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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 been created with a tendency to good (yeitzer tov), a tendency to evil (yeitzer ra), and free will to incline himself to either side that he desires.

The final aspect of man's essential nature as decreed by the Highest Wisdom is that a person should be one entity (murkav) built from two opposite characteristics: the soul and the body.  It is important to stress that a human being is not a soul that is chained to a body.  A human being is neither a smart animal nor a physically handicapped spirit.  Rather, man is a new creation who is at one and the same time both a soul and a body.

That means that a person is constantly engaged in a war.  With each decision (ie, each moment of life), if his soul/intellect overcomes and directs the choice then he (the entire human being, soul and body) are elevated; he becomes that perfected being for which he was destined.  If, on the other hand, he lets the body direct the choice, then he (the entire human being, soul and body) are lowered and he becomes corrupted to the point that he is no longer fit to acquire perfection and is, in fact, banished from that level; G-d Forbid.  That person, however, can still subdue the physical with his intellect/spiritual side to once again became fit to acquire perfection.

My first thought that the term "war" was very strong; that is, more than just a struggle or a battle, but a war!  On further reflection, however, I think the Ramchal means something different; namely, that we are not merely engaged in a series of battles, rather these battles are part of a bigger war.  A war has multiple fronts, each requiring its own management.  Wars have times of intensity and times of calm; a war may be won or lost more by the preparations done during the calms than the events of any one battle. Sometimes, in fact, a battle will be intentionally lost to draw the enemy into an indefensible position and finish him there.  But a war is also more than battles and preparing for battles.  Behind the scenes negotiations can actually prevent battles and bring about a conclusion to hostilities that is beneficial for all parties.

A war also requires constant vigilance.  Just because one front is secure does not mean the border is secure.  Worse, working too much on strengthening one front can pull much needed resources from another area that could, G-d Forbid, cause a breach and loss of the whole war.  It is already a caricature of baalei tshuva (aka FFT - frum from Tuesday) that they seem to subscribe to the "chumra of the month" club.  That sort of wild and uncontrolled growth all to often leads to a loss of even the original inspiration. Which, of course, is precisely why the yeitzer ra permits and even encourages such behaviour.  Dealing appropriately with this war in very practical terms is the subject of another of the Ramchal's s'farim: Mesilas Yesharim.


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