The Path of the Just
Ch. 1 (Part 2)
“It’s only fitting that you toil and strive” Ramchal asserts, “to be
worthy of this good” -- of drawing close to G-d, since it’s so essential.
And that we do what we can “to clutch onto Him with the specific things
that will enable (each one of us) to do this” -- the mitzvot, which are so
Ramchal brings some of the dynamism of the mitzvah-system to light in
other works. One of the things he points out is this ironical aspect of
the mitzvot. “Even though humanity is mired in physicality” day after day,
moment by moment, he points out, we can paradoxically reach our full
potential “through (our) physicality and corporeality” (Derech Hashem 1:4)
by using the mitzvah-system. For while mitzvot are mostly rooted in
material things they nonetheless make contact with Heaven and allow us to
For we can elevate our very mundane (though compelling) appetite for food
to a point of holiness by eating only kosher things, by dedicating our
favorite foods for Shabbat and Yom Tov meals, for example, rather than eat
haphazardly and with no other end in mind than to gulp down food. And
along the same lines, we can likewise elevate our wardrobe by avoiding
Sha’atnez (See Leviticus 19:19), exalt our dinner table by discussing
Torah in the course of a meal, and the like.
And that way our initial “shortcoming will come to be an asset” in the end
(Derech Hashem 1:4), which means to say that our very human need to eat,
etc. will ultimately enable us to transcend ourselves. And we’ll thus be
able to “luxuriate in the hidden light” of G-d’s presence (Da’at Tevunot
40) thanks to our very basic, animal needs. For as we see, despite their
physical base, mitzvot “induce G-d’s holiness and salutary light”
downward, and thus act as “the means of (our) achieving true goodness”
So it would only make sense that we’d commit ourselves to the mitzvah-
system and never swerve. Yet we do veer off-course, despite the great good
we’d miss in the process and regardless of our determination. Why?
For one thing, as Ramchal puts it, because despite the glorious fact that
we’d just been informed of the very best way to draw close to G-d Almighty
and to fulfill our life-mission, and notwithstanding the certainty that we
have it within us to withstand pitfalls, the truth of the matter is that G-
d has nonetheless “placed mankind in a situation where there are many
things to hinder closeness to Him”. For we “have been placed in the midst
of a mighty battle, wherein all worldly happenstances … are trials” and
tests of our determination.
For we’re tempted by this and that, thrown off-course by one situation or
another, and almost daily accosted by circumstances that seem to dare us
to try to be pious despite them. So what are we to do given that?
For one thing it would help us to know, as Ramchal put it elsewhere,
that “certain things can only be resolved by tribulation” (Derech Hashem
2:3). That’s to say that sometimes our mettle is purposely tested and
we’re provoked to overcome a moral dilemma; but we’re to know that we’d
deliberately been placed in that situation because our triumph will do us
a world of good (Klallim Rishonim 34).
In any event, Ramchal continues here, “you will only be … worthy of
clutching onto your Creator if you are truly a warrior, victorious in your
battles from all sides”, and you manage to overcome your obstacles to
Do that and you will “go from the ‘vestibule’ of this world” -- as our
life-experience is termed, since at bottom this too-short life serves as
an entrée to eternity -- and you’ll enter “ into the ‘palace’ of the World
to Come” where you’ll be “enlightened by the Light of Life”, G-d Himself.
And with that perspective in mind we’re far more likely to succeed.
Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org