1.2.1 The Goodness of Creation The first chapter introduced us to the idea of the "unknowable God" who preexisted Creation as we know it, in a perfectly Divine and unchanging realm, void of any finite concepts such as time and space.
As we mentioned, Ramchal began with the subject of the God the Creator, as this was the most "general" topic in his scheme of learning "from the top down." All else follows from this point and will have some association with Creation, just as all the commandments given from God proceeded from the first, the "introduction of God" as Sovereign of the universe, as mentioned in lesson 1.1.
Ramchal begins this chapter with the declaration that Creation had a purpose, and that purpose was so that God could bestow His goodness/perfection to something "other than Himself." This is another "general" fundamental principal to understanding God and Creation, and must be understood as such.
By examining the Creation account in Genesis, Chapter 1, we see a two-part process; a) God creates something, and b) God examines what He created and sees that it is "good" (Hebrew: "Tov").
The verses from Genesis, chapter 1 are as follows:
God calls creation "good", but good compared to what? As Ramchal states, "Other things may be said to have perfection [goodness], but it is only relative to something less perfect."
This correlates to another principle stated in 1.2.2 "God therefore decreed and arranged that creation contain elements of both perfection and deficiency " Therefore, we see that the goodness of creation (before the "fall of mankind") is perfectly balanced with "deficiency".
Only God Is Good Ramchal makes it a point to emphasize, that although Gods "intent" is to bestow His true perfection upon Creation, only God Himself is truly good. Yeshua made this clear, emphasizing that God is One (i.e., the declaration of the "Shema," found in Deuteronomy 6:4), and that God alone is good:
Emulating God to Attain Goodness/Perfection
Ramchal next mentions a spiritual principle that will be developed further into the study. The "closer" one is (becomes) to God, the more they can "partake" of Gods goodness/perfection and therefore themselves be considered as such. As stated in Deuteronomy, " that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days " 1
Although Ramchal does not get around to specifically mentioning "man" as the subject in this context (until the last paragraph of this chapter), we know that only man has this ability, which is in fact his purpose in life.
This is exactly as was instructed by Yeshua:
Ramchal states in another of his works that this perfection that man is to strive for may be understood through both Scripture and reason. (This is a similar argument to Pauls used in Romans 1):
"How" man is to strive, for this perfection will be discussed in great detail further in this study. For now however, we will point to the second half of the verse cited earlier:
Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
Ramchal further states, "The purpose of all that was created was therefore to bring into existence a creature who could derive pleasure from Gods own good "
Adam and Eve did not know either good or evil, as we now do, before eating of the tree. Evil was not created at the "fall" of man, but as we stated earlier, deficiency (i.e., evil) was inherent at the foundation of creation (remember it is the tree of the knowledge of good AND evil).
It is for this reason that the work of the Messiah is accomplished at the beginning of creation as is stated in Hebrews " although the works were finished from the foundation of the world." 3 Thus Yeshua is presented in Revelation as the, " Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." 4
The inherent deficiency in creation and its remedy are alluded to in the Talmud:
When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree, Scripture says, "Then the eyes of both of them were opened " 6 Opened to what?
Before Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree, there was a perfect balance of "good" and "evil", there was no distinction between the two. At the moment they partake of the fruit of the tree, " they knew that they were naked " 7 That is, they saw the deficiency in creation, they saw "evil" apart from "good."
As stated in the Zohar:
This of course causes us to consider the idea that the "fall of man" was "built into" Gods plan. This is not simply saying that "God knew it would happen," but rather that it was a necessary and "planned" event (by God), in order for man to become what God wanted man to become.
1.2.2 Ramchal states that, " Gods perfect wisdom, however, decreed that for such good to be perfect, the one enjoying it must be its master." As will be discussed in detail later on, to "master good" one must also "master evil." To better understand this concept, we turn to Scripture.
Again, we find an elaboration of this idea in another of Ramchals works:
One of the first people given this insight, was someone who truly needed it, Cain, the son of Adam and Chavah (Eve):
The idea of us mastering evil and good, is reiterated in the first of Johns letters in the New Testament. As mentioned, the ideas of good and evil (and thus mastering them) are linked to Gods commandments (His Torah) which in the New Testament is often called "the Law," and its abrogation called "lawlessness."
John emphasizes our task in mastering evil and good. He defines the "righteous person" not simply as someone who "believes" a certain way, but as one who "practices righteousness" (i.e., becomes a hearer and a doer of Torah).
We see the idea of perfecting ourselves reflected in Pauls writings as well:
In the same letter, Paul reminds his audience that those who are "of the Spirit" (Hebrew: "Ruach") are "subject to the law of God" (to perfect ourselves by walking according to Torah as Yeshua Himself walked, i.e., 1 John 2:3-6):
Romans 8:5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Pauls letter to the Philippians contains one of his more emphatic statements on how we are to live, making a point to state that we are by no means perfect upon "making a decision" to follow Messiah (i.e., to follow Torah as He taught). Paul explains that we are on a path to "walk" a certain way (Hebrew: our "Halakha"), humbly trusting in God that we will be "saved," and encouraging his audience to follow his personal example. (Compare this to Johns statement of the "righteous person practicing righteousness," in 1 John 3:4-9 (above), as well as the entirety of "James" [Jacobs!] letter in the New Testament.):
- That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Messiah Yeshua has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Messiah Yeshua. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Messiah: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame--who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Ramchal states, "He must be the one who has earned it for himself, and not given it accidentally [or by chance]."
This idea is also drawn from the Creation account. Here we are told, that after the "fall", man was dispatched by God, to live in a physical world, where he would be able to know and choose between good and evil, and working toward re-conforming himself to the image of God in which he was formed:
Regarding mans spiritual work, Ramchal adds, " By clinging to the elements of perfection, this unique creature would make itself resemble the Creator "
This concept is also mentioned in Johns epistle, where we are told to make ourselves pure, as "we will be like Him":
1.2.3 In this paragraph, Ramchal further discusses the idea of us working on "being perfect" as God is. He says, "Therefore, even though the Root of perfection cannot be attained, all true perfection is ultimately derived and transmitted from this Root."
The New Testament points us to Yeshua the Messiah as being the most perfected of beings, and as such is our example to follow. (Note the idea of Messiah being such an example is consistent with Orthodox Judaism. The argument is simply over whom the Messiah is.)
Yeshua taught this of Himself. Note the similar use of a plant as metaphor as compared to the language used by Ramchal. God is the Root in Ramchals analogy, He is the vinedresser in Yeshuas. Yeshua is a vine coming from that Root/Vinedresser. We are the branches. Our work in avoiding deficiency and striving for perfection is our fruit. His Words (Torah) are our guide to accomplishing this:
Paul reaffirms Yeshua as being our earthly example:
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Ramchal comments on the "unique creature which stands balanced between the elements of perfection and the elements of deficiency, which in turn are the result of Gods illumination or concealment." (This creature being man, as he soon states clearly.)
Mans work is thus at the same time twofold. He is to avoid deficiency and he is to seek perfection. As we will explore later on, the 613 commandments of the Torah are considered as divided into 365 "negative" commandments and 248 "positive" commands. The former point man away from deficiency, the latter toward perfection. (See Sidebar on Positive and Negative Commandments.)
Ramchal further states, "The more elements of perfection (i.e., Torah) this creature (man) incorporates into itself, the stronger will be his association and bond to God."
The above statement addresses the concerns of gentile followers of Yeshua, who may wonder why they should take on more of the commands of the Torah. (i.e., "Do I HAVE to do those things?") God gave these commands for the purpose stated above by Ramchal. (Although we may not initially understand "how this works.") This subject will be further addressed later in this study.
1.2.4 Ramchal states, "God therefore decreed and arranged that creation contain elements of both perfection and deficiency, as well as a creature with equal access to both." (See sidebar on the "Four Worlds.")
Turning to Genesis we see:
Only with the onset of Creation does deficiency (i.e., "evil") appear. Evil did not exist prior to Creation, as there was no aspect of differentiation as only God existed. As such, there was no "concealment of His illumination" as Ramchal defines as "elements of deficiency.")
This also brings us to another point. As Creation contains both elements of perfection and deficiency, the Torah given at Sinai was given for man to deal with life in this world to avoid sin ("deficiency"), and to draw closer to God (perfect himself).
1.2.5 Finally (!) Ramchal gets around to saying what weve been waiting for, "This primary, essential creature is man."
Again, we turn to the Creation account, where God establishes man alone in this role:
1. Deuteronomy 30:20