We can now finally begin to resolve our second inquiry, about the role we humans play in the great course of events which we’re such minor players in, and for such a short span of time.
This inquiry is crucial to our purposes, for it sums up our raison d’être and offers us direct guidance into how we’re to draw close to God, which is the point of it all. We’ll be occupied with it for the next few chapters.
Know that our lifelong Divine service is divided into four stages. The first centers on our acquiring a comprehensive ratzon l’kabel along with all the impurity (it garnered) from the four worlds of defiled-A.B.Y.A. (But, why would we have to attain it, seeing how foul it is?) Because we couldn’t rectify this corrupt ratzon l’kabel if we didn’t have it, since “no one can rectify something he doesn’t have”.
We’re passive participants in the first of the four stages of our spiritual development, since all we do, ironically, is take in the ratzon l’kabel — the willingness to only take in — in detail.
And we’d have to accept it in order to ultimately reject it. After all, how could we reject it if we didn’t first know it? The first point, then, is that our having and internalizing wrong and un-Godliness is inevitable to our being, as well as to our growth.
But (know, too, that) the degree of ratzon l’kabel that’s granted (us) at birth isn’t enough (for our purposes). (So) it has to serve as a vehicle for the impure husks for no less than thirteen years. That means to say that the husks must control that ratzon l’kabel and grant it the husks’ lights (for that length of time), since those lights augment it. For the satisfaction that the husks supply the ratzon l’kabel increase and broaden its demands.
Even though Ashlag had originally termed the native ratzon l’kabel “comprehensive” and said that it had “all the impurity (it garnered) from the four worlds of defiled-A.B.Y.A.”, that’s not to say that it’s the consummate ratzon l’kabel. For this native ratzon l’kabel will prove to be an obscure hint of its full and ugly self.
Indeed, we’d need to allow in a more lumbering, heftier ratzon l’kabel with each and every ugly, self-indulgent, mean detail, if we’re to rectify it. For we’d have to experience the ratzon l’kabel in its entirety, in all its hideousness, in order to know it to be detrimental and objectionable (or else we’d bear with it, or just be annoyed by it). For only after having had our fill of it can we utterly reject it. Since “no one can rectify something he doesn’t have” and want to spurn.
That’s why the native ratzon l’kabel must serve as a “vehicle (i.e., an instrument) for the impure husks for no less than thirteen years”, until we ourselves can become “vehicles” for mitzvot. And it’s why the native ratzon l’kabel must be controlled and emboldened by the impure husks that engorge and fatten it so.
(That explains) for example, why a newborn only wants the smallest of things and no more, and why our ratzon l’kabel grows stronger and stronger when it gets what it wants, and even wants twice as much. And why it intensifies to such an extent that it immediately wants four times as much when it’s given double.
That is, while we’re very willing and eager to take-in when we’re born, indeed, the urge is nonetheless comparatively weak then, since we’re only drawing upon our native ratzon l’kabel at that point. But our willingness to take-in will invariably grow exponentially stronger from there on, because we’ll begin to draw upon the sort of deeper, more impure levels of ratzon l’kabel cited before.
(That comes to teach us that) if we don’t manage to overcome that (urge to take-in) through Torah and mitzvot, and to purify the ratzon l’kabel and transform it into a willingness to bestow, that our ratzon l’kabel will grow stronger and stronger throughout our life, and we’ll eventually die without fulfilling half our desires — which is tantamount to being left under the auspices of the other side and the husks, whose very function is to expand and increase our ratzon l’kabel, and to broaden it and take away all its restraints, so as to provide us with all the material we need to work with and rectify.
Hence, we’re to know that the only way to change the cakey, bloated, wily entity that is our comprehensive ratzon l’kabel into a Godly, selfless, blameless one is to transform it into a comprehensive willingness to bestow. Otherwise it will only grow fatter and fatter till it pops. And we do that by subsuming ourselves in the mitzvah-system which demands selfless acquiescence to God’s will.
But we’re never to forget that we’re only put through all that in order to prove ourselves valiant in battle; and that the grist for the whole alternately delectable and terrible mill that is the ratzon l’kabel is only there to “provide us with all the material we need to work with and rectify”.
(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.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).