Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Da’at Tevunot (Sect. 2, Ch. 1, Part 4)

"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


In order to understand why body and soul join together in the first place at conception it would help us to recall G-d's ultimate aim in creating us. It was to shower us with His Presence as a reward for all we'd done to advance ourselves and our world.

Ironically, though, He granted us one vital element of our being, a body, that's simply incapable of advancing itself spiritually, since it's so self-absorbed and in constant contact with unholiness [5], which then apparently stymies G-d's plan. So He granted us another vital element, the soul, that was hewn from the inchoate "stuff" just beneath G-d's very Throne of Glory, and is by its very makeup capable of purifying our body and making it holy.

In fact, purifying our body is the soul's major function on earth. As it itself requires no purification as it is, for it’s already pure, as we ourselves affirm each and ever day when we recite, "My L-rd! The soul you have granted me is (indeed) pure!" (Morning Prayers) [6].

In any event, the soul's purifying our body allows the body to indeed eventually bask in G-d's Presence and to thus fulfill its own raison d'etre, and thereby to be of great ultimate importance [7].

[5] The "body" in this context includes one's mind, personality, memories, and the like -- not just one's rank physicality.

[6] This is a vitally important point that helps explain the soul's place in this world. For as Ramchal pointed out in "The Path of the Just", "G-d ... breathed into us a soul so exalted and distinguished -- a soul greater than the angels themselves" that it's manifestedly out of place in this world. What it's meant to do then, in fact, is to ready the body for the place in the World to Come that both will enjoy.

Hence, the soul isn't sent here to perfect itself, as many mistakenly believe, but rather to better the body (and its other elements cited in note 5 above).

[7] We raised this question early on, "Since we’re imperfect to begin with -- what is it that enables us to perfect ourselves? ... there must be something somewhere in the system that enables us to achieve perfection" (the end of 1:1:5), and we can now answer it. It's our soul's ability to purify us (i.e., our body, etc.) that enables us to perfect ourselves and to achieve ultimate perfection (see R' Friedlander).

It's essential to realize that this ability that we can draw upon -- the soul's ability to purify the body -- is actually a function of the "body", i.e., the self, when we make conscious choices to better our souls through Torah and mitzvot. Hence, it's a function of both body and soul and the beginning of the union of the two.

(c) 2007 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

(Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org )

Rabbi Feldman's translation of "The Gates of Repentance" has been reissued and can be ordered from here
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has also translated and commented upon "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason Aronson Publishers). His new work on Maimonides' "The Eight Chapters" will soon be available.
Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes on www.torah.org entitled
"Spiritual Excellence" and "Ramchal"