleanse the world on an ongoing basis, and to subsequently lead it to perfection.

Footnotes:

1                Spiritually or materially.

2                Or on that of the righteous people they depend upon, as cited in 2:3:8.

3                See 2:2:5.

4                That’s to say that aside from having personal repercussions for the sinner based on his ethical standing, sins also affect the tone and quality of his and the world’s reality.

5                It’s important to realize that G-d’s light only appears to dim as a consequence of our sins, for in fact nothing could ever actually diminish or otherwise affect G-d’s light itself which is constant. The point is that we and the world suffer because of the impression we have of G-d’s light diminishing when we sin which we wouldn’t have if we didn’t sin.

6                To our eyes (see previous note).

7                See 1:2:3.

8                See 2:3:8.

(c) 2016 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 2:3:8

Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 2:3:8

There are other ways to succeed overall, too, that are rather extraordinary 1. This touches upon the makeup of the World to Come discussed earlier, the overall rectification of the universe 2, and our people’s interdependence.

The fact is that the World to Come won’t only be comprised of those who earned a place there by themselves: people of a lower spiritual level who depended on the intercedence of a righteous person will also be a part of it 3. The only difference, though, is that such a person would be on a lower level in the World to Come than the righteous person, and would be subservient and dependent upon him 4. So for the most part, the only people who wouldn’t be in the World to Come would be those who neither earned a place there on their own or didn’t depend on the intercedence of the righteous. As such, fewer people than we might have imagined will be in the World to Come.

This principle is rooted in the fact that, as we’ve been taught, all of our people have been bound to each other from the first. As it’s said, “All of Israel are responsible for one another” (Shavuot 39a). Now, this interdependence obviously implies that we can also perhaps harm each other’s spiritual standing 5, but G-d’s mercy is abundant and He allows for more good to come about by this association than harm.

Sadly enough, though, the righteous person who assumes this role would suffer in his life as a consequence. But that would actually enable him to atone for people of his generation 6. Those righteous people would nonetheless have to lovingly accept those tribulations — just as they’d be expected to accept the tribulations due them in their lifetimes because of their own errors — in order to affect this phenomenon. But in the end they would have atoned for their generation and become leaders in the World to Come.

There could be even loftier righteous people than they who could even rescue and benefit those of their generation who deserved to be utterly annihilated were it not for these righteous souls’ own sufferings.

And there can even be a more exalted sort of person whose withstanding even greater trials and tribulations would allow for the chain of events that would help bring on the state of ultimate perfection 7.

At bottom the explanation for all of this 8 is rooted in the fact that from the first there was an unfathomable, esoteric need for that pious individual to suffer in order for him and the world at large to reach perfection. And that’s rooted somehow in the phenomenon discussed before of G-d hiding His light and countenance, and in mankind’s status being exacerbated over and over again by one serious sin after another, which would have brought on an even greater degree of G-d’s hiding His goodness.

In fact, the world would have come to be in such a bad state that G-d’s unfathomable wisdom would have had to bring about very many things to undo all of that harm, which would include all of mankind having to suffer all sorts of travail. But G-d arranged things from the first that a few select righteous and pious individuals could rectify things for the sake of sinful people, which is why these especially laudable individuals would have to endure Heaven’s judgments more so than others.

It’s just that since they’re so lofty and actually deserve reward, they’d suffer less than those of lower standing would have had to. And these lofty people will be rewarded all the more so because of their tribulations, which would then enable them to help yet others to be a part of the World to Come — even those of the past. And those righteous individuals will be among the very loftiest souls in the World to Come and the people closest to G-d.

Footnotes: 

1             That is, how to ultimately succeed as we’ll soon see. This harkens back to earlier discussions about why some people succeed either materially (see 2:2:9, 2:3:4, 6 ,7, etc.) or spiritually (see 2:2:3, 2:3:7, 4:2:2, etc.) while others don’t.

2                See 4:2:2.

3             This could be taken to imply the bond between a Rabbi and his disciples or a Chassidic Rebbe and his Chassidim. The Rabbi or Rebbe could help the others by their prayers, advice, intercedence in Heaven, and the like. But we’ll see that there are other ways to affect the less-than-righteous, too.

4             Sadly enough Ramchal doesn’t explain the implications of the sort of “subservience” and “dependence” cited here, but that’s likely because this will be occurring in a realm we simply can’t fathom to begin with.

5             That is, the wrongful can be a bad influence on the righteous.

6             See Babba Metziah 84b, T.Y. Berachot 2:8, Breishit Rabba 33:1, and Zohar 3:20b, Tikkunei Zohar 76b, and Zohar Chadash 25a.

7             See Da’at Tevunot 162 and Clallim Rishonim 34.

8                I.e., the reasons why certain pious individuals could salvage the souls of sinful people with their own pain and suffering, and could even foster the great redemption, and why they themselves would have to suffer …

9             See 1:2:3 and 1:3:4.

10              The clear implication of all of this is that very nearly no one will be excluded from the great redemption and the World to Come.

There’s apparently a problem here, though. Because at first blush the idea that someone so lofty could exist to redeem the world, and would suffer for the sins of others in the process would seem to smack of Christianity to some! But we’ll now show how rational and traditionally Jewish an idea this is.

First off, if it only took one person (who suffered as a consequence) — Adam — to doom humankind, it would logically only take one or a select few people to suffer as well in order to redeem it.

Secondly, Abraham and Sarah apparently had to descend to Egypt in the course of a famine and to experience that humiliation and the deprivations of the famine themselves  in order to save the entire proto-Jewish nation they’d formed (see Genesis 12:10-20).

And we’re taught that there have been righteous individuals who could have redeemed everyone (see Breishit Rabbah 35:2 which singles out R’ Shimon bar Yochai and his son Eliezer who suffered by being exiled to a cave for many years, according to Shabbat 33b), and upon whom all of our people depended (Ta’anit 24b). Also see Messilat Yesharim Ch’s 13 and 19, and Isaiah 53:5.

(c) 2016 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 2:3:7

2:3:7

It’s important to know that G-d oversees each and every particular person’s 1 precedents and antecedents, and supervises all of the elements involved when He interacts with us with an eye toward the big picture and with a view as to how they’re all interconnected 2.

As such, every individual is judged with his ancestry, his progeny, and his own situation and circumstances in mind. And he’s only handed his charges, challenges, and unique path in serving G-d after all of that’s taken into account 3.

But that’s only true of his worldly situation. The truth is that one’s situation in the World to Come will only be determined by his or her own actions. That’s why the prophet said that “a son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and a father shall not bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself (alone), and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself (alone)” (Ezekiel 18:20) 4 .

So if it’s decided, for example, that someone is to be born wealthy and powerful, then his children will be wealthy, too, unless their situation changes 5, and they’d only be wealthy in this instance because of him. (The same idea is in place when it comes to poor parents and their children.)

Indeed, parents endow their children with a number of things, our sages pointed out 6. So, one can be born into good circumstances thanks to his parents’ situation or sometimes because of his parents’ merits, or into bad ones for those same reasons. Or he can be worthy of success for his own children’s sake. It’s also true that a person could succeed or fail because of his environment or associates 7.

Footnotes:

1                And thing’s …

2                That is, while we only take our own situations into account when we consider our standing, G-d is like a chess-master who oversees each piece in relation to the others and moves with an eye toward positioning and the endgame.

See Da’at Tevunot 124 where Ramchal likens the workings of the universe to a clock whose pieces all work together in synch and with close, precise interaction.

3             Also see 2:3:1 above and 2:3:10 below.

4                That is, one’s worldly standing is influenced by many factors, as each one of us is part of the community at large and is judged in regard to his or her place in it; but one’s eternal standing is rooted in his or her own efforts alone.  For, while we’re all cogs in the wheel of history, we’re each the lone factor in our own existential standing.

5                That is, unless other things factor into their worldly standing that leave them undeserving of wealth.

6                I.e., their looks, strength, wealth, intelligence, and longevity (Eduyot 2:9).

7                So, not only do the people we’re most attached to affect our situations — oftentimes situations and people we don’t even know about factor into it.

 (c) 2016 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 2:3:6

2:3:6

It’s important to know that the wrongful can only do harm for a limited time [1]. As soon as they’ll have reached that limit they’ll be removed from the world. Our sages referred to this as their having “filled (their) measure (of guilt)” [2].

Thus, while they can succeed in wrongdoing until then that’s only so that they’d have the opportunity to [3] be undone. As our sages put it, “The doors are (always) opened for anyone who tries to defile himself” (Yoma 38b) [4]. Once this limit is reached they’ll be undone, as G-d’s anger will have been roused, and some sort of catastrophe will come about that will be their undoing.

Footnotes:

[1]      Ramchal is clearly referring to the sort of thoroughly wrongful, indeed wicked, sort of person referred to in 2:3:4, since he speaks just below about that person’s complete destruction.

Along other lines, this sentence could also be read to mean that they can only do so much harm and no more. The point is that their reach is limited either because of their mortality of course, because one can only succeed for so long in everything, or most especially — and this is his underlying argument — because G-d will only allow for so much of it.

[2]      See Sotah 9a. As Ramchal indicates in the text, this is alluded to in the verse that reads “they are (to be) crushed when (their) measure (of guilt) is filled” (Job 20:22).

See Da’at Tevunot 142 and Adir Bamarom pp. 329-330

Esoterically, this could also refer to the fact that the Yetzer Hara itself can only last so long in the universe before being undone. See  Da’at Tevunot 40, 96 and Adir Bamarom Ibid.

[3]      … first do teshuva, which is denied no one, or if they chose not to do that, then to…

[4]      … to defile himself indeed.

The obverse of this is the statement there that “if someone comes to purify himself, he’s helped”, meaning to say that while one is always enabled to do wrong if he wants to, anyone who wants to do good will not only be enabled to — he’ll be helped along, too.

(c) 2016 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 2:3:5

2:3:5

Based on this we can now understand why some people suffer trials and tribulations [1]. A person who’s mostly righteous, or somewhat righteous and somewhat wrongful [2] could be subject to tribulations because he warranted being prodded to examine his ways and to do teshuva [3].

These particular tribulations wouldn’t come to him to atone for his past sins, like those cited before [4] whose aim is to purify a person of his sins while he’s yet alive. These particular tribulations would be meant to stir him to teshuva [5].

After all, people only suffer punishments when they sin and don’t do teshuva [6], as G-d wants us to not sin or to at least do teshuva if we do. But one can still be cleansed if he didn’t do teshuva through tribulations.

So tribulations sometimes come our way to inspire us to do teshuva. If we’re not moved to do that, though, we’re sometimes made to suffer tribulations in order to be cleansed [7]. For as Elihu told Job, “(G-d) opens their ears to discipline and bids them to repent of their sins” (Job 36:10).

Footnotes:

[1]         I.e., based on the idea that our successes or failings in life are often rooted in G-d’s input as cited in 2:3:4.

[2]         It’s clear that the thoroughly or almost thoroughly wrongful won’t experience this.

[3]        See Berachot 5a as well as 2:2:5 above.

Ramchal is touching on why the righteous sometimes suffer which seems so unfair, which we discussed above in 2:2:9 (see note 1 there) and will return to in 2:3:8-9.

Here’s how he explains it. He’d said in 2:3:1 that G-d distributed challenges among us all as a part of His plans for us, and that while we don’t know how things work along these lines (which makes them seem so unfair when they’re really not) we’re nonetheless to realize that in the end everything will function as it must. In 2:3:2 he underscored the fact that G-d Himself decrees what’s to apply to whom based on what’s most fitting (showing that G-d understands the implications of all of this), and he made much the same point in 2:3:3.

Then Ramchal went on to contrast the experience of the righteous and the wrongful as far as that’s all concerned, saying in 2:3:4 that righteous people (often) experience different degrees of Divine assistance, while wrongful people are often held back, but “the point of the matter is that G-d brings all of this about (too) … so as to ultimately benefit humankind” and that “He factors in everyone’s situation when He decides what’s to come about”.

His point here is that sometimes the mostly- or nearly-righteous are tried too which also seems unfair, but that G-d does that also for a very good reason: to encourage them in their righteousness.

[4]         See 2:2:5.

[5]         That’s to say that one who’s righteous for the most part but who has sinned too much for his own good and was potentially fully righteous might be made to suffer a setback in the hopes that he’ll then come to wonder what brought it on, conclude that it was his sins that did, and would decide there and then to repent. And all because G-d cared about his well-being and was willing to prod him on toward righteousness.

See Da’at Tevunot 40 where Ramchal expands upon the fact that there are only three ways to achieve perfection: by being righteous, engaging in teshuva, or suffering tribulation.

[6]         See Messilat Yesharim Ch. 5.

[7]         “Cleansing” will be discussed in 2:3:9 below.

(c) 2016 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”.