Ramchal on the existence of the yetzer harah

Ramchal himself seems to take a more utilitarian attitude toward the existence of the yetzer harah and to side with the “necessary evil” approach. He first acknowledges the existence of evil in the human heart (aside from goodness) by saying simply that man is “equally inclined in two (ethical) directions” given that he was “created with a yetzer hatov and a yetzer harah” (Derech Hashem 1:3:1). And he offers that, given the reality that “mankind was created with a yetzer harah and a yetzer hatov” it’s consequently “impossible for there not to be some good and some bad” among us (Derech Hashem 2:2:2); or put another way, “the world was created with (both) good and bad elements” (Derech Hashem 2:3:1), so wrong and injustice are to be expected.

But as he put it elsewhere, he holds that the yetzer harah is to man’s advantage in that, inasmuch as “something that needed to be rectified was created within man so that he could earn merit” by rectifying it in fact (Klallei Pitchei Chochma V’Da’at 1).

At bottom, though, he states that man was in point of fact “only placed in this world to overcome his yetzer (harah)” (Derech Hashem 1:4:6), and that it’s important to understand that “you will only be the full man worthy of clutching onto your Creator if you are … victorious in your battles” to overcome your yetzer harah (Messilat Yesharim Ch. 1).

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org


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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).

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