To explain Ari’s thoughts

As we’d said earlier on, Ramchal declared that we’re to study Kabbalah because it “explains how everything created and fashioned in the universe emanated from the Supreme Will”; because it “shows how everything is governed the right way by the One God, blessed be He, so as to ultimately bring all of creation to (a state of) utter perfection”; because “all the details of this science [i.e., Kabbalah] serve as a laying-out of all the laws and processes [involved] in [God’s] governance” of the universe); and most especially because Kabbalah “comes to exhibit the truth of (the Jewish) Faith” [1].

But there are many who study it for all the wrong reasons simply because they don’t understand it. On one level they can’t be blamed because, as Ramchal put it, “Ari hardly explained himself since he didn’t want to express his thoughts (openly) in writing”. But as a consequence of that, “his readers took his words literally and (understood them) on a superficial level”. But that’s not right he said — it didn’t “at all” befit “a subject of study” of this caliber. And as a result all we have, for all intents and purposes, are “names and themes that one would have to memorize”, which is tantamount to “a table of contents”. So we’re left “without knowing their intentions or meaning” (Introduction to Ma’amar HaVichuach).

So what he set out to do, he wrote in a letter, was to “eradicate the mistaken notion that there are (for example) lights that (literally) turn into ‘circles’ or ‘lines’ as some believe”, which “the ear simply cannot accept”. He took it upon himself to “spell out the referent in each metaphor found in Ari’s writings” (Iggerot Ramchal 50).

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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