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Messilas Yesharim 12/14

Today we continued our discussion of the purpose of man in this world. Ramchal deals with this central issue by offering 2 options for the existence of man.

Option 1: Man is created to perform in this physical world as best as he can. He is given mitzvahs (commandments) by God to help him do the best job possible while he is in this world. After man dies he reaps the rewards for that which he has accomplished in his lifetime.

Option 2: Man is created for his eternal existence in the world to come. That existence is based upon his actions in the physical world in which we live. This world is our opportunity to carve out a wonderful eternal existence. The mitzvahs are given to us as tools to achieve spiritual greatness as our eternal existence is spiritual and being in touch with spirituality will enhance that eternal existence. The physical world can also function as tools for our growth as long at is used properly.

Ramchal chooses option 2 as it justifies such a short lifespan in comparison to the eternity of the world to come. If we are to live such a fleeting existence that cannot be the purpose of our existence. He then goes on to describe the inner battle which we constantly grapple with. The rich has its challenges, the poor has its challenges. The intelligent has its challenges and the not so gifted has its challenges.

This prompted a discussion of a number of relevant topics. Firstly we discussed how each person has the opportunity for spiritual growth when we are presented with moral challenges. Each person’s moral challenges are their own and cannot be compared to another’s moral challenges. In other words when I am grappling with a moral challenge it requires a certain amount of effort to prevail in that particular challenge. That amount of effort is the same level of effort required by another person in their completely different moral challenge. Each one of us is challenged in different areas but it is futile to try and compare our challenges with another’s. I may think that your challenge is easier for me, and it may very be so, but for that person that challenge requires the same amount of moral effort that my challenge demands from me.

We also discussed the incalculable reward for mitzvah observance. This is for 2 reasons. Reason 1: we must do our best to successfully execute each mitzvah and if we were aware of which carried greater rewards then we may neglect some of the mitzvahs. This is tragic because the mitzvahs are all part of an intricate system of personal growth that requires the sum of its parts to function properly. Reason 2: For each person in their individual situation each mitzvah may in fact carry a different weight. For me one mitzvah may be simple while it is a challenge for you. This has an effect on the reward for each mitzvah relative to my effort required to execute that mitzvah.

To be continued next Sunday!

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