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Daat Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart

Section 1, Chapter 11


Now, you may wonder why we'd need to touch on the who le subject of G-d's hiding and then revealing His Yichud to explain the world's wrongs and misfortunes. After all, can't it be explained by the idea offered early on that G-d wanted us to enjoy all the goodness He promised us without being embarrassed by undeserved reward, so He granted us the freedom of choice to be either righteous or wrongful? So it seems that it’s we who are responsible for wrong and injustice, and not the appearance or non- appearance of G-d’s sovereignty [1].

But the point is that while that’s true, it’s not the main point. For not only is it true that our free will is to be undone in the end (since it’s not the sort of fixed and rock-solid feature of the universe we assume it to be), we’re likewise assured that G-d’s Yichud will ultimately be made manifest. And all the other things connected with it, including our people’s final and great redemption, will come about too [ 2] despite our spiritual standing -- all of which proves that things will no longer depend on what we do or don’t do [3].

For if human free will -- along with the possibility of wrongdoing, and of subsequent reward and punishment -- was truly essential, it would always exist. But it won’t [4]. It will prove to be as ad hoc and ephemeral as G- d's invisibility.

Another point to be made is that G-d's eventual undoing of free will is one of the means He "devises ... so that none of us will ever be banished" (2 Samuel 14:14), so that each one of us draws close to Him. For G-d wants each of us to catch sight of the revelation of His Yichud; and He wants the sins and acts of injustice that matter in the here and now so that free will could exist to no longer matter. And we’ll all experience Him up close. That way G-d’s eventual goal, which Ramchal terms “all-embracing reparation”, will be achieved [5].

For, the latter matters more to Him and for His great and robust plan for the universe than the safeguarding of the system of reward and punishment [6].


So, to reiterate the point, there'll indeed come a time when right and wrong, reward and punishment and the like will be undone, because free choice will have gone by the waysides. And our ability to do wrong will prove to have been an existential way-station. For, free will and self- perfection aren't G-d's ultimate aim: universal perfection alone is; all the rest is merely expedience and stopgap, if you will -- a means to the ultimate end [7].

As such, as it stands now, there are two major epochs of time: the one within which G-d's presence is hidden but destined to be revealed, and the one in which His presence will be revealed. It’s also important to know that G-d has linked the two epochs together in a particular way, as w e'll see later. There'll also prove be a transition stage between the two as well -- a third epoch -- which is contiguous with the other two [8]. We’ll thus delve into all three stages, step by step.

But let's first explain how G-d interacts with us while He's hidden in the here-and-now, and how we're to prepare ourselves for His revelation.


[1] See 1:1:3.

In fact, Rambam underscored just how much of our suffering is due to either human nature, to our slip-ups in personal and ethical judgment, or to man's proverbial inhumanity to man (Moreh Nevuchim 3:12). Also see the Midrashic statement that only one in a thousand trib ulations is of Divine origin (Vayikra Rabbah 16:8).

[2] We’re struck by the fact that the great redemption is thrown into the mix at this point, seemingly out of place. Obviously, then, there must be an essential connection between the exile and G-d hiding His presence, and the redemption and His revelation.

It helps to know that Ramchal speaks of two sorts of exiles: the national, existential, and spiritual one that our people have been in for millennia; and the one that G-d’s presence as manifest in the Shechina has been in, so to speak, for all that time as well, as a consequence of the first (see Klallei Pitchei Chochma v’Daat, 9). Hence, when one is redeemed (the Jewish Nation) the other one (the Shechina) will be too.

He also speaks elsewhere about redemption itself being a facet of the revelation of G-d’s presence. He says that “the great reparation (that will come about on the heel of the redemption) hinges on the mystery (i.e., the mystical import of the revelation of) of G-d's Yichud, when everything will be inexorably linked to everything else, all the Luminaries will conjoin and attach to each other then and all offshoots will reattach to their roots, and they'll all join together -- to the point where everything is a single, tightly bound entity. Light will intensify more and more then, and every hour will bring its own blessings along with peace and joy.” For “once everything is amended, once evil and all the husks (i.e., the roots of wrongdoing) are undone, goodness will be drawn to holiness as it should ... and everyone will then know that there's but one, unique, all-encompas sing Source -- G-d, none other" (Ma’amar HaGeulah 26). So there is indeed a connection between the great redemption and the revelation of G-d’s presence.

That fact is likewise alluded to in the following verses (though more obliquely): “It will come to pass that when all these things -- the blessing and the curse that I have set before you -- have come upon you ... (then, when you are) among all the nations where G-d your L-rd will have driven you (into exile), and you return to G-d your L-rd and obey His voice ... with all your heart and all your soul,” as penitents (see 6:2), that “G-d your L-rd will reverse your captivity and have mercy for you, and return and gather you from all the nations, where G-d your L- rd has scattered you .... And (He) will bring you into the land which your fathers owned”, and the exile will be over. Then and only then will “G-d your L-rd circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed to love G-d your L-rd with all your heart and with all your soul” by reve aling His sovereignty, “so that (we) may live” in His presence forever (Deuteronomy 30:1-6).

[3] That’s to say that revelation of G-d’s Yichud will matter far more and have more wide-ranging ramifications than our free will.

See R’ Goldblatt’s discussion on the place of both tzimtzum and kav in this chapter (p. 75 sect. 8, p. 474 sect. 11)

[4] See Rambam’s Sh’mone Perakim (Ch. 2) where he points out that we're really not utterly free at all: we haven't any control over our inner- organs, for example, or over the thoughts that occur to us instantaneously, or the like. And we're sometimes (though rarely) not even free to make ethical choices (see Ch. 8 there and Hilchot Teshuvah 6:3).

And not only is it true that other beings don’t have it, we ourselves aren't always free to choose in other ways than those cited just above. For while animals and the like do in fact react and make free decisions all the time, theirs aren’t the kinds of decisions that touch on ethical and spiritual status that ours do, which are the kind that lie behind free- choice. And the truth of the matter is that we ourselves aren't capable of making those kinds o f decisions both before we're born and after we die hence it’s very short-lived and limited from the first and will be undone in the end.

For Ramchal’s point here is that free will is also restricted in a more conclusive sense, in that it's only operative in the lifetime of the cosmos as we know it now, which is to say, it's limited to the span of time between G-d's creation of the cosmos and His subsequent hiding of His presence from it, to the time when He'll eventually reveal His presence in full.

[5] See ¶ 170 below (at end) for more about the “all-embracing reparation”. Also see R’ Shriki's citation (here in his edition of our text) of=2 0Adir Bamarom (pp. 211-212).

[6] The sort of dazzling discomfit many of us might have with the thought of losing our free will, by the way, seems to be rooted in our preoccupation with everything material, and with our out-and-out self- absorption. After all, once free choice is undone, both we and everything worldly we admire will be undone too, for all intents and purposes. For everything will be utterly otherwise once G-d will have become manifest.

[7] Some might rashly ask why we’d need to bother to accede to ethics now, since right and wrong are destined to be undone in the end. But suffice it to say that just as no right-minded person su ffering from a terrible fever would go about conducting his business as usual knowing that antibiotics will come to his rescue in a week or ten days, we likewise can’t deny the consequences of our actions now despite the fact that we'll eventually be “well”.

[8] See ¶ 48 below.

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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