Style and Ramchal

This is just a quick note about one matter. One can’t help but notice that this Petach has two segments. The first reads It was the Tzimtzum that enabled God’s light and radiance to be envisioned. For before it occurred — and even now in the case of those levels which the Tzimtzum doesn’t affect — they couldn’t be envisioned or grasped at all. This segment fits in well with the great majority of the other Petachim in that it’s Mishna-like in its pithiness and conclusiveness.

The second segment, which reads, now, while the light that can now be envisioned is termed “emanated light” since it presents as a newly created light, in fact it’s only a specific aspect of the original light whose ability was diminished as a consequence of the mystical process of Tzimtzum is not that sort. It’s more Gemorrah-like in that it’s explicative, and only comes to clarify a statement in Eitz Chaim that might mislead, as we indicated above.

The truth is that the second segment would have been better placed in Ramchal’s comments which themselves serve as a sort of Gemorrah to the Mishnaic Petach they address, and his setting it here in the body of the Petach is rather out-of-sorts and distracts from the intended tight nature of the Petachim.

Now, this is especially disturbing on the part of someone who is taken to be a major stylist and artist. But in fact Ramchal should not be considered a great stylist. There are many instances of misplacement in Klach — as well as in a great many of Ramchal’s works. Truth be told, much of Klach could and should have been edited; it’s terrible wordiness and repetitiveness has turned many potential readers away from a stunning original work of Kabbalistic analysis and explication.

We now know that Ramchal had an editor for his most successful work, Messilat Yesharim (“The Path of the Just”), and that the first edition was too wordy and repetitive in fact. Students of Ramchal’s know that most of his other works are also in need of editing (Da’at Tevunot for example tends to ramble; Adir Bamarom is often distracting; etc.). That doesn’t deny the brilliance, piety, or inspiration of his entire corpus, but it is an issue that isn’t often addressed (perhaps because of the over-all success of other succinct and terse works including Derech Hashem, the various Klallim, etc., aside from the better-known second edition of Messilat Yesharim).

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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