Biography of the Ramchal
Ramchal are the initials of Rabbi Moshe Haim Luzzatto, born in the Ghetto of Padua in Italy in 1707. Son of Jacob Vita and Diamente Luzzatto, noble, modest and pious parents, who placed him in the Yeshiva of Padua - while others preferred to study in the faculty of Medicine of the University of Padua.
From an early age, he showed an exceptional talent for the study of Kabbalah. A letter sent by his friend and student Rav. Yekoutiel Gordon, says: "He was only fourteen and he already knew by heart the Kabbalah of the Ari z"l and nobody knew about it, not even his parents."
At the age of fifteen, he wrote his first book of Kabbalah. His master, Rabbi. Isaiah Bassan, a well known Talmud Scholar and one of the most important Rabbis of Italy, writes: "I have communicated to him all the steps of the knowledge and all my spiritual possessions are at his disposal, nothing is hidden from this genius, thirsty for knowledge. . He would look in my bookshelves to find some of the writings of Kabbalah that God had granted me, then he would cross the stream, tasting the Etz Hayim . His mind would then enter the valleys of secrets and he started to love them and to delight in them."
At the age of seventeen, he had already noted certain contradictions in the Etz Hayim . Also at seventeen, he composed his book on grammar, Leshon Limmudim, in which he states the modern rules of gender, stylistics, rhetoric and versification, to guide the writer of the Hebrew language. The Ramchal showed particular abilities with metaphors and assonance and for his different dramatic writings, the Ramchal was later proclaimed as "the father of the Modern Hebrew literature."
At the age of twenty, an inner spiritual voice, a Maggid revealed himself to the Ramchal. In a letter to Rabbi Benjamin HaCohen in December 1729, he wrote: "While I was meditating on aYihud, I fell into a sleep and when I woke, I heard a voice saying: "I have come down to reveal hidden secrets of the Saintly King." I waited, trembling, for a moment, then I took myself in hand and the Voice did not cease to reveal mysterious things. The next day, at the same time, I took the precaution of being alone in my room, when the Voice manifested itself to reveal another secret; until one day that it revealed to me that it was a Maggid . .. Three months later, he transmitted to me other Yihudim to recite daily in order to come to merit a visit of the prophet Elijah .. Then the prophet Elijah came to tell me celestial secret and later announced the coming of Matatron - great Prince of the Angels. " Under the dictation of the Maggid, the Ramchal wrote thousands of pages of mysticism and revealed amazing secrets.
A small circle to study mysticism formed around the Ramchal, its goal being the continuous reading of the Zohar and Tikkun HaShehina. To join this circle one had to conform to strict rules of purity and devotion, written and signed by the members. Once the goals of this study circle and the disclosure of the Maggid became known, some Rabbis, particularly Rabbi Moshe Hagiz, began an open war against the Ramchal. For them, in view of the great divisions amongst the Community of Israel caused by the pseudo-messianic movement of the false Messiah Sabbatai Tsvi, mysticism and Kabbalah were both synonyms for falsehood and danger for the Jewish people.
This war, or rather this persecution, since the attacks were only from one direction, was well documented in the correspondence between Ramchal and his teacher, Rabbi Bassan. One letter written by the Ramchal illustrates his peaceful spirit and his superiority to such misunderstandings. "Try by your wisdom, master, to abolish their arguments . for there is no purpose in this quarrel. I do not want to create conflicts with anybody . it is peace that we need."
To Rabbi Moshe Hagiz he wrote: "To the illustrious, wise . whose name is among the greatest of the generation, son of _, a man of justice, how can it be that you, in your wisdom - like an angel of God, have gone to war without attempting to understand the depths of the problem? How can it be that you declare war against someone you have never met or even seen? No, it is not a good thing. In any way, let us stop this quarrel . let us not make room for the Satan to come and dance between us."
For nine years there was a period of persecution where, we see the Ramchal trying to defend himself and replying to accusations, particularly those of the Rabbinical Court of Hamburg, whose chief was Rabbi Ezekiel Katzenellenbogen. With what did they actually reproach him finally? There seems to be nothing, except maybe that he had written on Kabbalah, he had discussed the Messiah and he had revealed his communications with his Maggid. However, he in no way and in none of his writings, alluded to his own person as being the Messiah or indeed any kind of savior. In one of his letters to the Rabbis of Livorno he wrote, "I perform no miracles, neither do I predict the future. In reality, a lot of people gather around me simply to study Torah. After learning, I write books, as permitted by the Lord. ... Even the magicians of Pharaoh performed miracles in front of Moses. .But in my humble opinion, this is not the correct way to verify the contents of a science."
Despite this very clear declaration, on the insistence of Rabbi M. Haggiz, the Ramchal was coerced into signing an official document retracting his writing, in which he approved the following. "The duty of every Jew is to obey the orders of the Rabbis even if they say that the right hand is the left, and the left hand is the right. I will to stop writing in the language of the Zohar or in other language, about Kabbalah, in the name of the Maggid or any other Saintly Souls, in order to prevent quarrels amongst the learned men of Israel."
Following this coercion, the Ramchal sent all his Kabbalistic writing from before 1730, to his teacher, Rabbi Bassan, who sealed them in a box and sent them for safekeeping to Rabbi Moses Alperon. They were buried and lost forever. Afterwards, from 1730 to 1734, he wrote over 40 works of Kabbalah, but in more subtle or subdued language and in rational style. In 1735, at the age of 28, tired of constant harassment, he left Italy to go to Holland with his young family. On the way, he stopped in Frankfurt, where, the persecutions having recommenced, he was forced to sign another document, preventing him from writing Kabbalah or teaching Kabbalistic writing. He did maintain the right to study the work of the Ari z"l, once he had reached the age of forty. He never reached it.
It was only in 1736 that the situation became quiet, at the death of his teacher, Rabbi Bassan and the grave illness of Rabbi Haggiz. A period of calm followed until 1743, when the Ramchal was appointed Rosh Yeshiva in Amsterdam and wrote his most popular book and one of the most studied in Yeshivot to this day, Mesillat Yesharim, - "The Path of the Just." This is a masterpiece of ethics without any moralizing. In the same period, he published two other important works, Daat Tevunot - "The Knowing Heart" and Derech HaShem - "The Way of God."
In 1743, he realized his dream to go up to Eretz Israel, fulfilling the words of the learned that residence in Eretz Israel is a commandment in parallel to the entire Torah. Few details are known about his life in Israel, except that he lived near the city of Acco and near Tiberius. His stay in the Land of Israel was very short - he died together with his family during a plague in 1746 at the age of 39.
There does remain a further question: did the Ramchal write any books in Israel? To date, we know of none, but it seems difficult to accept that after all the persecutions, having reached the land of Israel, that he wrote nothing, finally having the freedom to do so, although it is probable that he felt himself bound by the document he had signed.
Like many other great geniuses, the Ramchal was recognized as such only after his death. A great master, the Gaon of Vilna (born 1729) was reported to have declared that "were the Ramchal still alive, he would go by foot from Vilna to Amsterdam, to learn from his wisdom." About Mesillat Yesharim he said: "This book bears witness to the greatness of its author and his extraordinary vision of human heights."
The Maggid of Mezeritch said. "His generation did not have the merit of this great man. Such is the case that many of our people, through a lack of knowledge or understanding, have pronounced unjustified calumny upon him." Today, we can only pray for forgiveness upon the Rabbis of his generation, who mistook him for an impostor and prevented him from learning ,teaching, writing and leaving to the nation of Israel other magnificent works. We should also pray for our own generation that we will merit of the revelation of all his writings in our day, particularly the Zohar Tiniana that was amongst those buried by the Rabbis of Frankfurt. Amen.