What we can and cannot discuss

The next inquiry is into what we are able to discuss about Sephirot and what not. “In short,” Ramchal writes in his comments to Petach 14, “we can’t ask why the Sephirot exist (as they do) and why they have this (particular) structure”, as that’s too close to the bone and is tantamount to peering behind the screen, which we simply can’t do.

Besides, he adds there, “there’s no better reason than the fact that this is (simply) the way it is”, period; “this is what’s needed, no less and no more … to achieve (God’s) intended goal of creation” [1].  For, that touches upon the makeup of the first Sephira, Keter, which we can’t delve into since it’s rooted in the Divine Will (Petach 15). That’s to say, it’s “attached to Ein Sof” (as Ramchal explains in his comments to there) which we haven’t any access to, and whose reasoning we couldn’t fathom anyway.

But we are to ask about and (try to) understandthe actions of the gradations and about how they function in the governance of the universe (Petach 15), which is to say, the Sephira of Chochma and then on. As Chochma is the point where “the thought (behind creation) divides things … in accordance with what has already been laid out” in Keter, and applies them to the governance of the universe (comment to Petach 15).

Ramchal then completes the equation by saying there that the very next Sephira, Binah, “is the ‘disclosure’ of Chochma” (i.e., it’s more accessible to us than Chochma), so we may inquire into it, “and (the Partzuf termed) Zeir (or Zeir Anpin, which is a conglomerate of the six Sephirot of Chessed, Gevurah, Tipheret, Netzach, Hod, and Yesod) and (the Partzuf termed) Nukveh (which is comprised of the Sephira of Malchut) which comprise the whole of (Divine) governance” may all be inquired into as well.

Notes:

[1]       Also see Ramchal’s comments to Petach 100 as well as his Peirush l’Arimat Yadi B’tzalutin, Ma’amar Harautin, and Iggerot Pitchei Chochma v’Da’at 6.

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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2 responses to “What we can and cannot discuss

  1. Should the title be modified from “may and may not” to “can and can not”?

    I understood the Ramchal as saying such discussion is impossible, as a consequence of the incomprehensibility of He Who Willed the sephiros to be as they are. If the discussion is also prohibited, that’s because any answer you think you got must perforce be wrong, and likely would be idolatrous.

    Did I misunderstand?

    -micha

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