Derashos haRan – Derashah 1
All the chaburos in which we learned the first derashah of Derashos haRan are now available on YouTube!
If I were to summarize the topic, the Ran opens with the idea that creation is a progress from substance without form, to four crude and very imperfect forms (the elements), to refinement through creating compounds. To the Ran, perfections exist, imperfections are lacks. So, through proper diversification, a compound will have the positives of each of its elements, but any lack in one component will be filled by the perfection of another.
In this he gives us a detour into the nature of community, and the need for diversity in a community, in contrast to the destructiveness of living in echo chambers.
Returning to the process of creation, with each day there are thus better components to make ever better compounds from. Until we reach human beings — a compound of physical an spiritual.
Meanwhile, he also develops the theme of Maaseh Bereishis. The Ran disagrees with the Rambam’s definition that Maaseh Bereishis refers to Natural Philosophy (science). Rather, he defines it in the connection between the spiritual and the physical, how does metaphysics cause physics. And to do that, one needs to understand things’ forms and the angels who gave them those forms. Science understands things from their interactions, Maaseh Bereishis — from their forms, essences and purposes.
And thus, Maaseh Bereishis could only be learned from revelation. And halakhah shows us how to live in accord with our purpose, and thus Maaeh Bereishis. Most scriptures limit themselves to unverifiable promises about the afterlife. The presence of halakhah, in particular of chuqim that cannot be deduced on our own, shows the reality of revelation and the closeness of G-d. And thus the afterlife is taken for granted and only hinted at, but the focus of the Torah’s promises are about how living in accordance with our essence and purpose also helps us in the hear and now.
We will be using Derashos haRan as a centerpiece a series of discussions to strengthen our own emunah. How do these ideas of Medieval Philosophy from our rishonim related to our own faith, values, and life-goals?
The Ran’s second derashah discusses Yaaqov, Eisav, antisemitism, the nature of prophecy, and the malleability of the future.
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Here is the source material, adapted from the copy on Sefaria with Rabbi Shraga Simmons’ translation. https://aspaqlaria.aishdas.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2023/03/Derashos-haRan-derashah-1.pdf