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Showing posts from November, 2010

Derech HaShem: 1:3;1,2 Man, Free Will, Soul/Body

The human being is, in fact, that creation whose purpose to have the closest possible relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  Man's essential character is that he lies between perfection on the one hand and all manner of imperfections on the other.  Moreover, he has the wherewithal to both remove imperfections and to increase his perfection.  However, this movement from his created state to increased perfection must be by his own choice and as a result of his desire to move in that direction.  That is, if his choices would always eventually lead to perfection, then he will not come out as the owner of his perfection and HaShem's desire to bestow the greatest good would not be fulfilled.  Rather, man must be left equally balanced and given all the information he needs to make an informed decision between his options.  He is then allowed to both decide what he wants and then to live out the consequences of that decision.  To keep everything in balance, says the Ramchal, man has b…

To Be or Not To Be... That really *is* the question

We are taught that we earn our reward by exercising our free will to choose to do  mitzvos and avoid aveiros. At this point, I am wondering why it isn't eternal reward a "slam dunk"?  I mean, ok... I have a yeitzer ra which sometimes (often) compels me to make bad decisions.  It seems hard to call that "free choice" when I know I really want to do the right thing and am compelled by my baser urges to sin.  My starting point for this question is simply that I do not understand how the choice is anything but obvious and forced to a rational being.  Put another way, it seems that the choice being offered is something like standing in front of an open furnace; I have free choice (in some sense) about whether or not to enter the furnace, but there is only one rational choice.  And if I do choose to "enter the furnace"; how can I be punished for being irrational?  "oneis rachmana patrei" -- the Torah exempts one who who forced; and acting …

Thought for the Day: Instant Coffee and Avodas HaShem; Pleasure in This World, Take II

Contrary to popular belief, I don't like coffee.  I do, however, very much like giving myself the pleasure of enjoying a good cup of coffee.  Now, before you get (more) annoyed; please let me explain.

First, I would like to establish the following:
All pleasure is the result of enjoying the fruits of some labor. In case there is any doubt, just ask yourself how many people in their right minds want to live their lives in bed with a feeding tube?  Ummm... none.  The disagreement is not about the fact that enjoyment of pleasure only comes from effort; rather people tend to want to decide on their own the level effort they are willing to expend and on what.

Next principle:
As we mature, our ideas of what constitutes pleasure also matures. This does not mean that we give up pleasures, rather that our ideas and attitudes change.  As a trivial example, I was aghast the first time I saw a book without pictures.  I don't read any picture books any more. Its not that I can't find any…

Derech HaShem: 1.2 More on the purpose of creation

The Ramchal has established that the purpose of Creation is for G-d to have a beneficiary with whom He can fulfill His desire to bestow good on another.  In order to most perfectly achieve that goal, the Highest Wisdom decreed:
The beneficiary must be (as much as possible) the owner of its reward.The only true source of good and perfection is HaKadosh Baruch Hu, Himself; therefore the best and most perfect experience of good is a relationship with Him.The first goal is achieved by allowing the beneficiary to realize and experience the good through its own efforts.  Something that is "owed" to it, and not just the result of being "at the right place, at the right time".  It is in some way like the difference between the experience of warmth at the beach versus the experience of warmth after exercising; or the difference between enjoying a symphony as a member of the audience versus as a member of the orchestra.  The second goal is achieved by making the goal of the c…