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Mesilat Yesharim: Path of The Just - Course Introduction
Self Perfection and Cleaving to the Divine in the path of HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzzato
By: Rabbi David Botton

A Brief Introduction to the Holy Moshe Chaim Luzzato

If forced to name the three most influential people on Jewish thought reaching out to the entire nation, there is no question that three Moshes would stand out. Moshe Rabbenu, HaRav Moshe Ben Maimon (the Rambam) and HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzzato (the Ramchal). Moshe Rabbenu through his exceptional mastery of the trait of Anavah (humility) became a conduit of the living Godís word delivered to the chosen nation, the Torah. The Rambam placed the entire Torah in to an organized system making it accessible at all levels of scholarship. The Ramchal revealed to the masses the secrets of the soul and how to perfect onself to reveal it.

The Ramchal was born in Padua Italy in 5467 (1707 CE) and passed away during a plague in Akko, Israel at 39. By the age of 14 he had already mastered the entire Torah, Tanach (Bible), Mishnah and Gemara (the Talmud, Oral Law), and the Zohar and Kitvei Ari (the Mystical portion of the Torah). At the age of 20 he was first visited by a Magid (an angel sent to reveal Torah insights) and later that year in Elul by Eliyahu the prophet and other holy souls. From that time on the Ramchal began writing one holy work after another at a pace that can be hardly comprehended. Many of his works we no longer even know the names of, more than seventy two in all were written.

The Ramchal like the Rambam and even Moshe Rabbenu had to endure various opposition groups, but his works like those of his predecessors now speak for him and his holiness and have an acceptance by all Jews of every camp. Regarding those that opposed him, the Maggid of Mezritch (chief student of the Baal Shem Tov) said that his generation was not yet ready for his righteousness and asceticism and they could not understand him. The Gaon MeVilna wrote concerning him, if Luzzatto were alive in his generation, he would go by foot from Vilna to Padua to sit at his feet and learn from him.

The Ramchalís works revolve around a single theme but manifest themselves in different forms. That theme is Godís Hanhagah (divine control) of the universe. Through a pursuit of holiness and learning the many depths of torah one will recognize the divine nature of the universe and its active control by the All Mighty. This theme appears in a Kabbalistic form in his more esoteric works such as the Choker and Kalach Pitchey Chochmah, as Jewish thought in Derech Hashem and Daat Tevunot, and as a practical guide in Mesilat Yesharim. The Ramchal wrote a number of other works on logic and study and these too were written as tools to be used in the hand of those that seek deeper understanding of the Torah to grasp this lofty theme.

(c) 2003-2008 All Rights Reserved - Rabbi David Botton

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