"The Way of G-d"
Part 1: "The Fundamental Principles of Reality"
Ch. 4: "Human Responsibility"
We indicated last time that G-d fully realizes our complex and imperfect
nature and thus provided a unique worldly remedy for each of our faults,
measure for measure. And we also said that we'd delve into the implications
of that now, which we will.
Ramchal reveals that the remedy for faults in our physical beings is the
mitzvah system. For mitzvahs are *primarily* physical acts which we use
various parts of our body to fulfill. We take hold of an esrog and lulav (a
citron and palm-frond) on Sukkos with our hands, for example; walk to
synagogue with our feet; sniff at spices for havdalah (the ceremony that
concludes the Shabbos); etc. But there’s even more to it than that, as we’ll
In truth some of us see mitzvahs in very curious ways. Many see them as mere
"good deeds"-- as ways of earning Divine "merit badges" and "brownie points",
if you will. While others see them as abstract "symbols" of high ideals,
expressions of Jewish "people-hood" and culture, uniquely Jewish "ethical
imperatives", and the like. And others tie them in with Jewish history and
past circumstance, and come to dismiss them as irrelevant.
But the mitzvah system goes far beyond that. After all, it was instigated by
G-d Almighty who knows our hearts and minds, and wants to draw us close to
Let's explain as best we can. As we said above, while mitzvahs are primarily
physical acts, there are nonetheless always and inevitably intellectual and
emotional implications to them as well. For just as our actions always have
their consequences in the outside world-- either subtle or blunt-- they also
effect our inner, intellectual and emotional world.
Observing Shabbos, for example, not only involves doing thus and such, and
avoiding this and that. The very Shabbos experience itself sets off certain
thoughts and emotions that effect my very being.
That's to say that the very fact of observing Shabbos-- rather than not
observing it-- invariably changes me. Since my deeds, thoughts, and emotions
are embraced by Shabbos rather than by not-Shabbos.
Things I might have done, thought, and felt-- and the consequences they might
have had on me-- had I not observed Shabbos are now simply out of the
picture. And my very being is rectified in various ways by that fact.
Hence the mitzvah system is a physical, intellectual, and emotional
phenomenon that changes those who adhere to it. And the sort of changes those
people experience are the very ones that G-d set up to rectify our beings.
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