"The Way of G-d"
Part 1: "The Fundamental Principles of Reality"
Ch. 4: "Human Responsibility"
Having laid out the conflict between body and soul, we wondered last time
whether there was a way to make use of the physical world to our spiritual
advantage. The answer as expounded here is that indeed, there is.
It's rooted in a lesson we all need to learn again and again. That G-d is
perfect, and by definition He does nothing by mistake or without a motive. It
follows then that we were thrust in the middle of a physical world from birth
for a particular reason.
It also follows that this situation is somehow or another for our own good.
For as Ramchal said earlier on, "G-d created the world in order to bestow
So we'll discover shortly that the spiritual principle behind our living in a
world that seems to thwart our highest goals is the following one: "Man's
lowliness will prove to be his greatness in the end". But let’s explain.
Suppose there were an utterly ignoble soul out there who'd somehow hit
bottom. He became a drunk and a derelict, and brash, mean, wayward, and
wanton. Suppose after a time he came to realize what he'd done to himself,
turned himself around, worked hard and invested wisely, and became a
"mentsch" (a fine, upstanding citizen). Let's even imagine that he became a
selfless and ardent philanthropist after a time, and an advocate for all
sorts of good causes.
Then suppose there were another individual out there who'd been born into a
good family, had a sterling upbringing, was educated in the best of schools,
and eventually inherited a great deal of wealth. And imagine they both
advocated for and contributed toward the same noble causes.
The first individual would certainly be lauded more than the second one for
his benevolence. Everyone would speak in awe of how someone like him, who'd
once been such a cur and a dog, had turned himself around so and become so
good. And everything good he did would be tripled in value in everyone’s eyes
as a consequence. While the self-same acts done by the second person would
simply be admired, and no more. After all, people would reason, we would
expect as much from him.
This is the logic behind our having been thrust into a world that seems to
foil our soul's dream of closeness to G-d. For by transcending our
limitations and using the very same environment in which we could easily fail
as a base for succeeding (i.e., this physical world) we will have met the
greatest challenge of them all. And our lowliness will have *indeed* proven
to be our greatness in the end.
It’s important to realize, by the way, that Ramchal is contrasting mankind
with supernatural beings like angels with this point. After all, while we
have to contend with conflicting urges and inclinations, and we're always
threatened with defeat, they aren't. Angels *can't help* but do good and holy
things (that's all they’re "programmed" to do, if you will). As such, any
goodness and holiness they bring into the world is only to be expected (like
the acts of the second person we cited above). While any goodness and
holiness *we* bring into the world is a triumph of the human spirit, and a
personal victory (like the acts of the first person we cited).
Ramchal makes a couple of other points as well here. First, that G-d fully
realizes our complex and imperfect nature. After all, He created it. So He
provided a unique worldly remedy for each of our faults, measure for measure.
We'll find out next time the implications of that.
Second, that every time we use the physical thing that will prove to be a
remedy for us-- and we use it with the proper intentions (which is to draw
close to G-d)-- we perfect ourselves to a certain degree. That perfection,
though, can't be seen. It lies in abeyance somewhere in the depths of our
beings, since it can't manifest itself in this world. But we’re assured that
it will come to full flower in the World to Come.
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