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The book Mishnat Chasidim from Rabbi Emanuel Chy Ricchi, begins by a presentation of the project of creation.

He gives two reasons, for Ish Yare (man who fears God):

  1. To make known His perfection,
  2. To do him good.

The commentary Taam Etso from the mechaber of sefer habrit writes that the Ramchal in klach Pitche Chochma and in Mesilat Yesharim states that the project is to do him good alone, one goal. And the Taam Etso sees this opinion of Ramchal as a great error, which he proves through citations.

I read in a Chabad periodical (pp. 16-20) that there is a difference between Ramchal and Baal Hatanya views regarding the goal of creation, this world for the first and future world for the last. This is obviously the same Machloket. The future world is the place where G-d does good to man, this world is the place where we need to try to discover, to unfold the perfection of G-d.

This topic interests me very much because I think that, if true, this difference has many consequences. I am looking for a philosophical paper, or better, a maamar that develops this dialectic, what is the goal of the world, how do the different opinions influence our avodat hashem?

  • Could you please summarize what your is? I don’t follow – Dr. Shmuel Jan 28 at 7:19
  • @Dr. Shmuel what is not clear? – kouty Jan 28 at 8:13
  • I don’t know. but if I understand you correctly, I’d check out the very beginning of מורה אור where he discusss the ramhhals reason for creation in relation to other older reasons and stuff of this nature – Dr. Shmuel Jan 28 at 8:32
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    What's "for Yard (who fears) man"? And what's "him" - the man? – Al Berko Jan 28 at 10:10
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    @kouty If I am not mistaken, the comment from mroll is a typo. It should have been 5666 (תרס״ו). Or for a fuller explanation the opening Chassidic discourses from volume 1 of Sefer HaMaamarim 5672. – Yaacov Deane Feb 14 at 16:00
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This is the subject of R. Betzalel Naor's work, Mahol la-Tsaddikim, available here. From the description of the book on the website:

Mahol la-Tsaddikim/Dance Circle for the Righteous explores the divine design in the creation of the universe. Although Maimonides (Guide of the Perplexed) shied away from this conversation, deeming the question illegitimate, the Kabbalists produced not one, but two responses to the question: a philosophic approach which centers on God’s ultimate goodness (Luzzatto), and a mythic approach which pivots on God’s “self-actualization,” as it were (Zohar, Luria). The departure point of our book is a fundamental mahloket or controversy between Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto (Ramhal), on the one hand, and Rabbi Pinhas Elijah Hurwitz (Sefer ha-Berit) and the great Habad thinker Rabbi Eizik of Homel, on the other.

  • Great! How did you find this? – kouty Jan 28 at 21:47
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    @kouty I read it – wfb Jan 28 at 22:10
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From my blog post "Of Empty Cups":

If one puts a cup in the sink, and the cup doesn’t fill as it ought, it could be for at least one of two basic reasons.

The first is that the cup’s mouth isn’t properly in the stream; this is the assumption that the utensil is fine, but not properly connected to the Source. Taking this approach to the human condition is suggested by the notion of the Ran (Derashos haRan ch. 10) and his student R’ Yosef Albo (Seifer haIkarim 4:13), who hold that the effects of sin are to dirty the soul and that the punishment of sin is that barrier blocking the soul’s access to Divine Good.

The implication is that the sinful soul itself is fine, but it made for itself a layer blocking it from the Light. And in fact, the Ramchal (in the opening paragraphs of Mesilas Yesharim), among many others, articulates this as the goal we seek to accomplish with mitzvos, that they are acts that bring us closer to G d. In contemporary terminology, we would call this a deveiqus (/dbq/ = attach) approach.

The other approach would be to assume the cup is flawed, perhaps its mouth could be widened, or there is a hole to repair. In this opinion, the purpose of life is to give us opportunities to perfect the self. Apparently this is the position of Rabbeinu Yona (Shaarei Teshuvah 4:1), who compares the soul of a sinner to someone who is sick. Just as a sick person suffers from his disease, so does a sinner feel the effects his deeds had on his soul. Teshuvah is a repairing or healing process. This leads to an approach to mitzvos, equally well represented (by R’ Yehudah haLevi in the beginning of the Kuzari as just one example) as the previous, the idea of man’s quest as temimus, or “sheleimus ha’adam”, the completion of man. Man’s goal in life is to strive for self-perfection.

Note that the rishonim cited, the Ran, R’ Yosef Albo and Rabbeinu Yona, all define punishment as a consequence of the imperfection or barrier created by sin. Both sides of this machlokes are within the context of a “following doctor’s orders” or “preparing on erev Shabbos so that one may enjoy Shabbos” understanding of the mitzvos described in the above mentioned Mesukim article.

The mitzvah of beris milah, the first mitzvah given to us as a people, is introduced with the words, “Ani E-l Shad-ai, his-halekh lifanai v’heyei tamim — I am E-l Shad-ai, walk yourself before Me, and be whole.” (Bereishis 17:1) How are we supposed to read this quote? Is the walking before G-d, deveiqus, that is primary, and being whole a side effect? Or, is being whole the focus of the pasuq, and walking before G d is a means to reach that temimus?

Similarly, we say in the Amidah for Shabbos and Yom Tov, “vetaheir libeinu le’avdecha be’emes – purify our souls to serve You in truth.” One can see this in two ways: We request from Hashem that He purify us, so that we may reach that deveiqus to serve Him truthfully and reliably. Alternatively, we could be requesting temimus, that purity which we are describing by its enabling us to serve Him.

On another level, these two approaches are different aspects of the same idea. To achieve wholeness, so that the entire person is working harmoniously, he would necessarily be walking in Hashem’s path. The converse is equally true. If one strives for deveiqus to a singular G-d who has a single goal, how could he be a chaotic battleground of warring urges? Cleaving to G-d forces His priorities to be yours, thereby causing temimus, a wholeness and harmony of self.

This is not to say that there is no distinction in approach. By stressing different elements, there are profound practical implications. For example, consider the debate between Chassidim and non-Chassidim on the importance of davening in the appointed times. (We should be clear that the Chassidic position is that one must invest time to prepare for davening, even if this is at the expense of timeliness — it is not blanket permission to ignore the clock.) Chassidus is a deveiqus-based hashkafah. Therefore, when weighing the relative merits, it is more important to be able to invest time to prepare one’s mind and heart for the act of tephillah, for relating to Hashem, than when the tephillah actually begins. To someone with a temimus orientation, however, zehirus, meticulousness, care in how each facet of the mitzvah is done, is the more important consideration. Zerizus, haste to do what’s right, is an important middah (personality trait). Both come into play when considering the timeliness of tephillah.

Contemporary Orthodox Jewish thought embraces a number of variants of these two basic approaches.

Most forms of Chassidus consider the route to deveiqus to be the experience of each act, with the focus on having one’s feelings in line with those we can perceive in the Creator. The Ba’al HaTanya, on the other hand, focused on Chaba”d (insight, comprehension and knowledge), to make one’s thoughts G-dly. In this he follows the Rambam, (Moreh Nevuchim III ch. 51) who writes that one’s connection to Hashem is strictly determined by the extent of one’s knowledge of Him.

Similarly, there has been variation in the understanding of temimus. The Vilna Gaon writes, “the whole purpose of the Torah is to shatter the [evil] middos.” (Even Sheleimah, title, ch. 1) The Ba’alei Mussar took the idea further, and committed themselves to character improvement through means beyond halakhah as well. In Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Neo-Orthodoxy, temimus translates to a well-rounded individual, using derekh eretz in service of Torah. To Rav Yosef-Ber Solovetichik zt”l, the goal of man is to maximize his creativity, to be in the image of the Creator (this is a major part of the thesis of Halachic Man; c.f. pg. 109)

Perhaps this plurality is the whole point of the Torah’s doubled phraseology. Because there many approaches to accomplishing the same end, Hashem didn’t specify one to the exclusion of the other. “Derakheha darchei no’am, its ways are ways of pleasantness” (Mishlei 3:17) – ways, in the plural. Each community or person can pick out a derech that best suits him — as long as the goal is “his-halech lifanai v’heyei tamim”.

(I have a more developed version of these ideas [the blog post was last updated in 2006] in Widen Your Tent, Mosaica Press, 2019, sec. i.2-3, pp. 10-21.)

  • You know? I asked this question for you! – kouty Jan 29 at 19:43
  • @kouty : Now you have me wondering who you are and how you know my public speaking repertoire. – Micha Berger Jan 29 at 20:01
  • Should I add that Hillel probably took a side (except that in one of Rashi's discussions of the topic has an opinion with Hillel taking the other side), and R' Aqiva and Ben Azzai definitely did? – Micha Berger Jan 29 at 20:40
  • I'm sorry, I read carefully but didn't grasp the relationship between the two approches of shlemut and the two goals defined by the mishnayot chasidic. Can you explain? – kouty Jan 29 at 21:04
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In my humble opinion, there is no true disagreement, but two levels of language. This is an element of answers only, but it lacks in the text of the two previous answers.

The willingness to do good is from a "Top to Down" point of view, while the willingness to be recognized is from a "Bottom to Up" point of view. The two effects of the action of creating are planned in advance. "סוף מעשה במחשבה תחילה" said the poet Rabbi Shlomo Elkabats. The first thinking is about the final result. So to be recognized is the goal. But the motivation is the willingness to do good. Because g-d has no need, since he is already perfect. The world "goal" is broad and two opinions about his definition can lead to a false controversy about "what is the goal?" There are two narrowed senses and a broad sense that includes them.The one is the motivation, the second is the result expected.

I understand this from the book Shomer Emunim Hakadmon from Rabbi Yosef Irgas.

First disputation, paragraph 41.

שהרי כל החכמים הסכימו דתכלית הבריאה היתה כדי להיטיב

All wises aggreed that the goal of creating was to do good.

Explanation (partial), He has no need. He will to give.

In paragraph 53, when he explained the need to do sefirot.

ומעתה, אף על פי שהוא מהנמנע להשיג ולידע מהותו יתברך שמו עם כל זה אין ספק שיותר יכיר מרוממותו ועוצם יכולתו המכיר הפעולות והעלולים השלמים הנזכרים גבוה על גבוה, ויודע שהוא יתברך שמו מתנשא על כולם מתעלה ומתנשא על כולם, מהמכיר לבד הפעולות והעלולים הגשמיים ..... וכמו שכתוב בזוהר פרשת בא דף מ''ב דהאין סוף האציל הנאצלים"בגין דאישתמודעין ליה"‏

I am not a specialist at all, if someone see an error in understanding or in reasoning, please let me know.

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