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Da’at Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart

Section 1, Chapter 9

1.

The truth be known, the whole nearly unbearable, arduous process of exile and eventual redemption [1] could be shortened to nearly nothing -- both for the world at large and for ourselves individually.

As Ramchal lays it out elegantly, each one of us would simply need to “recognize the truth” of G-d’s sovereignty as enunciated above, “and to abandon the sham ways of this world” that most of us accept as truth “in the wish to draw close to the Creator” and that would be it. All the great and bountiful light of G-d's presence would be made manifest.

Needless to say, though, it entails a life of spiritual application with many mishaps along the way; and it’s a complex and often circuitous route t hat’s far from simple (despite the grace of its portrayal). But it’s possible. For it doesn’t demand perfection per se so much as holy determination, appropriate action, and a clear-headed understanding of what matters and what doesn’t [2].

The world wouldn’t need to come to tumult and near-ruin for G-d’s Yichud to be manifest. For, the only point of that would have been to force the issue, so that we’d recognize G-d’s utter sovereignty that way [3]. Our recognizing it on our own in quiet reflection and quick realization would do the trick [4]. As, “once it will have become clear, it will have become clear” in fact, Ramchal declares: there’s no inherent need for calamity and high drama whatsoever.

In point of fact, the great revelation could have happened nearly from the first, had Adam and Eve initiated it. For they too could have decided to adhere to G-d’s wishes after reflecting on the truth of His presence and would have thus prevented G-d from concealing His sovereignty, and they’d have staved off 6,000 years of spiritual darkness. So, let’s explore their situation.

2.

Adam and Eve had been exposed to G-d’s overarching sovereignty through the act of creation, and to the idea of wrong in the body of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And so they could have reflected on both, seen the disparity between the two, and chosen well.

But even though they were prophets and sages [5], they were still and all seduced by the fact “that the tree seemed good to eat (from) and was pleasant looking“(Genesis 3:6), and they were thrown. They should have known and believed that “whatever went against what G-d explained was the true way to rectify the world was false and a sham” as Ramchal words it. They should have held fast to their faith for if they had, G-d’s Yichud would have become manifest. But they didn’t do that.

Instea d, there suddenly seemed to be two options for them: to either eat from the tree that seemed so sublime to them right there and then, or not to and thus obey G-d whose presence had also been so sublime (on a whole other level, of course). But as we all know, they became so bedazzled, so overtaken by the fruit, that they obeyed its call over G-d’s own [6].

What were they thinking? It apparently struck them that if there were two options, then there had to be two masters to answer to: G-d or their sudden inclination. They simply -- ruinously -- opted to answer to their inclination and to deny G-d’s absolute sovereignty, and they thus suffered the consequences [7].

What they should have done was to have opened their own eyes (see Genesis 3:5, 7), to have realized that the tree’s pull was a sham, and to have then risen above its lure. But they didn’t, to our terrible and profound dismay [8].

3.

Had they only stood firm in their faith and acknowledged that G-d reigns supreme right on the spot, they would have overcome all illusion, and the truth of G-d’s Yichud would have been fully realized. G-d would then have done 6,000 year’s worth of work, if you will, in a day. He’d have annihilated wrong right there and then in the Garden of Eden (since wrong would have no longer served any purpose). And humanity would not have to endure the 6,000 years it might take in the end to reveal G-d’s Yichud (unless we take it upon ourselves to strive for that realization on our own, as we said).

Indeed, the utter truth of G-d’s Yichud would have been proven to Adam and Eve empirically and in infinite detail. They would have been struck to the core by the fact that wrong decisions and everything tinged with and made attractive by phantasm was off-the-mark; and they would have seen for themselves the huge and terrible presence of wrong and hardships in the world come undone.

4.

We, their progeny, could do the same by dwelling deeply upon the reality of G-d’s absolute sovereignty and come to realize on our own just how true it is, and that would be it. The great and ultimate cosmic goal would be achieved, as it will be one way or the other. And there’d be no need to endure the lengthy process of progressive revelation.

But we don’t. Like Adam and Eve, we too fall for appearances and overlook G-d’s full and prevailing presence in our midst. The point is, though, that G-d will do for us what we refuse to do for ourselves in the end, and will manifest His Yichud, Ramcha l reiterates.

Understand, though, that we pay a dear price for our failure. For while not only have certain esoteric things like true scholarship and wisdom deteriorated because G-d’s presence is hidden from us, more mundane things have declined too, like the taste and aroma of fruit, and the presence of common civility [9].

That will all change, though, with the great revelation of G-d’s Yichud. As Ramchal puts it, our “understanding will be set aright”, there and then, and everything we do “will once again be just so” because humankind “will cling unto its Creator”. As20G-d Himself expressed it to the prophet, that will be when He “will pour out (His) spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 3:1), and as a consequence, “no longer will anyone (have to) instruct his neighbor or … his brother, saying, ‘Know G-d!" for they will all know Me from their smallest to their greatest” (Jeremiah 31:33); "many nations will go and say, 'Let us go forth and ascend G-d’s mountain. Let Him teach us His ways, and let us walk in His paths'" (Isaiah 2:3); and “the wolf will dwell with the lamb“(Isaiah 11: 6).

Notes:

[1] I.e., of the concealment and ultimate revelation of G-d’s sovereignty.
[2] Profound realizations followed by repentance and fresh intentions often come about in a flash; see Avodah Zara 17a for one instance. [3] See R’ Friedlander’s note 56; also see Adir Bamarom p. 416 as cited in R’s Shriki’s note31.
[4] This follows on the heels of Ramchal’s discussion of both knowing and reflecting upon truths in section 2 of his introduction as well as in our third footnote there.
[5] Proof that they were prophets was the very fact that they met with and spoke to G-d, face to face; and we learn from the tradition that they were sages, too (see Moreh Nevuchim 1:2). Also see Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer (13), Bereshit Rabbah (8), and Midrash Tanchuma (Pekudei 3).
[6] Lest you think you wouldn’t make that mistake, ask yourself now how to live the most exemplary life you could. You’d admit that you’d have to be virtuous, do a lot of good, and be self-abnegating to one degree or another. Ask yourself if that describes you now or in the foreseeable future, and you’re likely to admit that it doesn’t. Ask yourself then how to be the best parent, friend, son or daughter that you can be, and reflect once again on your ways; then ask yourself how to be as healthy as you can be and reflect again, etc. The analogy is obvious. We too see the truth right before our eyes but are seduced and waylaid by this or that to be the people we’re capable of being.
[7] We’re assuming that they succumbed to the second of the five misperceptions Ramchal enunciated in Ch. 5 above, though he doesn’t speak to this point whatsoever. The one that we focused on above in our depiction above -- the mistaken belief that there are two “deities” -- seems the most appropriate since it fits Adam and Eve’s dilemma.
[8] Ramchal depicted the possibilities and failures of Adam and Eve a number of times in his works see Derech Hashem 1:3:6-8, 2:4:2, as well as Sha’arei Ramchal, p.250.
[9] See the observation that "the flavor of fruits has been lost” since the destruction of the Holy Temple (Sotah 48a) and that "audacity will prevail” in the days before the redemption (Ibid. 49b). Note, though, the irony of the fact that the very thing that seduced Adam and Eve away from revelation -- the flavor of fruit -- will be undone in the course of the exile, measure for measure.


Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various locations on the Web.


 






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