Ramchal – Fusion ‎

What is the Meaning and Purpose of Life? | Total Comments: 0 | Total Topics: 0

			Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, better known by his acronym ‘Ramchal’, was an enigma. He was ‎a master at making the mysterious world of Lurianic Kabbala a good deal less mysterious, yet ‎he was prohibited from openly teaching it for most of his adult life. He wrote over 40 books, ‎most touching on Kabbalistic themes, yet his most famous work is not even considered to be ‎a work of Kabbala. ‎
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He was born in Padua, Italy, in the year 1707. His study of Kabbala began at the age of 20, ‎following an education in which he mastered everything he studied, from Talmud to poetry to ‎playwriting. Kabbala became his life’s mission. Needless to say, when the local rabbinic ‎authorities heard that he was teaching some of these secrets to his small group of followers, ‎their suspicions perked up immediately. This was only a few decades after ‎the Shabbtai Zvi debacle, and another Kabbalistic messianic pretender was all the Jewish ‎world needed. Under the threat of excommunication, they managed to force him to agree to ‎not teach any of his mysterious revelations. After much turmoil, he headed to Amsterdam ‎hoping to find a more open environment to teach Kabbala. ‎
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While in Amsterdam he did succeed in writing a good deal of his books, including his ‎masterpiece, Mesilat Yesharim (The Path of the Just). It was written as a Jewish guide to ‎spiritual perfection, with the final goal of reaching a state of prophecy and the ability to ‎resurrect the dead. To the reader unfamiliar with Ramchal’s heavy Kabbalistic leanings, the ‎book appears to be a work of Jewish ethics, laid out in very organized and systematic manner. ‎One can read it in this way and lose nothing of its deep content. In fact, ‎the Mussar Movement, which by unofficial consensus adopted it as its primary text, did ‎exactly that. ‎
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But when taken in context of Ramchal’s broader goals for the purpose of life – that human ‎beings were created to experience God’s goodness and to become like God – ‎the Mesilat Yesharim takes on an entirely different tone. This is the path to experience God; it ‎is the path to ultimate goodness:   ‎
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‎“The blessed sages taught that man was only created to delight in Hashem and to enjoy the ‎splendor of God’s presence – this is the ultimate delight, and the greatest pleasure to be ‎found. The true place of this joy is the World to Come (Olam Haba), which was created for ‎this reason. As the rabbis said: ‘This world is an entryway into the next world’. The means of ‎achieving this goal are the mitzvot that God commanded us to do. This world is the place to ‎do them. Therefore, we were first placed in this world so that through these means that are ‎available to us, we could achieve our place in Olam Haba, to partake of the good that we ‎acquired through these means…When we look deeper into this we see that true fulfillment is ‎only found in fusion with God (d’vekut in Hebrew)…for this only is good and everything ‎else that people consider to be good is worthless and empty. But to merit this good we first ‎must earn it by exerting the effort to achieve it, meaning to struggle to fuse with God through ‎deeds that result in this, namely the commandments…” ‎
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Analysis ‎
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Before we begin to dissect this rather long paragraph, it must be noted that the above is a ‎slightly loose translation. The interested reader should check out the original Hebrew for ‎clarity. With that out of the way, one thing we see from this introduction is that Ramchal was ‎absolutely sure of his take on the deepest questions of life, and showed no hesitation in ‎drawing wide-sweeping conclusions. The following sums up the main conclusions of this ‎paragraph: ‎
‎1.‎	We were created to delight in Hashem ‎
‎2.‎	This true place of this delight is Olam Haba ‎
‎3.‎	We were put in this world to earn a place in Olam Haba ‎
‎4.‎	Fusion with God is the only true good ‎
‎5.‎	We must struggle to achieve this fusion with God ‎
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There are few things that need clarification in this rather complete spiritual picture of reality. ‎First off, it appears that the first three items form one subgroup and the final two another. The ‎first group basically paints a pretty straightforward diagram of things – spiritual achievements ‎in this world are valuable because they give us a place in the next world, which is where we ‎attain our real purpose of delight in God. In the final two items (when we look deeper into ‎things) we see a different end goal – fusion with God. There is no mention about the next ‎world. Are there two different goals or are they somehow the same? ‎
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Second, being created to delight in Hashem, as heavenly as it sounds, does seem a little self-‎centered. Is that really what it’s all about – just enjoying God’s presence in Olam Haba? What ‎about random acts of kindness, saving the world, gaining knowledge, sharing love, peace on ‎earth, or any of the million other things that make the world go round? For that matter, is this ‎world really nothing more than a gateway? Doesn’t it have some inherent value of its own? ‎
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Third, what is this business of ‘fusion with God’? The Hebrew word d’vekut, can be ‎translated in many ways, including ‘clinging’, ‘joining’, ‘closeness’, and several others. In ‎recent years it has become a sort of all-purpose term for Jewish spirituality. Most Jews who ‎use the term prefer to avoid translating it, feeling that it loses something in the translation. ‎But translation is a step-in understanding. If the word isn’t translated it very likely isn’t really ‎understood. We chose the unorthodox word ‘fusion’ as the translation of d’vekut, fully aware ‎that it would alienate some and disappoint others. But it hits on the essence of d’vekut like no ‎other translation, namely the idea of union, or oneness, which is the ultimate goal. While it is ‎true that as long as we retain our independent identities (our egos) such a union is impossible, ‎the goal remains the same. Fusion is the process by which two distinct things merge and form ‎one. This is the goal of d’vekut. ‎
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Getting back to those first two questions, it certainly appears that the goal of delight in the ‎Olam Haba does not really match up with the goal of fusion. But perhaps this merely reflects ‎on an improper understanding of the Jewish view of heaven. It is not pleasure in the usual ‎sense at all. It is delight in God, something that is accessible during our lifetime but only ‎with constant effort. It is only through the struggle to try to find God in all aspects of our ‎lives, to discover the godliness that lies underneath all the layers of superficiality and self-‎centered living, that we can ever hope to truly delight in God. Delight in God means to seek ‎only that which enables one to become like God, and to avoid that which doesn’t. To truly ‎delight in God is a refined sense, somewhat akin to the acquired taste of fine wine. It takes a ‎lifetime of searching and revealing – it is nothing less than a quest. ‎
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When looked at this way, the goal of delighting in God in the next world is not at all ‎antithetical to either the goals of kindness and love or the goal of fusion with God. Kindness, ‎love, knowledge, self-awareness, spiritual refinement – these are all paths to learn to ‎appreciate the goodness inherent in God and to instill that goodness internally. The goal is not ‎really to get a good seat in the heavenly stadium. That wouldn’t be delighting in godliness at ‎all. It would be trying to transfer the superficial temptations of this world into heaven. When ‎really examined, such a heaven would be a kind of hell. It is eternal meaninglessness. ‎Olam Haba is the world we build during the spiritual quest of our lifetimes. We can build a ‎world permeated by God, a world in which our identity fuses with God’s. Or we can build a ‎world that has us perpetually chasing after shadows and illusions. Which world would you ‎want? ‎
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In reality, we can get a taste of our world to come during our lifetimes. We all have some idea ‎of the world we are building. We may ignore that awareness, or dismiss its nagging guilt trips, ‎but we all know that it is there. That hidden awareness is a like a sixth sense, an ability to ‎detect godliness in our lives, and a barometer to gauge if we are doing all that we can to find ‎it. Delight in all things godly is that scale. If this is our delight then we are experiencing ‎heaven in this world. If it is not, then we are falling pray to the myriad of distractions that ‎keep us from knowing the goal and how to get to it. It is all a matter of delight – delight in ‎fusion with God. ‎
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Practical ‎
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Once in a while you have to ask yourself what you really want out of life. You have to really ‎question whether you want sex, drugs, and rock and roll, or if you’ve grown out of that. You ‎have to ask if all the worrying about money and looks and prestige is really getting you ‎anywhere in the long haul. You have to examine your goals, and reconsider if they are goals ‎that are truly worthwhile or if they are just socially imposed idols that have no ultimate value. ‎
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You have to question your ultimate goals – are they worthy of the label ‘ultimate’, or are they ‎just the same old thing in an ‘ultimate’ package. If your goals go beyond the confines of ‎this lifetime, and concern your standing in the next world, you must ask another question. Is ‎your heaven really heaven, or is it a glorified version of Las Vegas? Even if your heaven is ‎really heaven, you must delve deeper and wonder if the goal of personal salvation is really ‎just a well-meaning sell out. Is it really possible that God wants to you save yourself but not ‎really care about anyone else? If you think this may be possible, you must ask if this is the ‎image of God that you want to meet up with in the next world. ‎
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These are tough questions. They are serious, mind-absorbing, hammering-out questions that ‎everyone needs to face at some point in life. Most people never really do this, and they may ‎be selling themselves short. But if you can face these questions, and if you have the courage ‎to deal with the unsettling thoughts they awaken, you may be ready to for a new quest in life. ‎This quest has nothing to do with fame, fortune, or security. It is the quest for meaning. It ‎begins with these questions and it inevitably turns you in the direction that points towards ‎something that religious people call God. Be warned: this quest is addicting and all-‎consuming. It is never really over. Its progress is not measured in dollars or ‘likes’ or envious ‎looks. It is measured by how much you want to steer your life towards a higher cause. Some ‎people, perhaps you, would identify the quest as a union with God, a fusion between you and ‎your God. ‎
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Food for Thought ‎
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Fusion with God sounds great when read in a spiritual guide like Mesilat Yesharim. But when ‎actually attempted it seems downright impossible. Is this goal really achievable, or is it ‎chasing some impossible dream? ‎


		


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