Now, I know that this (idea) is intolerable to some thinkers who simply can’t accept the notion that man, whom they regard as lowly and worthless, is the focal point of creation in all of its splendor.
After all, they might reason, man is neither angel nor is he any greater than the humanoids he’d evolved from. So how could he possibly be God’s prized entity and the focus of all His attention?
But (they only feel that way because) they’re like a worm that was born and raised in a radish who deemed all of God’s creation as being as bitter, dark, and tiny as that radish, and who suddenly sat up in stunned wonder and said: “I thought the whole world was the size of the radish I was raised in, and now I see a huge, splendid, beautiful, and wondrous world before me!” the moment the radish-shell breaks open and he was able to peer out.
For they too are encased — in the shell of the ratzon l’kabel they were born with, and they never savored the sweet scent of Torah (study) and mitzvah-observance that can break through that hard shell and turn it into a willingness to bestow pleasure onto the Creator. In fact they can’t help but consider humankind worthless and empty — since that’s what they themselves are (for all intents and purposes). (And it also explains why) they can’t fathom how all of reality was created for humankind’s sake alone.
Ashlag’s point is that those who contend that humankind is small and of little worth only feel that way because they’ve never attained the rank of true humanness. They’ve never looked past the pettinesses that they — and most of us — function out of, or caught sight of the human they could be if they’d but follow the mitzvah-system that encourages selflessness and surrendering to God’s will. For following it enables one to transcend the ratzon l’kabel that defines most of humanity, and to draw close to God, which is God’s great aim and focus.
Indeed, if they’d only delve into Torah and mitzvah-observance in order to bestow their Creator with satisfaction with as much purity (of intention and self) as they’d have to, and if they’d only try to pierce through the shell that is the ratzon l’kabel they were born with, and would be willing to accept a willingness to bestow, …
Ashlag is reiterating the conditions under which we’d all have to live out a life of Torah and mitzvah-observance in order to reap the full ineffable rewards due us. For at bottom, most of us simply can’t accept the notion that “man is” — that we ourselves are — “the focal point of creation”.
We’d have to sincerely, wholly, and only mean to delight God in the process, and we’d have to do that by transforming our innate ratzon l’kabel into a ratzon l’hashpia, a willingness to bestow. For if people would only do that,…
… their eyes would open right there and then, they’d come to behold themselves (for what they are), and they’d gain all the delicious, delightful, and ego-undoing wisdom, understanding, and lustrous knowledge prepared for them in the spiritual worlds.
And they themselves would then acknowledge, as the Jewish sages put it that, “A good guest is one who says, ‘How much trouble my host has gone to for my sake! How much meat, … wine, … (and) cake has he set before me! And all for my sake alone!’” (Berachot 58A).
For anyone who’d come to that point couldn’t help but catch sight of God bestowing them with one favor after another in this world in His love for humankind and as a consequence of His aim for us.
(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
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AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman’s translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here at a discount.
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Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).