We’d learned how vitally important our interactions with G-d are and about
their consequences; but an obvious question in the face of all that
is, “How are we to know the best way to interact with Him?” It’s a
fundamentally important question that touches on the whole idea of
revelation, prophecy, and Divine inspiration, so Ramchal begins to discuss
all that here.
As he puts it, “G-d wanted to divulge certain things to humankind in this
world, so He provided a method of revelation … and it’s termed ‘prophecy’”.
That’s to say that at a certain point in His intentions for the universe
before it was created, G-d decided to institute a means of making His will
known, since He wanted us to be aware of it. For even though G-d Himself
is utterly unfathomable and inscrutable, and so it follows that His will
would be just as unfathomable and inscrutable, He nonetheless wanted us to
know what He had in mind for us. So He established a means of
communication with us that would give us an inkling of His intentions.
This is a rather radical notion in fact, since it implies that we’d been
granted insight into the Divine Mind on some level. What an astounding
phenomenon! To think that mortal man could somehow be privy to G-d’s
thoughts! But it’s true and is in fact one of the fundamentals of the
Jewish Faith, for without that knowledge we could never follow through on
G-d’s wishes and thus never fulfill our mission on this earth.
Among the things G-d wants us to know, as Ramchal put it, are
His “secrets, mysteries, methods of providence, and matters concerning
this world”. That’s to say that G-d not only wanted us to know how to
interact with Him and draw close to Him through the mitzvah-system, He
also wanted to make us privy to certain more arcane things.
Now, though he doesn’t enunciate the “secrets” and “mysteries” he’s
referring to here, Ramchal does delve into all that in other works. What
they come to at bottom are the Kabbalistic notions that are strewn
throughout the Torah that address all sorts of esoteric things like the
nature of the soul, the makeup of the backdrop of everything physical, and
more. The “methods of providence” that Ramchal refers to here harkens back
to what we cited in the last chapter, and “matters concerning this world”
are literally things we’d need to know about the world in order to
function here in an acceptable manner.
The point is that G-d deigned to reveal a number of mysterious as well as
open and aboveboard things to us, and He chose to do it in a way that we
can access -- or at least in a way that some of us could. Since one would
have to qualify for prophecy to tap into that sort of knowledge-base and
not everyone can.
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.