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Da'at Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart

Section 1, Chapter 15

By Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

1. Despite the daunting reality of G-d’s apparent absence in this world, bear in mind that His ultimate aim is to disclose His presence and sovereignty, and to make it clear tha t His having concealed it in the first place was a means to that end all along [1].

And so eventually the whole system G-d established here for the meanwhile will be undone, and all will be set right; for the 6,000 year-long period of spiritual trial and error will have played itself out, and G-d’s presence will be manifest along with all the great goodness that will follow in its wake.

G-d is consequently always affecting, shifting, and arranging things and circumstances here and now to bring that day about. In point of fact, every single day brings us closer to it [2]

As the prophets affirmed , “You have (always) done great things … O L-rd my G-d. For Your wonders and Your thoughts are for (i.e., directed toward) us” (Psalms 40:6), “You (G-d) have dealt wondrously; (You have conjured) devices (for the revelation of Your Yichud) from long ago” (Isaiah 25:1), and “G-d … devises means so that anyone who is banished (as a consequence of his sins) will not be cast from Him (in the end)” (2 Samuel 14:14). 2.

Understand though that the whole process -- G-d’s hiddeness and His eventual revelation -- had to follow a measured course of action. For as Ramchal puts it, “G-d certainly didn’t want to adopt a system of right and wrong for a certain amount of time, then abandon it and set up another=2 0one in which His sovereignty would reign in one fell swoop, like someone who regretted what he’d done”. He wanted instead to bring the change about from “within” in such a way that His sovereignty would simply evolve out of the system of right and wrong we experience now. And then the experience of perfection and G-d’s Yichud would be revealed, and the two states will stand in clear contradistinction to each other (as we’ll see later on).

3. The truth is that G-d interacts with us even now both ways at the same time. As we all know, He now allows for reward and punishment [3], and thus judges and rules accordingly; yet at the same time He unobtrusively and covertly allows His inherent benevolence that will eventually lead to perfection to permeate the world as well [4].

Interestingly enough, G-d seems to allow Himself to be swayed by, or to even be subservient to our actions and ethics in the here and now, and He thus rewards or punishes in reaction to us rather than from His own penchants [5]. But know that while G-d certainly judges our actions and responds to them measure for measure, and He has innumerable ways and agents to administer justice [6], nevertheless He is still in actual fact bringing everything to the state of perfection [7]. That’s not to deny the fact that He still-and-all has purposely withheld His sovereignty from the world, created us imperfect, and has us endure more darkness than light in a world of wrong and injustice [8]. But the fact remains that He will manifest His full benevolence and sovereignty in due course, and will bring us to the state of perfection that is our destiny. For, the revelation of G-d’s Yichud is the truth that simmers beneath the surface of things that roils more and more resoundingly, and comes closer and closer to the top [9].

Notes:

[1] See Klallim Rishonim 6.

[2] That's to say that every seeming impediment, every "sideswipe" and "curve ball", will prove to have been perfectly timed, fully appropriate, on-target, and imperative. For it will be found that absolutely nothing was independent of the process of revelation, nothing irrelevant to it; everything said, thought, done, and planned was a part of it all, along with each nuance and shade-of-a-nuance. The underlying point is that the great redemption and revelation of G-d's sovereignty is indeed on its way, whether we know it or not. Have faith, for the great mystery will be solved, and the knottiest of puzzles will be unraveled right before your eyes.

R’ Friedlander (iyyun 14) cites several traditional sources that illustrate how good has come out of misfortune (drawing upon R’ S.Z. Ziv’s Chochma u’Mussar for the last two). 1. Joseph’s having been abandoned by his brothers only brought his dreams of leadership to fruition. 2. Pharaoh’s having decided to have all Jewish males killed to thwart the possibility of there being a Jewish redeemer brought about Moses’ own salvation. 3. Haman’s (whom the tradition identifies with M’muchan, see Esther 1:16-22) advice to have Vashti killed having allowed for Esther’s ascension to power and enabled the Jews to be redeemed, and his having erected the tree to hang Mordechai having given rise to his own hanging.

There are other examples as well. And in fact we can all doubtless cite one mishap or more in our lives that have turned to great goodness in the end. The point is that redemption and revelation will come in the end, despite appearances, and all wrongful intentions and misdeeds will finally be dashed.

[3] Ramchal terms this His “values-based rule” (G-d’s other means of interaction is termed “Yichud- and perfection-based rule” as we’ll see in the last note to this chapter).

[4] The interplay between the two modes at one and the same time alludes to the transition period between the epoch of time in which G-d hides His presence and the one in which He manifests it cited in 1:14:1 above.

Parenthetically, we could liken G-d's Yichud-mode to our autonomic nervous system and His values-based mode to our voluntary movements. The autonomic nervous system controls various vital bodily functions on its own and without our input, and sees to it that we thrive (sometimes even despite ourselves). Our voluntary movements, on the other hand, follow our dictates, right or wrong, and can either better or even undo us. In much the same way, it's G-d's Yichud-mode that always sees to it that we thrive -- more so, that we perfect ourselves; while His values-based mode allows us the freedom to better or harm ourselves.

[5] Ramchal makes the tangential point here that this in fact explains statements that seem to deny G-d’s sovereignty when understood a certain way, like “Grant (literally, attribute) strength to G-d” (Psalms 68:35), “You have weakened (literally, forgotten) the Rock Who bore you (by your sins)” (Deuteronomy 32:18), “Whenever Israel complies with G-d’s will they add strength up above, and when they don’t they diminish strength up above” (Eicha Rabbah 1:33), “I (G-d) have been weakened by (literally, will remove) the iniquity of that land” (Zachariah 3:9), and “In those days and in that time, says the L-rd, the iniquity of Israel will be sought for and there will be (found to be) none, and the sins of Judah and they will not be found” (Jeremiah 50:20).

His point seems to be that it’s as if G-d wasn't G-d at all so much as a servant of a higher force than Himself=2 0whom He's to answer to, if you will -- right and wrong. But the truth is that G-d does indeed work on two levels at the same time: He allows Himself to acquiesce to His own creation's demands on the one hand, but He also sees to it that His own will is the last word, in that the mode of acquiescence will eventually be undone and G-d's sovereignty will indeed manifest itself -- as soon as G-d decides it should.

[6] In fact, that goes far to explain the odd and surprising roles we find ourselves in from time to time as we act as G-d’s agents for others, unbeknownst even to ourselves; and it also accounts for the utterly unexpected appearance of so many things in our life.

[7] Ramchal makes another tangential point here that all this explains the statements, “I, G-d, do not change” (Malachi 3:6) and “I have never changed” (Zohar 3:281a), which mean to say that even though G-d may seem to acquiesce to others’ wishes now, nonetheless His full sovereignty will be apparent in the process of time.

[8]See R’ Goldblatt’s note 14 here (and his note 20 on p. 475) where he relates this to the interplay of tzimtzum, kav, and reshimu.

[9] Ramchal encapsulated his main points up to now; we’ll present his words in this note rather than in the text itself to avoid redundancy. “G-d manifests two traits in this world: a values-based rule and a Yichud- and perfection-based rule. The values-based rule necessitates (the existence of both) right and wrong which all good and bad phenomena depend on, and is rooted in G-d hiddeness and (innate) benevolence, and in His concealed perfection. The Yichud- and perfection-based rule (on the other hand) is the trait that will (eventually) bring on the perfection of all created things, despite their not deserving it. (The latter) functions regularly though clandestinely in the presence of the values-based rule so as to bring everything to perfection (in the end), and is rooted in G-d’s inherent pure benevolence. And despite its hiddenness it never fails to shine goodness upon us. (In short,) while His values-based rule is manifest and outright, (G-d’s full and perfect) sovereignty is hidden and concealed (though certainly with us all along).”


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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