We’d learned last time that “God wanted the Sephirot to be known of so that we can understand the attribute itself … and so that we might understand what would be taking place in the governing process … at that time”.
This raises a number of serious questions which we’ll pose but only offer a limited response to since no one seems to address this, other than indirectly.
If God wanted us — our people and humanity eventually, select individuals right now — to envision His Sephirot and to know “which way the wind is blowing”, so to speak, at any given moment, then why aren’t we? Why isn’t this focused on, and why didn’t Ramchal tell us how to do it himself?
Some might say that this speaks to the need to study the physical sciences since they address present reality all the time; or perhaps political science, sociology, psychology, and the like. But I don’t think so.
Ramchal himself has no particular objection to studying those things, given his acknowledgment in his introduction to Messilat Yesharim of the fact that “the great majority of intelligent, enlightened, aware, and informed people expend a great deal of their energies on reflection upon and examination of the minutia of the various sciences, and upon subtle scholarship, each according to his own inclinations and personal bents …. (including) cosmogony or physical science,… astronomy or mathematics and … art”. And his acceptance of that is also alluded to by his statement near the end of the same book that “the path to piety for the one whose whole occupation is Torah scholarship is different from the one for the laborer, which is itself different from the one for the professional person”, which acknowledges the legitimacy of other intellectual and professional paths (and we’d also cite Ramchal’s learned statements in his Sefer HaHigayon cited in note 22 of this section, as well as his work on Hebrew grammar and more for allusions to such acceptance).
But we can’t claim that those are the ways he’d maintain that one is to train himself to envision the Sephirot. Because while the various sciences enable us to see “the situation on the ground” if you will — how God’s governance plays itself out in the physical world — they don’t enable us to catch sight of the movements in the heavens which is the implication of envisioning the Sephirot.
Our studying Klach Pitchei Chochma and other Kabbalistic works are certainly meant to teach us how and where to “look up into the skies” so to speak, as they provide us with the “maps” we’d need beforehand, they don’t end up teaching us how to do what needs to be done if we’re to do what we must, which is to take those maps and set out to see the Sephirot for ourselves.
One answer suggested by Ramchal’s statements further on in Klach is that we must then become either prophets or the sorts of exalted souls who can indeed discern the movement of the Sephirot as he’ll point to later. But he doesn’t tell us how to. R’ Aryeh Kaplan z”l was of the opinion that Messilat Yesharim is itself a preparatory text for that (see “Meditation and the Bible” pp. 20-21), but few others say as much.
Some rare individuals recite the various Yichudim that are laid out in the Kavvanot of the Ari, which do enable them to read and affect the heavens, as Ari lays it out there, But the great, great majority of us haven’t any association with that.
Our only consolation (and it’s scant at that) lies in the fact that Ramchal often refers to the idea that once God’s Yichud becomes manifest we’ll all understand God’s governance in retrospect (as cited at the end of Section 1; see sources cited there and in note 45 there). Thus the point is that while we might never catch sight of the Sephirot now, we eventually will, and that itself is priceless.
(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
Feel free to contact me at email@example.com
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”.