Moshe Chayim Luzzatto, also Moses Hayyim Luzzato, known by Hebrew acronym RaMCHal

Moshe Chayim
Luzzatto, also Moses Hayyim Luzzato, known by Hebrew acronym RaMCHal
1707
1746

Italian Jewish Rabbi, Childhood Genius, Ethical Author, Kabbalist and Philosopher

Author Quotes

Love - that there be implanted in a person's heart a love for the Blessed One which will arouse his soul to do what is pleasing before Him, just as his heart is aroused to give pleasure to his father and mother. He will be grieved if he or others are lacking in this; he will be jealous for it and he will rejoice greatly in fulfilling aught of it. "Whole-heartedness" - that service before the Blessed One be characterized by purity of motive, that its end be His service alone and nothing else. Included in this is that one's heart be complete in Divine service, that his interests not be divided or his observance mechanical, but that his whole heart be devoted to it.

Therefore, man was placed in this world first - so that by these means, which were provided for him here, he would be able to reach the place which had been prepared for him, the World to Come, there to be sated with the goodness which he acquired through them. As our Sages of blessed memory have said (Eruvin 22a), "Today for their [the mitzvoth's] performance and tomorrow for receiving their reward." When you look further into the matter, you will see that only union with God constitutes true perfection

Man cleaves to the Creator?s Perfection, and is drawn to Him continually ? until, ultimately, its earning of perfection and its bonding in closeness to Him are one matter.

To summarize, a man was created not for his station in this world, but for his station in the World to Come. It is only that his station in this world is a means towards his station in the World to Come, which is the ultimate goal. This accounts for numerous statements of our Sages of blessed memory, all in a similar vein, likening this world to the place and time of preparation, and the next world to the place which has been set aside for rest and for the eating of what has already been prepared.

Matters of piety, reverence and love, and purity of heart are not ingrained in your heart? [or] come upon nonchalantly like? sleep and wakefulness, hunger and satiety? In truth, you have to foster means and devices to acquire them. And there is no lack for things to keep them back from you.

Truthful, desirable saintliness is far from being conceptualized by us, for it is obvious that a person does not concern himself with what does not occupy a place in his mind. And though the beginnings and foundations of saintliness are implanted in every person's heart, if he does not occupy himself with them, he will witness details of saintliness without recognizing them and he will trespass upon them without feeling or perceiving that he is doing so. For sentiments of saintliness, fear and love of God, and purity of heart are not so deeply rooted within a person as to obviate the necessity of his employing certain devices in order to acquire them. In this respect they differ from natural states such as sleep and wakefulness, hunger and satiety, and all other reactions which are stamped in one's nature, in that various methods and devices are perforce required for their acquisition. There is also no lack of deterrents which keep saintliness at a distance from a person, but then again there is no lack of devices by which these deterrents may be held afar. How, then, is it conceivable that it not be necessary to expend a great deal of time upon this study in order to know these truths and the manner in which they may be acquired and fulfilled? How will this wisdom enter a person's heart if he will not seek it? And since every man of wisdom recognizes the need for perfection of Divine service and the necessity for its purity and cleanliness, without which it is certainly completely unacceptable, but repulsive and despised - "For God searches all hearts and understands the inclination of all thoughts" (I Chronicles 28:9) - what will we answer in the day of reproof if we weaken in this study and forsake that which is so incumbent upon us as to be the very essence of what the Lord our God asks of us? Is it fitting that our intelligence exert itself and labor in speculations which are not binding upon us, in fruitless argumentation, in laws which have no application to us, while we leave to habit and abandon to mechanical observance our great debt to our Creator? If we do not look into and analyze the question of what constitutes true fear of God and what its ramifications are, how will we acquire it and how will we escape worldly vanity which renders our hearts forgetful of it? Will it not be forgotten and go lost even though we recognize its necessity? Love of God, too - if we do not make an effort to implant it in our hearts, utilizing all of the means which direct us towards it, how will it exist within us? Whence will enter into our soul?s intimacy with and ardor towards the Blessed One and towards His Torah if we do not give heart to His greatness and majesty which engender this intimacy in our hearts? How will our thoughts be purified if we do not strive to rescue them from the imperfections infused in them by physical nature? And all of the character traits, which are in such great need of correction and cultivation -who will cultivate and correct them if we do not give heart to them and subject them to exacting scrutiny? If we analyzed the matter honestly would we not extract the truth and thereby benefit ourselves, and also be of benefit to others by instructing them in it? As stated by Solomon (Proverbs 2:4), "If you seek it as silver and search for it as treasure, then you will understand the fear of God." He does not say, "Then you will understand philosophy; then you will understand astronomy; then you will understand medicine; then you will understand legal judgments and decisions." We see, then, that for fear of God to be understood, it must be sought as silver and searched for as treasure. All this is part of our heritage and is accepted in substance by every devout individual.

A consideration of the general state of affairs will reveal that the majority of men of quick intelligence and keen mentality devote most of their thought and speculation to the subtleties of wisdom and the profundities of analysis, each according to the inclination of his intelligence and his natural bent. There are some who expend a great deal of effort in studying the creation and nature. Others devote all of their thought to astronomy and mathematics, and others to the arts. There are those who go more deeply into sacred studies, into the study of the holy Torah, some occupying themselves with Halachic discussions, others with Midrash and others with legal decisions. There are few, however, who devote thought and study to perfection of Divine service - to love, fear, communion and all of the other aspects of saintliness. It is not that they consider this knowledge unessential; if questioned each one will maintain that it is of paramount importance and that one who is not clearly versed in it cannot be deemed truly wise. Their failure to devote more attention to it stems rather from its being so manifest and so obvious to them that they see no need for spending much time upon it. Consequently, this study and the reading of works of this kind have been left to those of a not too sensitive, almost dull intelligence. These you will see immersed in the study of saintliness, not stirring from it. It has reached the stage that when one sees another engaging in saintly conduct, he cannot help but suspect him of dull-wittedness. This state of affairs results in evil consequences both for those who possess wisdom and for those who do not, causing both classes to lack true saintliness, and rendering it extremely rare. The wise lack it because of their limited consideration of it and the unwise because of their limited grasp. The result is that saintliness is construed by most to consist in the recitation of many Psalms, very long confessions, difficult fasts, and ablutions in ice and snow - all of which are incompatible with intellect and which reason cannot accept.

May the Blessed One in His mercy open our eyes to His Torah, teach us His ways, and lead us in His paths; and may we be worthy of honoring His name and bringing pleasure to Him.

Unquestionably, Humility removes many stumbling blocks from a man's path and brings him near to many good things; for the Humble man is little concerned with worldly affairs and is not moved to envy by its vanities.

A Jew must believe and know that there exists a first Being, without beginning or end, who brought all things into existence and continues to sustain them.

My intent was to set forth the general principles of Jewish belief and religion, expounding them all in a way that is clearly understood, to provide a complete picture.

Walking in His ways embodies the whole area of cultivation and correction of character traits. As our Sages of blessed memory have explained, "As He is merciful, be also merciful..." The essence of all this is that a person conform all of his traits and all the varieties of his actions to what is just and ethical. Our Sages of blessed memory have thus summarized the idea (Avoth 2.1): "All that is praiseworthy in its doer and brings praise to him from others;" that is, all that leads to the end of true good, namely, strengthening of Torah and furthering of brotherliness.

A man must greatly strengthen himself, and power himself with Zeal to perform the mitzvoth, casting from himself the hindering weight of laziness.

One and unique G-d, how beloved is your dwelling, Hashem Tzevaos, in so many synagogues and study halls where they study Your Torah in exile, and Your Presence rests there, like one who rests in an inn on the way, like a bird who find a home; and they study Your Torah and bear their exile, for so they were foresworn, not to force the end, as it says ?I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, by Tzevaos?? and therefore that name (Tzevaos) shines upon them, and they accept it lovingly, like a donkey bearing its burden. And sometimes they stumble under their burden because the Samech Mem makes it too heavy for them, but You help them back up through the many inspirations of holiness with which you inspire them; whereupon they stand up and bear their burden again, as before.

We thus derive that the essence of a man's existence in this world is solely the fulfilling of mitzvoth, the serving of God and the withstanding of trials, and that the world's pleasures should serve only the purpose of aiding and assisting him, by way of providing him with the contentment and peace of mind requisite for the freeing of his heart for the service which devolves upon him. It is indeed fitting that his every inclination be towards the Creator, may His Name be blessed, and that his every action, great or small, be motivated by no purpose other than that of drawing near to the Blessed One and breaking all the barriers (all the earthy elements and their concomitants) that stand between him and his Possessor, until he is pulled towards the Blessed One just as iron to a magnet. Anything that might possibly be a means to acquiring this closeness, he should pursue and clutch, and not let go of; and anything which might be considered a deterrent to it, he should flee as from a fire. As it is stated (Psalms 63:9), "My soul clings to You; Your right hand sustains me." For a man enters the world only for this purpose - to achieve this closeness by rescuing his soul from all the deterrents to it and from all that detracts from it.

The foundation of righteousness and the root of perfection in the service of G-d lies in a man's coming to see clearly and to recognize as a truth the nature of his duty in the world and the end towards which he should direct his vision and his aspiration in all of his labors all the days of his life

God desired, however, that there should be a [theurgic] way for man to free himself from the physical restrictions [of the natural world]. In this manner, he would then be able [through the use of theurgy] to attain things as a result of spiritual rules rather than those of physical law. He would thus be able to attain enlightenment and a perception of the spiritual....In attaining this, man would also be able to better elevate all existence to its preferred good state [of unity]. He would be able to accomplish this both below and on high, both in the Roots and in the Branches.

It is the obligation of each person in Israel to raise up the Fallen Bride from the dust into which She has fallen.

God’s purpose in creation was to bestow of His good to another.

The bad that comes from laziness does not come about in one
fell swoop, but slowly and without notice. It comes in a
sequence of one leisurely bad deed after another, until you find
yourself sunk in evil.

In truth, human beings are just that – humans and not angels.
It is therefore impossible for us to have the might of the angels.
Nonetheless we should strive to get as close to this level as we
possibly can.

When a man sleeps, his faculties rest, his senses are quiet, and his mind is relaxed and hushed. The only thing that continues to function is his imagination (dream center), and this conceives and envisions various images. Some of these images arise from the individual's experiences while awake. Others may be the result of substances that rise to the brain, either from the body's own hormones, or from the food that one eats. These images are the dreams that all people experience.

G-d has also decreed that the bond between the body and the divine soul should be somewhat loosened while man sleeps. The portions of the soul from Ruach (Spirit) and above then rise and sever themselves from the body. Only one portion, the Nefesh (Soul), remains with the lower [animal] soul.

The freed portions of the soul can then move about in the spiritual realm wherever they are allowed. They can interact and associate with such spiritual beings as the angels who oversee natural phenomena, the angels associated with prophecy, and Shedim (demons). Whatever they experience will depend on a variety of factors.

When these higher levels of the soul perceive something, they can sometimes transmit it step by step, until it reaches the animal soul. The imagination is then stimulated and forms images in its normal manner. [A person can then see this as a dream.]...

Dreams in general can therefore arise either from the imagination itself or as a result of the stimulation of the Soul (Neshamah) according to what it perceives. In the latter case, the initiating agent is always one of the spiritual Forces which make something known to the Soul (Neshamah). The soul then transmits this to the imagination.

If that spiritual Force is one of G-d's holy servants, then the information that the soul receives will be true. If it comes from the opposing Forces, on the other hand, then it will be false. Our sages thus teach us that a true dream originates through an angel, while a false one originates through a Shed (demon).

The purpose of each commandment is either to allow man to earn and incorporate in himself a particular level of true excellence, or to remove an area of deficiency and darkness. This is accomplished through doing what the commandments require and avoiding what they forbid.

What do you think of the notion that each individual is meant to use this life in order to become more “whole”?
The Hebrew word for “wholeness” is shlemut, and an individual who is whole would be described as shalem. Both of these Hebrew words share a root with the word shalom (peace). What might be the connection between wholeness and peace?
What do you think wholeness might look like in a person, given that each human being has flaws and weaknesses? Have you ever encountered a person who impressed you as embodying a measure of wholeness? What was it about that person that made you perceive him or her as whole?
Can you begin to reframe your life, seeing everything you do in terms of bringing you closer to wholeness?

Whatever your hand finds to do with your strength, do
it, for there is no deed, nor account, nor
knowledge... That is, what a man does not do while he
still has the power that His Creator has given him
(the power of choice that is given to him to employ
during his lifetime, when he can exercise free will
and is commanded to do so) he will not again have the
opportunity of doing in the grave and in the pit, for
at that time he will no longer possess this power. For
one who has not multiplied good deeds in his lifetime
will not have the opportunity of performing them
afterwards. And one who has not taken an accounting of
his deeds will not have time to do so later. And one
who has not become wise in this world will not become
wise in the grave. This is the intent of ...
for there is no deed nor account nor knowledge nor
wisdom in the pit to which you are going.

Author Picture
First Name
Moshe Chayim
Last Name
Luzzatto, also Moses Hayyim Luzzato, known by Hebrew acronym RaMCHal
Birth Date
1707
Death Date
1746
Bio

Italian Jewish Rabbi, Childhood Genius, Ethical Author, Kabbalist and Philosopher