As we said we would, we're returning now to Ramchal's final point of the
chapter, since it encompasses so much.
He said that what we'd need to foster in order to draw close to G-d are a
developed mind and a laudable character. Which is to say, wisdom and
personal excellence. And that what prevents our coming close to G-d are
our dependence upon materiality, and a bad character. Which is to
say, our settling for appearances and personal mischievousness. We'll do
our best to explain that now.
There are very, very few wise people in the world an any one time. In
fact, most of us couldn't point to one in our day and age. For while wisdom
certainly includes knowledge, native intelligence, and keen insight; and
while we can certainly point to sharp-witted, bright, clear-thinking,
intellectually poised people in our experience, wisdom goes far beyond
that, and comes from a far deeper element of our being than that.
The best way we can put it is thusly.
According to Kabbalistic thought, wisdom is rooted in the pre-creation
stuff we have no other words for than the sort of "nothingness" out of
which "somethingness" came. That’s to say, wisdom draws its vitality
from the awesome, brilliant chaos that existed right before creation.
Hence, wisdom encompasses the ability to take things like knowledge,
intelligence, insight, wit and the like; to knead them together with a
clear sense of the essential "nothingness" that is the underbelly of the
world; and to come up with a sweet-smelling, steaming, rich-textured
loaf of fresh and deep insight, perception, and knowledge.
That's the kind of developed mind we'd need to foster in order to draw
close to G-d.
As to a *laudable character* and personal excellence, that comes to this.
We all know very many "nice" and "good" people. People who go out of
their way to be friendly, who can take a joke, who like a good movie, and
who think it's good to be good, and bad to be bad. Yet they may be utterly
childish at home, selfish, grumpy, rude, even heartless; they may lose
their temper, sulk, berate people behind their backs, cheat in small but
nettlesome ways, respect no one, etc.
Which is to say, they're not truly "good" people so much as obstinately
mediocre folks who want to please and be liked, but drop all that when
they're home and in safe quarters.
Faced with the delicious prospect of drawing close to G-d, such
individuals would certainly be "nice" to Him. But they'd probably complain
about something He said, once they'd left His presence.
Only the sort of person who's good to the core, who's driven by an
electric and driving urge to be good, do good things, help, give, and excel
in his or her being could ever hope to achieve the sort of *laudable
character* we'd need to grow close to G-d.
What is it, though, that hinders all that? The aforementioned dependence
upon materiality, and a bad character, which we've characterized as the
habit of settling for appearances, and expressing personal
That's to say that the more we depend upon what we see and take to be
true, the less likely we are to incorporate the sort of pre-creation
"nothingness" we spoke of into our world view-- and the less likely we are
to draw close to the Creator of all that, G-d.
And the more likely we are to lapse into the sort of personal
mischievousness that so many of us actually *admire* in a person these
days, which is rooted in the horrifying meaninglessness that is the
opposite of G-dliness and personal perfection.
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