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"Da’at Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart"

Section 1, Chapter 4

1.

As we’d indicated, the single thread that runs through the long course of history from beginning to end is the fact that G-d reigns over absolutely everything.

In point of fact, G-d’s sovereignty, know as His Yichud, is the only trait of His that we humans can grasp. For, while He is accessible to heart and soul, G-d is utterly inaccessible to the mind; as the heart and soul can sense His active presence in the world, but the mind must rely on abstract conjecture about His makeup.

And so while we might understand for example that G-d is wise, we nonetheless can’t fathom the makeup of His wisdom with our minds; and though we can certainly follow that He understands, we ourselves nonetheless can’t grasp G-d’s level of understanding; and the like. And that’s because those and other such Divine traits are rooted in abstract notions, while G-d’s sovereignty -- His overarching command of everything in the universe -- will be evident in the end.

As our sages put it, “You (G-d) are wise, but not with a discernable kind of wisdom. You understand, but not with a discernable kind of understanding” (Tikkunei Zohar, 2nd Introduction). And besides, we’ve been warned, “Do not search out what is too wondrous for you, and do not delve into what is hidden from you” (Chagigah 13a), and “if your heart flees there …” i.e., to an idea that’s utterly beyond your mortal mind, then ”return to your place” instead (Sefer Yetzirah 1:8) [1]. But while that’s true of abstract ideas about Him, nevertheless as the psalmist put it so effulgently, when one catches sight of G-d’s presence in the world he can “taste and see20that G-d is good” (Psalm 34:8) -- that He’s here in our world and holds sway over all of it.

2.

But Ramchal’s point is that not only can we discern G-d’s utter sovereignty now to a degree, it will become perfectly clear to us in fact in the end.

As such we’re charged by the Torah to detect it and to internalize its veracity again and again, to the point where it’s unquestionable [2]. As it’s written, “Know this day and reflect upon it in your heart” again and again “that the L-rd He is G-d in heaven above and upon the earth below”, i.e., that He reigns supreme, and that “there is none else” who reigns (Deuteronomy 4:39). In point of fact, all of our people’s hopes and dreams as well as all the promises made to us about our ultimate redemption hinge on G-d displaying His utter sovereignty -- His Yichud -- in the eventual future.

We’ll discuss this all in more detail in the next few chapters; at this point, though, let’s just present the various verses that allude to this phenomenon. < o:p>

G-d Himself expressed it in these terms: “I am He! There is no G-d with me! I alone bring on death and bring on life; I alone wound and heal“(Deuteronomy 32:39) [3]; “I am He; before Me no god was formed and after Me none shall be. I (alone) I am the L-rd, and aside from Me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:10-11); “I am the first and I am the last; there is no G-d beside Me“(Isaiah 44:6); and “Know … that there is none beside Me. I am G-d, no one else. I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I G-d do all these things“(Isaiah 45:6-7).

As the prophets Isaiah and Zechariah depicted it, “G-d alone will be exalted on that day“(Isaiah 2:11) -- the day He reveals His Yichud -- when, “G-d will (prove to) be king over all the earth. And ... G-d and His name will be one and the same“(Zechariah 14:9) [4]. And as it’s said “Hear O Israel! G-d our L-rd is the L-rd (i.e., His reign is sovereign) (Deuteronomy 6:4).

The point of the matter is that G-d alone reigns supreme -- and that while there are undoubtedly other entities with wills of their own, ourselves included, in fact G-d alone will have “the last word” so to speak; His Will will prove to reign supreme [5].

3.

In the end we’ll find that the slow, boundless, panoramic consideration of past, present and the promised future which we’ll be offered in this work will ultimately have us realize the fact of G-d’s Yichud.

And once we know that, we’ll be able to not only “know therefore this day” the truth of G-d’s absolute sovereignty in theory -- we will have “reflect (ed) upon it in (our) heart” and we’ll be able to realize on our own that “G-d alone is L-rd of Heaven above and of earth below -- none other” (see Deuteronomy 4:39), despite the whirligig of earthly circumstances that seem to refute that [6].

Notes:

[1] See R’ Friedlander’s remarks in note 14 of his commentary for another explanation of how we could understand G-d’s Yichud yet not understand His other traits based on the notion of “positive” versus “negative” Divine attributes (for which see Rambam’s comments in Moreh Nevuchim 1:56–60). Our position is that G-d’s Yichud can be defined because it touches upon Him as He interfaces with the cosmos.

[2] Understand that most of us simply don’t sense G-d’s utter sovereignty. Even people of faith who assume that G-d certainly reigns in this world don’t actually assume He reigns supreme. And that’s because they presume that He Himself is subject and subservient to a number of cosmic laws and limitations (which Ramchal will discuss later on).

[3] Ramchal calls our attention to the context in which this statement is made, the great song-poem known as Shirat Ha’azinu, which he says “incorporates every happenstance and phenomenon ever to occur in the world” which even “the plain meaning of the text makes clear”.

[4] This verse would seem to explain why we use the term “Yichud” of all possible others for His Absolute Sovereignty. For the term implies oneness (echad); and oneness is characterized in this verse as the unification (Yichud, quite literally) of G-d’s Essence and His name, i.e., and His reputation or “public facade” as we worded it in note 3 to 1:3. (Also see R’ Shalom Ulman’s opening comments to his edition of Klallot Ha’ilan)

The term Yichud also refers to the unification of G-d’s near-highest reach with His lowest one, as in the common Kabbalistic formula of “unifying the Holy One and His Shechina”. See R’ Shriki’s essay entitled “HaYichud” of his edition of Da’at Tevunot for a discussion of this.

[5] See ¶’s 38 and 40 below as well as Klach Pitchei Chochma 1 (in Peirush).

[6] For the Kabbalistic themes tied in with this chapter see Klallim Rishonim 3 (which=2 0corresponds to ¶’s 36 and 40 ); Klach Pitchei Chochma 2, 4; and Klallot Ha’ilan 1. Also see the aforementioned “HaYichud” on pp. 61-66 of Shriki’s edition for a breakdown of how the concept of G-d’s Yichud had been understood before Ramchal and of its various implications; also see his Rechev Yisroel pp. 167-228 for a full treatment of the concept of Yichud.


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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