Sunday, April 29, 2007

Da’at Tevunot (Sect. 2, Ch. 1, Part 3)

"Knowing the Reasons"

A Kabbalistic Laying-Out of Who, What, When, Where, and Why

Based on Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s "Da’at Tevunot"

by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Sect. 2, Ch. 1


Short of offering a lengthy treatise on mankind Ramchal engages in a discussion of what's perhaps the central mystery of our makeup -- the fact that we’re comprised of two utterly antithetical, seemingly irreconcilable elements: rank physicality and sublime spirituality which seem to be nothing short of bad, frustrated next-door neighbors [3].

We'll find indeed that the whole subject of the Resurrection of the Dead hinges on this very irony, since both -- body and soul -- will be rejoined then.

Ramchal points out that our being comprised of these two antithetical elements seems to bring up a couple of dilemmas. First off, why would G-d have deemed it necessary to divide us in two, so to speak? He must have had specific reasons, since He could have created us any way He wanted to.

And second, why is it that just one of the two -- the soul -- is said to be rewarded in the end for all the good we do in this world? Why isn't our body also rewarded? After all, isn't it said that "G-d withholds reward from on one" (Baba Kamah 38A)?

Besides, if only the soul were to be rewarded, then the body would have been nothing more than an indentured servant of sorts who worked long and hard for the soul, who was indeed fed and clothed (and sometimes generously so), but would still-and-all have nothing of its own to claim in the end.

So, Ramchal contends that both body and soul will be rewarded in the end, as we'll see.

Understand, though, that the "end" we're referring to here isn't the Afterlife, of course. Since the body will obviously decompose and molder after death and cease to exist (other than on an organic level). The realm in which both the body and soul will be rewarded is the World to Come, which comes about after the Messianic Era and the Resurrection (our subject at hand).

Ramchal will explain that point shortly, but he'll first explore the three stages of the relationship between body and soul: their coming together at conception; their coming apart at death; and their coming together again at The Resurrection of the Dead [4].


[3] Understand of course that the two can't and really shouldn’t be separated from each other as starkly as this depiction might seem to. In fact, we contend that the two serve as joint, component parts of the same "loaf of bread", with the soul as the "soft" part of the loaf and the body as the "crust" -- that is, the loaf come full-bloom and more tangible. We might also do well to conceive of ourselves as a sort of self-contradictory, liquid melange of two halves, the way professionals who are also family-people at one and the same time take themselves to be. And from another perspective, our physicality could also be depicted as something like the screen upon which our spirituality projects itself out, and thus every bit a part of the "film-experience" itself.

Also see Shaarei Ramchal pp. 378-379 (from Iggrot Pitchei Chochma v’Daat) where Ramchal discusses the original and fundamental unity and selfsameness of body and soul!

In any event, Ramchal (and we) will continue to focus upon the apparent -- and temporary -- separation of the two simply to facilitate discussion. The actual unity will be touched on later, when the subject arises.

[4] We might liken this to their "marriage", "divorce", and their subsequent "remarriage". A better analogy though might be the body and soul's tahara-state (when "husband and wife" are ritually pure enough to have intercourse), their subsequent niddah-state (when they’re ritually impure and cannot have intercourse), and their eventual re-tahara-state (when they’re once again ritually pure). The analogy is better because it speaks to a husband and wife's desires to renew a full relationship, to charged energies in the relationship, to the allowance for birth, etc.

(c) 2007 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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