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24. A World of Choice

March 10, 2014 | by Rabbi Yaakov Aaronson

Dilemmas, challenges, confusion... our greatest pleasures in life!

1:2:2 (Part 3)
Section 1: Fundamentals of Existence
Chapter 2: Purpose of Creation
Point 2

In a way, this can be said to partially resemble G-d's own perfection, at least to the degree that this is possible. G-d is perfect because of His intrinsic nature, and not without cause. His true essence makes perfection imperative and precludes any fault.

No other being, however, can have such a quality, where its essential nature requires its perfection and precludes all deficiency. In order to resemble G-d to some degree, it is at least necessary that this creature earn the perfection that its essence does not require, and avoid deficiency that its nature does not preclude.

The Ramchal here is further explaining the need for free will. On one hand, our goal is to build ourselves into a being that resembles G-d as much as possible, in order to attain the ultimate pleasure – having a spiritual connection/relationship with G-d. Yet this consideration is balanced with the idea that we will get even greater pleasure by earning that closeness for ourselves.

For starters, this means that we, unlike G-d, must be inherently imperfect. Moreover, striving for perfection must be a potential that we're not forced into realizing.

This is what the Ramchal means by "it is at least necessary that this creature earn the perfection that its essence does not require, and avoid deficiency that its nature does not preclude." The choices have to be real, and ultimately coming from myself. My lungs crave air, and my body craves food. I know that someone who denies his body these basic needs, will die.

If we felt the yearning for perfection and spirituality the same way we need to breathe air, then the striving wouldn't be a choice, and we would have no pleasure of having earned the perfection for ourselves. It's the fact the spirituality is totally my own choice that makes it so meaningful and pleasurable a choice.

Consider: As much as I enjoy buying a cold drink on a hot day, the pleasure of voluntarily buying one for my friend is deeper. It's deeper because it wasn't my body prompting me, it was just me. And that act, since it was free choice, also means that it entailed some level of spirituality, and a closeness to G-d through emulating Him.

Pleasure of Accomplishment

We tend to look at our imperfections as being the negative part of ourselves, the part we try to hide, and would rather not deal with. But if the ultimate purpose of life is growth and reaching our potential, then we have to be born with lackings. Being born perfect makes life much more comfortable, but also completely unfulfilling. We can't have the profound pleasure of accomplishment if there's nothing to accomplish! So, ironically, in our weakness lies our greatest ability to reach perfection.

We can look at free will as a blessing or as a curse. Wouldn't life be so much easier if we didn't have difficult moral dilemmas and spiritual confusions? When we cut through the ego, the laziness and the confusions, and make powerful choices, we feel great. But let's not fool ourselves. The pleasure isn't just about being good; it's really of function of the struggle to get there.

When we think of G-d creating a world where the goal is ultimate pleasure, we might wonder: "He's G-d – can't He figure out how to get us the pleasure without us having to work for it?!" But that question is based on a false assumption – that free will is a necessary evil that we have to put up with. It's not true. Free will is a blessing, not a curse. Dilemmas, challenges, confusions... they're the source of our greatest pleasures in life.

Equal Access

G-d therefore arranged and decreed the creation of concepts of both perfection and deficiency, as well as a creature with equal access to both. This creature would then be given the means to earn perfection and avoid deficiency.

Having accomplished this, the creature could then be said to have made itself resemble its Creator, at least to the degree that this is possible. As a result, it is then [able]1 to be drawn close to Him and derive pleasure from His own goodness.

The Ramchal is now beginning to assemble the pieces that we've discussed so far regarding the nature of creation:

  • The purpose of creation is to get pleasure.
  • The ultimate pleasure is being connected to the source of all goodness, i.e. G-d Himself.
  • The role of free will is that man can be the master of the good and earn the relationship.
  • When man makes G-dly choices, he becomes more G-d-like.
  • By being more G-d-like, man naturally becomes closer to G-d.

G-d could have created just man alone, but since man needs to make choices to earn perfection, the world must be the arena where these elements of perfection and deficiency, G-dliness and unG-dliness, exist. And man has equal access to both, to ensure that the choice is a real one.

Questions to Think About

  • Why is buying your friend a cold drink on a hot day considered a spiritual act? What does it have to do with free will?
  • What do we mean when we say that our weaknesses are our greatest asset?
  • What would be wrong in creating a world where man has more ready access to perfection than to imperfection?

  1. Other English translations say, "it is then worthy of being drawn close to Him…" In my opinion, that's not entirely accurate. The Ramchal is trying to illustrate the dynamic of how man comes close to G-d. By saying that man becomes worthy, it suggests that G-d rewards man and brings him closer. I think the idea of the Ramchal is the opposite – by virtue of man earning it for himself, man changes, and that automatically creates a closeness. When you take medicine to fix a medical problem, you don\'t become worthy of getting health – health is the natural outcome of taking the proper steps.

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