Da’at Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart
Section 1, Chapter 5
There are five theologically-calamitous mistakes we make that prevent us
from accepting just how unmitigated and absolute G-d’s sovereignty is .
The first of them (which seems rather laudatory and respectful at that, at
first blush) is to think that G-d is “far too exalted”, much too “removed
from the world to concern Himself with it” in Ramchal’s words.
After all, those who think this way reason, He’s G-d! Why should He care
about petty and ultimately inconsequential things like this world and us?
In Ramchal’s worlds, they think that He has left us under the control
of “the stars, constellations, and their celestial counterparts, which
then oversee the (workings of the) world”. That in fact was the viewpoint
of the earliest idolaters, who then worshipped the stars and
constellations, which they considered G-d’s lofty agents on earth . But
that’s fallacious because G-d is utterly unaffected by distance, either of
rank or of space; G-d’s reach transcends all that. For what he said of His
Torah is certainly true of Himself. As He put it, “It is not up in heaven
… nor is it beyond the sea … No, the matter is very near you; it is in
your mouth and in your heart” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).
Mistaken as they were, those who were of that opinion did nonetheless
acknowledge G-d’s Being and even worshipped Him -- albeit in a backhanded
sort of way .
The second mistake some make is to reason that since, as we’re taught, G-d
is perfect, whole, and utterly benevolent, and yet there’s evil and
wrongdoing in this world -- then there had to have been two deities: one
for the good and another for the bad .
The truth be known, that error is either based on our inability to fathom
how a good G-d could allow for evil to manifest itself so often, or at
all; or on our failure to appreciate when an instance of bad might
actually prove to be good. The seeming contradiction and confusion in all
that is so alien to some poor souls that they lapse into heresy or
spiritual mayhem in the face of it, G-d forbid.
But there are a couple of points to make about that at this juncture
(while a lot more will be said later on). First, that evil serves a
purpose in this world -- and a rather high, telling, and central one at
that, ironically (as we’ll discover). And second, that while the
incongruity of a single source for both good and evil can’t be denied,
nonetheless a person of faith understands that the One G-d is indeed the
source of everything; and that His single Will manifests itself in many
different ways, much the way a single ray of sunlight can express itself
as many different hues as=2 0it passes through a prism .
The third mistake people have made -- and continue to make to this day,
perhaps even more so than in the past -- is to assume that the “laws of
nature” (as well as the constraints of “destiny” and of “happenstance”)
are indefatigable facts of life not to be denied, and that even G-d is
beholden to them. And they also believe that the sooner a person
acknowledges those “rules” and starts to play by them, the better off he
is and the longer he denies them the more likely he is to fail.
But that would suggest that these “laws” existed before G-d Himself did,
since they rather than He would be the very underpinnings of everything in
the world. Yet that’s absurd, for by definition G-d never didn’t exist, so
nothing could ever have preceded Him; and since He’s the Creator, He
created those forces, too, and is thus beyond and above them.
It also follows, then, that since He is in fact beyond and above them (and
everything else, as well), th at these rules aren’t immutable. And rather
than being “laws” of nature and facts of life, they’re actually only some
of the multifarious, mutable means G-d uses to govern this world; that is,
that like everything else, they too are beholden to Him, the Absolute
The fourth fundamental mistake some make about G-d is to believe that His
deeds are sometimes subordinate to man’s actions. They assert as an
example the notion that while G-d had once chosen the Jewish Nation in
fact to carry out His mission in this world, He no longer favors us since
we continue to sin and stray, and that He was thus “forced” to abandon us,
G-d forbid, as a consequence of those actions.
First off, let’s quote G-d’s own words about the fixed and abiding nature
of our people’s relationship to Him. “I will never give My glory to
another (nation) “(Isaiah 48:11), since He has established a covenant
between Himself and us that’s to last forever . And that as a
consequence of that covenant He9 9ll expunge many of the things we do
against Him, we’re assured.
“I, I myself, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and
will not remember your sins“ (Isaiah 43:25), G-d said at one point; “I
will remove the iniquity of that country (Israel) in one day“ (Zechariah
3:9), He said at another; and He once assured us that “In those days and
in that time... the iniquity of Israel will be searched out, and there
will (be found to) be none; and the sins of Judah (will be searched out,
too) and not be found. For, I will pardon those whom I leave as a
That’s to say that His covenant with us is eternal and beyond others’
expectations . And that G-d is unaffected by and above our or anyone
else’s deeds, as well as any system He Himself set up to determine worth
and merit. For as He put it, “I will be gracious to whomever I will be
gracious -- even though he may not be worthy of it”. And “I will show
mercy upon whomever I will show mercy, even though he may not deserve
And the fifth mistake made is to assume that though He is the Creator of
each and every thing, we can still-and-all do things to get around His
wishes or affect His deeds. Mistakenly believing that G-d must be
vulnerable in some realm or another, and that they could subject Him to
their manipulation and cunning, they would for example try to manipulate
the sort of supernatural forces that G-d is thought to acquiesce to.
But they too are wrong. For G-d alone is G-d, and the Absolute Sovereign.
Nothing can thwart Him. He alone reigns supreme; nothing exists save for
the fact that He wills it to; and He oversees everything. He Himself
enacted all laws and ordinances, and they’re thus beholden to Him, rather
than He to them.
There will indeed be times when G-d chooses to accede to manE2s deeds, but
He needn’t do that if He chooses not to. And He’s likewise above even
supernatural laws. After all, He Himself set it all in place and granted
it its capabilities. He instituted everything and can correspondingly
change and undo anything. For He alone is all-powerful .
 Doubtlessly meaning to underscore the importance of the idea --
which he says in the text is the cardinal and over-arching truism of the
Jewish Faith-- Ramchal elaborates here on verses that depict G-d’s
sovereignty. We didn’t cite them above because they seem redundant in this
sort of a treatment, but we’ll quote them here. We’re thus told that “G-d
is the L-rd...” which is to say, the Absolute Sovereign, “... in Heaven
above and on the earth below”, i.e., in orbits we experience and in orbits
we cannot; “... there is no other”, i.e., that’s true of Him, and Him
alone (Deuteronomy 4:39). “Behold, I am He...” the Torah quotes G-d as
declaring, meaning to say that G-d alone is the Absolute Sovereign, “there
is no god with Me...” i.e., He shares sovereignty with nothing and no one
else. And the Torah underscores the point with the Divine affirmation
that, “I (alone) bring on death and I bring to life; I wound and=2 0I
heal” (Deuteronomy 32:39), thus asserting the profundity and finality of G-
d’s determinations (which was already cited in 1:4:2). We’re taught that G-
d is “unchangeable; (so) who could turn Him around?”, which is to say that
He cannot be dissuaded from doing anything He’s determined to do. And it’s
said that “He does what He wants“ (Job 23:13), for after all, “Who'd
(dare) say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’“ (Job 9:12). In short we’re to
understand that G-d’s rule is absolute and supreme. Nothing and no one
could ever thwart Him.
See Ramchal’s statement elsewhere that everything we do should somehow
disclose G-d’s Sovereignty, and that the eventual full and outright
disclosure of it will only come about when we believe in it wholeheartedly
(Klach Pitchei Chochma 49).
 See Rambam’s Hilchot Avodah Zarah 1:1-2, which depicts the downward
spin from the recognition of G-d’s exalted place in the universe to out-
 Some20today start off with something of the same premise but go
elsewhere with it. “Since G-d is so lofty and transcendent” they
contend, “He apparently left us to our own devices”. What they mean to
suggest is either that we’re now on our own in the universe, masters of
our own fate, and accountable to no one; or worse yet, that G-d is an
aloof Master of the Universe who wouldn’t deign to concern Himself with
this world. But both approaches are wrong. The first because it limits G-
d’s reach and doesn’t factor in His ability (and wish) to interface with
this world and ourselves in an imminent, near-at-hand sort of way. And the
second is wrong because it limits His concerns for and faith in us, whom
He created to fulfill His ultimate purpose (see 1:1:2 above).
 Ramchal is referring to Zoroastrianism which thrived in Talmudic times
and threatened Jewish beliefs, since it maintained that a pair of co-equal
spirits called Ahura Mazda (the beneficent “Wise Lord”) and Angra Mainyu
(the malevolent “Evil Spirit”) competed with each other for control of the
universe (see Sanhedrin 39A).
 See Rambam’s illustration of how one thing can do and produce a number
of different, even conflicting things. He points out that fire c an melt
some things, solidify others, as well as cook, burn, whiten, and blacken
yet others. Someone not knowing the nature of fire would think that six
different things were at work: one that melts, another that solidifies,
etc., but of course that’s not so; for fire alone is the instigator of all
those effects (Moreh Nevuchim 1:53).
 R’ Shriki cites others of Ramchal’s works (in his note 15) to explain
natural phenomena and the laws of nature from a Kabbalistic perspective.
Ramchal speaks of the short-sightedness we suffer from being material
beings, in that we’re not aware that things are not as they appear to be --
even to the most advanced tools, even when accessed by the best minds.
For we’re taught that G-d wanted to keep certain things from mankind, so
he gave us our five senses (as well as all the modern instruments that
merely extend upon these senses, albeit to astounding qualitative and
quantitative degrees) with which to experience the world. For our souls
themselves experience things on a very different level and aren’t beholden
to those senses; they “see things for what they are, not for what they’re
presented as being by our senses” (Adir Bamarom, p. 458).
Elsewhere Ramchal likens nature to multi-hued panels placed over a window
that allow the pure and otherwise unadulterated sunlight to pass through
them only after having been “colored ” by them (Adir Bamarom, vol. 2,
Ma’amar Yichud HaYirah p. 150); or to material embodiments of spiritual
principles which we respond to more than we do the spiritual originals
(ibid., p. 158).
 Also see Genesis 17:1-2, 7; Isaiah 54:10 and 59:21; 1 Chronicles 16:15-
17; and elsewhere.
It’s important to point out, though, that that’s not to deny the
consequences that any single one of us would have to suffer for our having
broken our end of the bargain and sinning. For, despite the covenant
between G-d Almighty and our people, the truth of the matter is that
transactions are transactions indeed every bit as much as merits are
merits; everyone must answer for his or her own deeds.
 Ramchal is addressing the fact that the early Church Fathers contended
that while G-d had indeed once chosen the Jewish Nation, He’d subsequently
abandoned us, G-d forbid. Ramchal’s point is that their supposition is
that G-d’s decisions can be swayed by man’s actions, but that’s absurd,
since not only has G-d made an eternal pact with our people, but He also
can’t be moved to “c hange His mind” one way or the other since He is the
Supreme Sovereign who is answerable to no one (see R’ Friedlander’s note
 See Derech Hashem 3:2 where Ramchal discusses Theurgy (the performance
of miracles with supernatural assistance).
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.