Skip to main content

Derech HaShem: 1:3;5-8 The Mistake

The Ramchal has explained the fundamental purpose of creation (so HaShem can bestow goodness upon another), our role (to be that beneficiary), and our environment (olam haze to become partners in our own creation; olam haba to fully experience/realize our relationship with HaShem).  Up to this point, however, everything has been from a very high level with no details.  Something like explaining that to put a man on the moon you need to build a really big rocket.  True, but not really enough detail to appreciate what is involved.  The Ramchal will devote much of the rest of the sefer to describing how all of this works together and delving into some details.  Before he can do that, however, the Ramchal will delve into one "detail" that had a profound effect on the entire course of human history.

Essentially, our first use of the gift of free will was to make a mistake.  This is not the place to go into either what that mistake was nor what it means that we all participated in that mistake, so please just take it as a given that Adam in fact did make a mistake and that we all participated to one degree or another.  I am being precise by using the word "mistake" to describe what Adam did; he was aiming for the ultimate kiddush HaShem but missed the mark; it was not act of rebellion.  (Again, not for now.)

So how big was this mistake and what were its consequences?  Big enough that we cannot not speak about Adam haRishon without specifying whether it was before or after the mistake.  To put it in the context of our flight to the moon analogy:  The initial world into which Adam haRishon was placed would be like the Saturn V booster rocket on the launch pad, mission control on full alert with all systems go, the astronauts in the capsule and reporting all systems go on their end, and the mission commander announces it is time to commence the final countdown.  At "T minus 10" the crew decides they would like to be involved with every detail -- rocket, launch pad, mission control, etc -- from the beginning; so they blow it all up to be able to build fresh from the ground up.  After their tragic mistake, the overall mission statement has not changed, but the means certainly have.  When first placed in the capsule, the astronauts had nothing to do but wait for the launch.  Now, however, the astronauts will have to (re)build everything, and only then climb back into the capsule... to wait for launch.

That first cheit/mistake of Adam haRishon was no less dramatic.  Before the mistake the world looked just as has been described and Adam haRishon was standing precisely balanced between good and evil.  He had absolutely clarity about his choices and their consequences.  Moreover, one must realize that we directly experience only a very tiny portion of our soul and its abilities.  Our intellect and general feeling of being alive is the only aspects of our soul that we can experience now.  However, the soul is much, much more than that.  The soul actually has the ability to completely refine the body from something that blocks spirituality to something that beautifies and enhances spirituality.  Something like the way a piece of coal can be transformed to a diamond.  Adam haRishon was one decision away from a complete and irreversible transformation (elevation after elevation) of his entire being.  The refinement of his body and unrestrained unification with his soul that would have made him into that being who can experience the everlasting joy and pleasure that HaShem so desires to bestow.  But he didn't; so we are here.

This mistake caused such a catastrophic result because it touched on our very core and our purpose for being in this world.  As has been explained in some detail, it is a deep principle of creation that the Highest Wisdom has decreed we should earn our reward.  We earn our reward by perfecting ourselves, which makes (as much as is possible) similar to the Creator Himself and thereby makes our relationship with him an integral part of our essence. That is, instead of simply receiving reward from Him, we become so much associated with Him that we be become (as it were and as to the maximum extent possible)  part of Him, while still retaining our identity.

In order for us to be able to perfect ourselves, of course, we must start off imperfect.  To that end HaShem had created Adam haRishon with tiny imperfections in order give him the opportunity to remove them.  These imperfections were not an integral part of him, as Adam haRishon had done nothing to "earn" them.  As a consequence, he had no real connection to them; they had been created with no purpose other than to be eliminated.  After the mistake, however, the newly introduced imperfections were owned by -- and therefore an integral part of -- Adam haRishon (and thence to all of humanity).  That is, just as working to increase our perfection yields the best possible results, so too working to decrease perfection yields the most horrendous possible results.

The mistake not only increased the imperfections quantitatively, it also changed them qualitatively; making them a part of our being rather than and external blemish.  Adam haRishon was a flawed diamond and turned himself into a lump of coal.  In this post-mistake world, the work has been doubled: First we need to actually remake ourselves from intrinsically flawed beings into the state that existed before the mistake.  It is only after that that we can begin (again) the final perfecting of (remade) selves and achieve the perfection that could have been acquired with that first decision.  Obviously removing imperfections would have been much easier that actually remaking ourselves.  That is where we find ourselves today... a world that needs to be remade and put aright before we can even start to think about completing our original mission.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…