Friday, May 30, 2008

Kabbalah and Philosophy pt iii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest quotes sources which equate the kabbalistic position on the soul with that of the philosophers. There are distinctions, but the guest says that these are mere additions to the philosophical position. He notes that this was not done with evil intent, but rather to be mekarev those with a philosophical bent. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And he {=the author of the Akeida} further said that this was the position of the sages of kabbalah, and he brings down a lengthy citation from the sefer ha-Zohar which establishes his opinion.

The author: You are always returning to learn demerit upon the kabbalists, but this I will never believe, that the position of the kabbalists agrees with the opinion of the philosophers in the matter of whether the nefesh is only potential and preparation, and that the remnants are not natural {/automatic} to it but rather by happenstance, according to what it merited to learn and be completed -- this I have not seen nor heard from the kabbalists.

The guest: Take to me the sefer HaBrit and you will see the words with your eyes.

{The author relates:} And I took the sefer haBris and the man searched and found written in it (chelek 1, maamar 18, chapter 1): "And you, my brother and head {?} do not be astounded on the matter, when I say that the soul of man is composed of the form of the four elements, for this is not of my own heart, but from the one who is righteous, holy, and faithful in all of Israel, the Ari Luria za"l in his sefer Etz Chaim, and this is what he said in his holiness there: 'The "speaker" {medaber} is the innermost of all of them, and it is from the portion of fire which is in every element of those four.' End quote. Further, there: ' And these four aspects are called one nefesh, but are drawn from the form of the four elements.' End quote.

And if you say in your heart, 'have we not already said that anything connected to the four elements will separate in the end, and its components will be dispersed and return to the four elements as at the start, in all the points that it came, so shall it go {from Kohelet 5:15}, and if so it will happen here as well to every soul of man, that it will be lost and be nullified from existence, and then where is the belief in the soul's remaining, which all the children of Shet already established and accepted upon themselves and upon their descendants, and certainly the nation which Hashem has chosen for Himself? Upon this, my tongue will answer your statement a soft response, responding in a clear and appropriate manner: Know, my son, that in truth all the faithful kabbalists, and at their head the Ari Luria za"l and his student Rav Chaim Vital za"l, have said that this nefesh which is called the elemental nefesh is what receives destruction in its nature and substance of its creation, for since it is formed from the four elements, it has in it the aspect of corporeality, just as Rabbi Chaim Vital za"l wrote in his sefer Shaarei Kedusha, and this is his language: "In his body and in the forces of his elemental soul, and in them alone, is the aspect of corporeality." End quote. Thus it is explicit that there is an aspect of corporeality in this bitter {??? marah} soul. Therefore it is not called by the kabbalists by the name nefesh gemurah, but rather it is only called the force {koach} of the body, it and all that is in it, even the force of study {iyun} which is in it is within this designation, just as the Arizal wrote in Etz Chaim, and this is his language:

"And behold, all this nefesh is to be the force of the body. It is not called by the name nefesh gemurah, but rather is called the force of the body." End quote.

But, via the 613 commandments that the Israelite fulfills, or the 7 commandments that a righteous gentile fulfills, an everlasting remnant is acquired in this nefesh, and it remains living and existing forever as a reward for these commandments, as they za"l said, "the righteous of the nations of the world have a portion of the world to come." But those not of them remains its first nature, that it receives destruction, and his soul does not live. However, still the upper soul which is made {???} from heaven, which is in every man of Israel, that is called the nefesh gemura, and its nature and substance of its creation is that it does not receive destruction, for it has no corporeal aspect, and all the more so the ruach of formation and neshama of creation, and one need not say the aspect of life and unity {chaya veyechida -- two additional souls} which are from the world of emanation and from the world of First Man."

I {=the guest} said to him: Behold you see with your eyes that the opinion of the kabbalists does not agree at all with the opinion of the philosophers, for the philosopher says that one who does not study and become a philosopher, his soul is entirely cut off. And the kabbalist says that even if the elemental soul is cut off, behold in every man of Israel is the nefesh gemurah which exists in man.

The guest: This is an addition which the kabbalists added onto the words of the philosophers, in order to give honor to the children of Israel, and to flatter the ignorant so that they would not stone them. But what will you say about one who things that there is no living nefesh {nefesh chaya} except to the members of his nation, only? Is he a wise man or a fool? Or do you think that our teachers also believed this, for they said "you are called man {adam}? Say to me, please, my master, when Antigones asked Rabbi {Yehuda haNasi}, "when is it {=the soul} given into man, from the time of "visitation" {=when a man visits his wife} or from the time of formation," how did he not answer him "from the time that he is a Jew?"

But the truth is that the kabbalists took the positions of the philosophers who were in their days, and they switched around a few things in order to make them accord with our Torah and our faith, and they acquired them via changing them {as is an halachic concept}, and they called it after their name. And behold, the wisdom of kabbalah is indeed received in the hands of the kabbalists, but not from our forebears, but rather from the philosophers.

And also I will not despise that for what they did, for indeed their intent was good. For when they saw that most of those learning were drawn in their days after the corrupt Arabic philosophy, they labored to extract from it a few things, and to change a few of its matters a small bit, in order to bring close also the philosophers into the faith. And this is similar to what the greats the other nations did, each person to his language.

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