The last time Ramchal focused on the idea that G-d intended for us to achieve
closeness to Him on our own by perfecting ourselves. Ramchal's point this
time is that it's not just that we *earn* closeness to G-d by perfecting
ourselves-- we in fact *become* close to Him through the very process of
perfecting ourselves, as we'll explain.
But first this.
Some of us perhaps wistfully imagine how sublime drawing close to G-d
Almighty must be; while the more doggedly material and this-worldly among us
haven't even an inclination to do that. But tzaddikim (the righteous holy
ones) *dream* about it in the deepest, most vivid corners of their hearts;
they set out to do it; and they eventually do draw close to Him (see our
discussion of this "d'vekus" experience in 1:2:1).
(In fact, I've long surmised that a person's true self can best be determined
by the contrast between what he dreams of, and what he ignores. So I contend
that it would do us each well to determine just where we ourselves stand on
the "dream to get close to G-d" continuum in order to know our spiritual
Accordingly, tzaddikim sometimes grow benignly impatient in their quest, and
yearn for a short-cut, if you will. That's the issue Ramchal is addressing
The short-cut comes to this: As we've explained, G-d's Being is utterly
perfect. And all other instances of perfection are thus "offshoots" of
G-d's actual perfection, much the way a tree's branches are smaller yet
corresponding offshoots of the tree itself.
Now, just as one holds onto the tree itself in a certain sense when he holds
onto its branch, one "holds onto" G-d's perfection *and His very Being* in a
certain sense by taking hold of and pursuing self-perfection (which is a
branch of G-d's perfection). Much the way a drowning person who takes hold
of a life-preserver is in a certain sense safely aboard the rescue ship
Thus, engaging in the process of perfecting oneself, and the process of
drawing close to G-d are one and the same, for all intents and purposes. Thus
the greatest short-cut to closeness to G-d is starting out to draw close to
And just as the more tightly one clings to one of the "tree's" branches (or
to the "lifesaver"), the closer he is to his goal; the more one perfects him
or herself, the more he or she attaches onto G-d Almighty.
Ramchal concludes with one final point. Which is that drawing close to G-d is
referred to as the experience of "illumination", while distancing yourself
from Him is referred to as the experience of "concealment". And that the more
one perfects himself, the more illumination he enjoys. Those two paradigms
are sometimes referred to as either "seeing" G-d "full face" or "from the
back". We'll come upon these terms again and again in our studies.
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