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Ramchal

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 17/5/2020

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Fascinating InsightsThe Sefer (in English)

Ramchal

In honor of the Ramchals[1] Yartzheit26th of Iyarlet us talk about this great man. When R Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707-1746), also known as the Ramchal, was fifteen years old, he already knew the entire Talmud by heart, the teachings of the Arizal and the Zohar.

 

When he was twenty, he claimed to have received direct instruction from an angel (known as a Maggid). While stories of such encounters with celestial entities were not unknown in Kabbalistic circles, it was unheard of for someone of such a young age. His peers were enthralled by his written accounts of these Divine lessons, but the leading Italian rabbinical authorities were highly suspicious and threatened to excommunicate him. Just one hundred years earlier another young mystic, Shabbtai Tzvi (16261676), had rocked the Jewish world by claiming to be Moshiach. Although, at one point, Shabbtai Tzvi convinced many European and Middle Eastern rabbis of his claim, the episode ended with him recanting and converting to Islam. The global Jewish community was still reeling from that, and the similarities between the Ramchals writings and Shabbtai Tzvi's were perceived as being particularly dangerous and heretical. The Ramchal decided not to write the Maggids lessons or teach mysticism.

 

In 1735, the Ramchal left Italy for Amsterdam, believing that in the more liberal environment there, he would be able to pursue his mystical interests. Passing through Germany, he appealed to the local rabbinical authorities to protect him from the threats of the Italian rabbis. They refused and forced him to sign a document stating that all the teachings of the Maggid were false. Most of his writings were burned, though some did survive.

 

He authored about ninety Sefarim on a range of different topics. From the Zoharic writings, the 70 Tikkunim Chadashim re-appeared in 1958 against all odds, in the main library of Oxford. Arrangements of thoughts, these Tikkunim expose 70 different essential uses of the last pasuk of Chumash. Supposedly taught word-by-word in Aramaic by the Ramchals Maggid, they parallel the Tikunei Zohar, which expose the 70 fundamental understandings of the first Pasuk in Chumash.

 

It was only as recently as the 1970s that some of Ramchals books were discovered and printed. One interesting work is his Mishkney Elyon, which was written when he was 22 years old. He mentioned this Sefer in a letter he wrote in 1729 to his Rebbi, R Yeshaya Basan, during his dark days of oppression while everyone was closing down on him. The Sefer hadnt been printed, nor seen, for 227 years until in 1956 when its manuscript was accidentally discovered in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.  It was then printed for the first time ever in 1980, under the title Ginzei Ramchal. In 1993 a new broader edition of Mishkney Elyon was requested by the Lubavitcher Rebbe and published by the Ramchal Institute in Yerushalayim.

 

When the Ramchal finally reached Amsterdam, he was able to pursue his studies of Kabbalah relatively unhindered. Earning a living as a diamond cutter, he continued writing but refused to teach. It was in this period that he wrote the Mesillas Yesharim (1740). The Gra (1720-1797), who was a contemporary of the Ramchal, was reputed to have said after reading Mesillas Yesharim, that if the Ramchal was still alive, he would walk from Vilna to learn at the feet of the Ramchal.

 

Frustrated by his inability to teach Kabbalah, the Ramchal left Amsterdam for Eretz Yisrael in 1743, settling in Akko. Three years later, he and his family died in a plague.

 

A century after his death, the Ramchal was rediscovered by the Mussar movement. R Yisrael Salanter (1810-1883) placed Mesillas Yesharim at the heart of the Mussar curriculum of the major Yeshivas of Eastern Europe.

 

The great Kabbalist, R Binyamin Hakohen, known as the Rabach (1650-1730), once asked the Ramchal (in a letter) where his Shoresh Haneshama is from. R Yekusiel Gordon[2] said of the Ramchal, At his command, Eliyahu Hanavi appears and reveals his secrets. Also, the Neshamos of manyincluding Avrahams, Moshes, Rav Hamnunas and Moshiachsrevealed themselves to him He was commanded by the Malach to compose 70 Tikunim on a Pasuk He knows the Gilgulim, where the Shoresh Neshama is of everyone and the Tikunim of every Neshama, and nothing is hidden from him. No one knows this about the Ramchal except our group that learns with him. Moshe and the Malach Matat have shown that many Pesukim that have been applied to R Shimon Bar Yochai can also be applied to the Ramchal. The Ramchal and R Shimon Bar Yochai are comparable in every respect and it has become apparent to all. No one has merited this distinction since the time of R Shimon Bar Yochai.
Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R Mordechai Friedlander Ztzl for close to five years. He received Semicha from R Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] " is an acronym for ' .

[2] He was a Kabbalist and physician, and one of the main students of the Ramchal. R Gordon was one of the main conduits of the Ramchals teachings from Padua to Eastern Europe. He came to Italy to study medicine where he met the Ramchal. He considered leaving his medical studies in order to dedicate himself to the study of Kabbalah. However, the Ramchal urged him not to as he insisted that his Maggid wished for R Gordon to be successful in both areas. 

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