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Da’at Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart

Section 1, Chapter 13

Given that nothing in this world is as it seems to be, and granted that G- d Himself is certainly not what we often take Him to be, it stands to reason that nothing that we could say about His “tools” would be like what they really are either [1].

All we could understand about them are the effects those tools have on us, not their makeup, how G-d “handles” them, nor how they actually function [2].

So, any knowledge we and the Torah might attribute to G-d, for example, or memory, thought, mercy, anger, willfulness, or the like, is nothing at all like His actual "knowledge", "memory", "thought", "mercy", "anger", or "willfulness", which are wholly out of our experience. It’s just that they’re adaptations of such traits that are suited to our needs and makeup which we benefit from even though we can’t grasp them, and they’re the very ones that G-d wants us to be affected by [3].

All the Torah does then when it attributes such things to G-d is draw (inevitably poor) analogies from our experience to His so that we could begin to understand His relationship to us.

So, for example, we’re told that G-d would speak to Moses in the Tabernacle from time to time. But how could G-d's "voice" -- which is the tool He uses to express the full power and might of His will -- be contained in space and time? And how could it only be heard by Moses and not by everyone in the world (see Torat Cohanim, Vayikra 2:10)? The point again is that G-d's tools of communicating -- or of doing anything else -- are not our own, and that when He does indeed interact with us He does it in a way that befits our needs, rather than how He's fully capable of doing it [4].

Let this all then serve as a preface to what’s to follow about G-d's interactions with us.

Notes:

[1] That’s to say, “given that nothing is as it seems to be” and that the more we understand things the clearer that becomes; and “if granted that G- d Himself is certainly not what we often take Him to be” and that the more we try to grasp Him the clearer that too becomes; it follows then “that nothing that we could say about His ‘tools’ here” which He makes contact with and which are thus connected to His being in some way“would be like what they really are either”.

[2] This idea refers to reshimu and kav. See Klallim Rishonim 6, Klallot Ha’ilan 1:1, and Klach Pitchei Chochma 28.

[3] See 1:12:1 for the idea of G-d’s traits being suited to us and our needs.

We do n’t usually think of things like knowledge, memory, thought, mercy, anger, willfulness, etc. as tools so much as traits. The point is that G- d’s traits are in fact tools in that, like any other tool, they enable Him to interact with and affect things (us, in this case).

[4] That is, how could G-d be said to have a voice? In fact, He doesn’t, since having one would require Him to have a larynx, lungs, etc., and to breathe air. G-d does though communicate with us voicelessly. But why is it only some can hear Him? So Ramchal attests that G-d does communicate with us, but in ways that humans can endure, yet He limits His communication to those who can endure it indeed. All of this, then, is an illustration of the fact that G-d adapts His G-dly and infinite tools to us and our finite capacities.


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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