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Ramchal: Messilat Yesharim: Chapter One Print E-mail

RamchalTranscribed by Slavie Friedman: A person’s obligation in his world and what he means to say is that each one of us has to understand that the world is ours. It’s mine. The world is mine. It’s not that it is God’s world and halacha is there to teach me how to act in God’s world. It is my world. He’s going to explain this.


This has tremendous implications. For example, my father zt”l says inParshat Emor, when it wants to describe the kohen gadol, it says the kohen who is bigger than his brother. The obvious question is why couldn’t it simply have said Hakohen Hagadol? We all know who the Kohen Hagodel is. Why is it written that way?

My father’s explanation of it is, and I hope I do it justice, is that he only becomes a Kohen Gadol, the high priest, by virtue of being “Bigger and Greater.” It is being “Bigger and Greater” that makes him the Kohen Gadol. What we learn from this, besides the practical idea of what you want to look for in a Kohen Gadol, isone who is greater than the others. That’s vague. I can have a general idea of what it means when it says greater. From the gemara’s description of the Kohen Gadol, it could mean that he’s wealthier. It could mean that he’s fatter. It could mean that he’s better looking. In fact the gemara says that Gadol means that he has to be big in wealth, big physically, he has to be big in all those things.

The way my father reads it is like this: Anyone who understands that he or she is greater in this area than other people, not necessarily everyone else, but realizes that they have a strength. I am extra strong in this one area and I act with that awareness. Because of that awareness, such a person deserves to become Kohen Gadol.

The Chofetz Chaim clearly knew that he had tremendous strength in the area of observing the laws of Lashon Hara. And he acted on it and he did something because that was his strength. Such a person deserves to be the Kohen Gadol, which probably what the Chofetz Chaim would have been.

My father ties it into this line in Mesilat Yesharim. He said that that is what the Ramchal means. I have to look at the world, not only that it’s my world, God gave it to me and therefore I have to use it, but it means something else. I have to look at my world, I have to look at my self, my position, my strength, my potential, my abilities and demand from myself that I use those strengths and those gifts that are mine and that are special and if you don’t, it’s not my world. You haven’t truly made it your own world. Yourwhole service of God really has to come from that. So if my greater strength is in davening, I know that the area I need to work on and use, is davening. If my strongest area is the laws of lashon hara, than that’s what I have to work on. We have to be aware of it.

He says what a person has to know is what his obligation is in his world. He has to know wherehe should direct  his vision, of what he hopes to accomplish and his aspiration,which is looking at it in perspective in relation to everything that is going on all the days of his life.

He says like this: the purpose of creation is to take pleasure with Hashem and we said that thereis a difference between Oneg and Hana’ah. One is that enjoyment which you have with another. The other is a pleasure which I can partake of only on my own. We spoke of the implications of that in Gan Eden. We spoke about Hitaneg el Hashem. True enjoyment. It comes only from God.

The purpose of creation is to enjoy God. The place is Olam Haba. The way to get to Olam Haba is through Olam Hazeh. That was paragraph number two. How do you use this world to get to Olam Haba? That is the mitzvot. If I tell you that the purpose of your existence is Olam Haba, you were created for the pleasure of Olam Haba, and you’re simply going through Olam Hazeh to get to Olam Haba, and the purpose of the mitzvot is simply to get you through Olam Hazeh, which will get you to Olam Haba, there is a distinct danger of my not paying attention to Olam Hazeh. In other words, I have to get through here in order to get to there, so there is no real importance to here. So what I’m doing is not really important except in terms of how it is going to get me there.

Has any of you heard of Harry Chapin? He has a song called Greyhound. He’s taking a trip on a Greyhound and it’s a horrible trip and he says ‘It’s got to be the going that will get you there.’ He differentiates between arriving and the trip there. If the trip there is miserable, then forget the whole thing. By the time you get there you’re going to be a wreck. What he says is  the whole purpose is Olam Haba. So it’s possible that this whole life is going to be miserable. In fact, that’s what happens. People stop enjoying this world, because the whole purpose of this world is to get you to Olam Haba. So you look at the world and resent it. ‘Look at all the things that happen to me and the pleasures and drives and passions distract me and I’m not going to get into Olam Haba’ and you hate them and it could destroy you if you are really focused on Olam Hazeh.

Therefore, you not only need the ultimate vision of where you are going to get to, you need to be able to look at here and now and what it is. Then he explains himself.

In order to attach oneself to God, what one needs is Shleimut, perfection. The only way to perfect ones self is through the mitzvot in Olam Hazeh. So understand that’s why he speaks about Olam Haba. Oneg which is joint pleasure, correspondent pleasure, and Eden.

If I simply live through Olam Hazeh, this world, even if I observe all the mitzvot or even if Idon’t, I will get to Olam Haba. If I did not work on perfecting myself, if I did not work ongrowing, if my focus was only on thevision of my ultimate goal, but not everything that is going on now, then all I will have in my Olam Haba, is limited pleasure. There is only one way of having the shared pleasure with the other being, (in this case the otherbeing is God) and that  is to perfect yourself. That’s the only way. Therefore I am creating areality in Olam Hazeh.

Now, not only has he given us  a vision of where we have to go, but he has given us a aspiration for Olam Hazeh. I can’t lose sight of my present simply because I am focused only on my vision, my ultimate destiny in Olam Haba.

How does Shleimut come? That is by mastering one’s self. In Derech Hashem, he explained it in more detail on why is it that mastering one’s self is perfection. The simple explanation is that since God is the master of God’s self, the only way we can truly attach ourselves to God as beings, is if we master ourselves. We have to be as similar to God as possible. If we have no concept to self mastery, then how can we relate God who is total self mastery? That’s what he explains in Derech Hashem.

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