Maamar Ha-Ikarim by R. M.Ch. Luzzatto Chapter 3 - Torah and Precepts


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Translated by Ralph Anzarouth and an anonymous friend

3. The Torah and the Precepts

The main [purpose] of the blessed Creator in the creation was to create man to draw close to him, and to bestow on him the true Good. He achieves this by placing before him two options, one the good way and the other the bad way. Man has the power to choose either of these ways. When he makes a conscious and voluntary choice in favor of the good and rejects the bad, he will receive the true and eternal Good. The remainder of the universe was created only insofar as the divine wisdom considered necessary so that should exist a complete world in which man will be found as we have described and will be able to serve Him, blessed be He, and by these means achieve the true Good.

However we do not know what is the necessity for all these creations in the world, but our Sages have taught us that man is the focal point of creation and all the other beings were created for him; further, that the sole purpose of man's creation is that he achieve this true Good. Nonetheless, the divine wisdom saw fit that in order to attain this true Good, it was fitting that man should first undergo and successfully overcome a test. To this end, He created for him a world which would be his testing ground, which would comprise both good and evil elements so that he is able to reject the bad and choose the good.

However, the true essence of good and evil which the Lord, blessed be He, put in the world is Kedushah ("holiness") and Tumah ("impurity"); Kedushah means drawing close to Him, and Tumah is distancing oneself from Him. The Kedushah is the way in which the Holy, blessed be Him, influences and inspires those who are fitting, and the Tumah is the way in which He withdraws and conceals Himself. In truth, the blessed Lord created certain spiritual forces for this purpose, through which are channeled darkness and filth. And in every place that this filth is found, the Kedushah distances itself from it and the light of the blessed One will be obscured. These forces are called the forces of Tumah.

Moreover, the Lord, blessed be He, empowered man by his actions to stimulate the celestial sources, namely to draw down the light of abundance of the Kedushah of the blessed One and the light of His good, or [alternatively to attract the said] filth and Tumah. To this end, He conceived for man special deeds by which to draw down the Kedushah and He commanded him to continually fulfill them. These are the Mitzvot [precepts]; He also conceived special deeds by which the filth is drawn down and He commanded man to abstain from these actions. These are the transgressions.

In truth, the true Good is simply drawing close to the blessed One. And the Mitzvot which we described above, which draw down the abundance of His Kedushah and the light of His goodness, are the means of achieving this true Good. Whoever persists in sanctifying oneself by way of abundance of the Kedushah of the blessed One, is fit to draw close to Him and to benefit from the true Good. On the other hand, whoever persists in contaminating oneself with the filth we referred to above will become unfit to draw close to Him and will be rejected. In all these, there are various levels between the the abundance of Kedushah or of filth we have described, and also between the good which is acquired by means of the good deeds and the rejection of man from this good by way of his bad deeds. This is what distinguishes between the true value of one man and another as we shall explain this further, with the help of G-d.

It is necessary to bear in mind that just as man has the power to bring upon himself holiness or filth, likewise he has the same power, by way of his actions, to draw upon the whole of creation holiness or filth. And in this way the whole of creation is perfected or damaged by man, and this will be considered as a merit to the credit of the righteous, since they benefit the creation, or as a debit for the wicked, since they harm the creation, as described above.

And the way by which man draws down by his deeds these influences is by way of the parallelism which we have mentioned above between the lowly beings and the upper forces, to the extent that when one of the beings below acts, this action has its effect on the corresponding upper force. In turn, this force will generate a continuous chain of influences. Thus, if the original act will be one of the [said] precepts, the corresponding upper power will be brought into action and will be strengthened and as a result there will be drawn down from the blessed Lord the influence of His holiness in proportion to the original deed. On the other hand, if the original act will be a transgression, it will cause a blemish in the upper power, in proportion to that bad deed, and as a result the light of the blessed Lord will fade and be further out of reach, and in its place one of the unclean powers will activate itself. This is the antithesis of the influence of the holiness which has faded away, and by this unclean power there will be drawn down filth in proportion to the original misdeed. Likewise, Teshuva [quitting the misdeed and repenting] will remove the blemish and the contaminating force will lose its power to operate, and the influence of Kedushah will return to flow as befits it.

Original text in Hebrew
Nostra traduzione in italiano - Our translation into Italian