1.3.1 The Yetzer ha-tov (also: "Yetzer Tov") and Yetzer ha-ra (also: "Yetzer Hara")
Before we begin this next chapter, there are two points that we should review:
Ramchal explains how, before the "fall," the physical and spiritual were "on a level playing field." Neither had "an advantage." If this were the case, man would have existed in a state where he would have been unable to perfect himself. It would either be done apart from man (i.e., God making us into "robots" with no free will), or it would be impossible for man to do this (which would make God a bit of a sadist).
Evil, as Scripture states, is created and not made.1 That is to say that God did not actively make evil, but that it is a natural consequence of God's concealment of His Presence in creation. It is this concealment that gives man his "purpose" -- that is to try mankind, so as to give them room for Divine service.2
As Ramchal states, "Only man is placed between perfection and deficiency, with the power to earn perfection." This fact necessitates the existence of "free will."
Creation existed, prior to the fall of mankind, in a state of balance between perfection and deficiency allowing man to be situated between "good and evil," compelled towards neither.
The purpose of "evil" was to provide Adam with the opportunity to exercise free will. Without temptation, the choice of good would have been axiomatic. With "just enough" evil present in creation, Adam could have fulfilled his intended purpose (as Ramchal stated in the previous chapter), "to acquire perfection and avoid deficiency "
As stated in our last lesson, "Adam and Eve did not know either good or evil, as we now do, before eating of the tree." That is to say that "evil" was not a part of their psychological makeup - they were pure of sin (i.e., they had no reason to conceal themselves from God until after they ate of the tree). Another way to consider this, is that evil was not "internalized within them as it was after the fall." Man had, "the power to incline himself in whichever direction he desired." He was created with an inclination (or urge) to either good (the yetzer tov) or evil (the yetzer hara) and had the power to choose either side, and possess either one.
In this light one may view the yetzer hara as something to be hated and despised, but this is not the case. In fact, the yetzer hara was created not that man would succumb to it, but rather that he would be strengthened by overcoming "temptation" in order to gain perfection. Mankind's task is to labor to eradicate imperfection from himself first, and subsequently from the entire creation, as far as is in his power.3
Here are several interesting aspects to the Yetzer Tov and Yetzer Hara:
1.3.2 The dynamic between the soul and the body The soul and body are in a, "constant state of battle." Ramchal says of man, "if he allows the physical to prevail then besides lowering his body, he also debases his soul. Such an individual will be unfit for perfection, and will be kept far from it..."
This reflects Pauls message to the Romans, warning them of the dangers of giving into the "flesh," (i.e., the physical) even to the point of "no return":
Paul equates the "flesh" with the "body" -
Paul states very clearly that the "flesh" and the "spirit" are in constant battle with one another.
Paul describes even clearer the "war" that occurs between the "flesh" and the "spirit" (see Romans 7:14-25 for full text). He states that in his "flesh" nothing good dwells." Paul further states, "I find then a law, that evil is present with me," and that, "I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Here is the basic "dilemma" as Paul states, "So then, with the mind (that is the "realm" of the soul/spirit) I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."
It is these "opposing forces" within himself that draws Paul to the one conclusion that God intended for man to make. That is the realization of man's true state, and his total "dependence" (i.e., faith) on God. As Paul states, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Messiah Yeshua our Lord!"
The test of the righteous, provided by God's concealing His Presence, affords for the dynamic of faith to operate. When God constrains Himself, He leaves room for "doubt." The Talmud refers to the Garden of Eden's "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil" as "Ilana d'sfeika,'" the "Tree of Doubt," since it was a mixture of good and evil.
Ramchal shows how this is the experience of King David with regard to faith.
1.3.3 Eternity This is the first mention of "the World to Come" (Olam Haba), which will be elaborated on later. Ramchal explains that the things done in this "present world" (the time of "earning reward") will impact our status in the World to Come (the time of enjoying our rewards).
1.3.4 The aspects of this world and the World to Come Creation was
intended to be a magnificent "garden" of harmony, containing those elements
necessary for mankind to bring it towards perfection.
This is reflected in the creation account:
Though creation existed prior to the fall in a perfect balance of "physical" and "spiritual," Adam's ultimate purpose was to "uproot" the physical and partake of the spiritual. If this were the case, why then would the spiritual not have been made more powerful than the physical?
As Ramchal states:
" in light of man's true purpose and what God desires of him, namely, that he earn perfection through his own effort, it would not be good at all."
God did NOT require man's effort to perfect creation; He could have brought creation into existence completely perfect without any defect. However, God's desire was to bestow "the greatest good" upon man, therefore, "His wisdom therefore decreed that the nature of this true benefaction be His giving created things the opportunity to attach themselves to Him to the greatest degree possible." 5
To bring about the greatest "good possible" for man, God created him with free will. As we have already discussed free will cannot operate without the presence of choice which enables man to "live by faith."
As Paul states:
"For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;" 6
So it is not vanity that makes God require man's effort; it is so man will willingly choose to "cleave" to his Creator, having rejected physical pleasures for spiritual relationship.
This is the principle behind Yeshua parable of the kingdom of heaven:
The time will occur (in Olam ha-Ba) when the spiritual will have complete advantage over the physical, as this is the time of man's reward. Thus, what we can attain in a limited fashion in this life (through subjugation of the body, or "flesh." i.e., 1 Corinthians 9:27), will be our natural and permanent state in the Olam ha-Ba.
1.3.5 The effects of the sin of Adam Ramchal reiterates a critical issue at this point -- there is a difference between what man was, and was expected of him, before the sin of Adam, versus since that time. Scripture hints at this in a very "plain" level. (Hebrew: the "p'shat" level -- see sidebar on "Pardes - Levels of Interpretation"). Much of the details have been passed along in oral tradition.
1.3.6 Mankind up to "the fall"
As a "gardener," Adam was to toil, but only to a minimal degree. This changed after the fall, when his "workload" was increased (i.e., Genesis 3:17-19). Man is not "totally depraved," as God told Cain (Genesis 4:7). We all have the ability to choose between sinning (heading away from perfection) and fleeing from sin (heading toward perfection).
The idea of God wishing for man to "work and perfect himself" is found throughout Scripture.
Yeshua instructed his followers as follows:
Paul's letters to contained instruction in "working out our salvation," "fighting the good fight" and "departing from iniquity" in order to become closer to God (perfecting ourselves):
The fact that mankind has "fallen" does not make him powerless to uproot imperfection in himself and creation. However, the measure to which he can obtain this "perfection," has been severely restricted in this world (Olam ha-Zeh).
As Ramchal states in section 1.3.8, the amount of evil in this world increased due to Adam's sin, and thus necessitates the existence of another world, (Olam ha-Ba) where complete perfection can be accomplished.
1.3.7 The hidden function of the soul The function of the soul regarding man perfecting himself (being conformed to the image of God) is associated with the concept of Teshuvah.
An important idea to discuss here is alluded to in footnote 15 in this chapter, which says, "It is furthermore taught that Adam did not originally exist on a physical plane." This teaching views the process of man's creation in accordance with the "Four Worlds of Existence."
To explain further, the Rabbis teach that before the fall, Adam and Eve shined like the sun.
This concept is not alien to Scripture, as we have a comparable teaching in the Tenakh and "New Testament":
- Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses' hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.
Exodus 34:30 - So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.
Matthew 17:2 - and He [Yeshua] was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
The Light of Adam and Eve's souls was able to radiate through their "bodies." That is to say, their souls were "naked," there was little to conceal their true essence. Their flesh was a medium through which they were able to do the "work" required of them.
Teshuva is the process by which man elevates himself from the mundane physical world to the upper worlds, becoming more and more like the "image of God" that he was originally conceived in. It should be noted that this is an ongoing process through life, and as one "ascends" (or "goes back") toward God, there are various forms of "evil" he will encounter along the way, which (from our point of view) are "different" at each level of ascension. (We will discuss the spiritual realm and its affect on man in future lessons.)
1.3.8 Mankind after "the fall" Ramchal states, "When man sinned, though, he caused evil to increase, both in himself and in all creation." His comments once again parallel Paul's, who writes of Adam's sin:
Ramchal refers to "an increase in evil" as a "concealment of perfection," or to express this another way, "a concealment of the light of God." This is an important concept to grasp at this point. Anything that "conceals God's light" (i.e., aspect of divinity) is seen as evil.
Thus, there is an evil aspect to our physical bodies (in this world) which restrict our souls. In the Garden of Eden before the fall of man, there existed an element of "concealment" and "restraint." Before the fall of man, the physical elements of creation were to be an instrument through which they would serve God. After the fall these same physical elements now became man's prison.
The free access to God and His Presence that Adam and Eve once enjoyed was now closed to them. Their souls, once open to God (as He "walked in the garden in the cool of the day") and to each other ("naked and not ashamed"), now had a degree of separation that did not before exist. This separation resulted in further concealment of God, and thus (as Ramchal states), " he caused evil to increase "
Their "physical sin" effected a change in the spiritual realm, symbolized by their being "cast out of the garden" with its access barred by angels and a "flaming sword:"
Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"-- therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
Ramchal's words reflect what is written throughout the "New Testament." There is a constant struggle against sin that exists between the spiritual and the physical "parts" of man (i.e., Romans 6:12-20, 12:21; Ephesians 6:10-18, 1 Timothy 5:20-24, 2 Peter 2:19-20, 1 John 5:4-5; Revelation 2:7,11,17,26).
Paul wrote about this struggle with the Yetzer Hara and Yetzer Tov in his own life, associating the former with "the flesh" (body):
Even the walls of the Temple were considered as being a "necessary evil" in that while they "contained" the presence of God, they also "restricted" it. (Hence the reason there is no more Temple in the World to Come - i.e., Revelation 21:22.)
There is therefore a necessary aspect to "evil" (in the sense given above), which includes anything God Himself establishes for His ultimate purpose.
Again we refer to Isaiah's words:
The concept of evil coming "indirectly" from God (who is not evil Himself, nor does He create "evil things" as people often think of "evil things"), is troublesome for some. Nonetheless, it is true, as there is but One Creator, and it is He who restricts His light in people and in situations to bring about His desired result. In Hebraic writings this is often called the "right hand" (merciful) and "left hand" (judgmental) of God.
(For an extensive discussion of the left/judgmental and right/merciful hands of God, see notes to Revelation 5:1 at http://www.yashanet.com/studies/revstudy/text/r5_1-6.htm)
With regard to the above concept, there is a peculiar saying in Judaism regarding the Feast of Purim:
What is the meaning of such an instruction that seems to "contradict" Scriptures teaching against drunkenness? Whether or not one takes the command to get a bit inebriated literally is not the main point. The deeper meaning is that in our "normal" mindset (affected by our culture, religion, etc.) we see "good" as serving God's purpose and "evil" as being opposed to it.
The statement about Purim is teaching that, "as a drunk does not think as usual with his mind," nor should we with regard to the nature and purpose of good and evil. Both the "evil" Haman, and the "good" Mordechai, served God's purpose and were put in place by Him. (The book of Esther, read on Purim, contains much "hidden" truth regarding God and the Kingdom of God.)
A "New Testament" teaching concerning this is found in Paul's letter to Rome, where he speaks of Pharaoh serving God's purpose:
As mentioned, the effect of Adam's sin was that " he caused evil to increase both in himself and in all creation." Therefore the effort required to attain perfect was "doubled."
This idea is paralleled in the book of Isaiah:
1.3.9 The destruction of the body (and its resurrection) and the world Here Ramchal not only speaks of the need for bodily resurrection, but also for the destruction of the entire world. (Both need to be decomposed and reformed for the World to Come.) This parallels the vision of John as shown in Revelation chapters 21 and 22.
Ramchal also introduces the rabbinic axiom that the world (as we know it) has a seven-thousand year "lifespan" which includes a 1000-year reign of Messiah. The seven thousand years of earthly existence mirrors the seven days of creation. This idea underlies Peter's comment that to the Lord, "one day is as a thousand years." 8
Note: As you may know, the secular calendars we use and the Jewish calendar do not have us at the same point in history. There is a 240 year difference between the two. This is not to say we are at least that far from the Messiah's return as Judaism teaches Messiah will come well before the 6,000 year mark. The details of this teaching are beyond the scope of this study.
1.3.10 Mankind in the World to Come The idea of greater reward for those who sacrifice more in this life for God, is found in Yeshua's teachings:
Just as much is given to some in this world, and much is expected from some in this world, so will some be given much in the World to Come.
Ramchal states that not only will the reward differ in the World to come, but that;
"this will in turn delimit how worthy they are of bringing themselves close to God, basking in His Light and enjoying His true good."
This idea is shown in the book of Revelation:
1.3.11 The Soul World Ramchal explains the concept that there is an "intermediary stage" for souls between death and the time of the Great Resurrection (which comes with Messiah and the advent of the Millennial Kingdom (i.e., Revelation chapter 20).
This is where the Catholic Church teaching of "Purgatory" most likely stems from. When Protestantism (for the most part), discarded this teaching, it also did away with the Hebraic notion of the Soul World as well.
The idea of an intermediary location for souls is seen in a couple of New Testament passages:
As things are of a spiritual and not physical nature in the World to Come, we see differences in "lifestyle" such as this:
1.3.12 The soul in the soul world As stated earlier, a consequence of Adam's sin is that the ability to which man's soul can experience reward has been severely restricted in this world. Even though man may have made himself worthy of perfection, his soul is unable to "shine with the radiance appropriate to the excellence that it actually attains..."
A consequence of the physical world is that the soul loses its "power" because it is not fulfilling its original purpose; that being the purification of the body. In the soul world it is no longer constrained by the limitations of the physical world. It is now possible for the soul to be strengthened by "radiating freely with a brightness that befits it as a result of its good deeds." The soul is now fit to be reunited with its "physical" body and able to fulfills its intended purpose.
1.3.13 The limitations of the soul in this life Concerning the reuniting of the body and soul after the resurrection, Ramchal states, "The soul will immediately shine forth (from the body) and purify it (the body) to a very great degree." This is further explained in Hebraic writings as humans becoming more like "bodies of light." This is said to be the state Adam and Eve existed in prior to being expelled from Eden and given "tunics of skin," which covered the light of their souls. (See note to 1.3.7 above and also sidebar on "Skins of Light and Flesh.")
Remembering that God's ultimate purpose for creation is to "bestow His greatest good," we see the realization of this at the point at which the now renewed soul and body are rejoined after the resurrection. Now the body is able to obtain a greater degree of enlightenment and exist at a higher level than it could have otherwise obtained.
Man is now at an appropriate level in which he can accomplish the task for which he was created, enjoying ultimate perfection and relationship with his Creator. This is not the end of a journey, but a step to even greater perfection and relating to God.
1. Isaiah 45:7