Da’at Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart
Section 1, Chapter 16
Contradictions are a dime a dozen in the human heart. As Walt Whitman once
huffed, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict mysel f”.
But a contradiction in a depiction of G-d can undo the cosmos, and a
careful reader might have detected one so far in this work.
Ramchal seems to have implied that G-d’s eventual revelation of His
Yichud -- His sovereignty -- will entail a revelation of His very Self
. But that can’t be, as we can never grasp G-d Himself . Even the
sort of utter rule and control over everything that His sovereignty
entails, which will be revealed in the end, is distinct from G-d’s
essence, since it has to do with His relationship with the cosmos rather
than that essence.
For G-d Himself exists in a space-less, time-less "space" and "time"
that's utterly devoid of definition and beyond conjecture, and whic h is
ch ockfull of utter G-d and nothing else. Were we to dare try to portray
that realm in the context of anything in our experience we’d gingerly
liken it to something as abstract as the notion of having the idea for an
idea, or to a memory we might have had once of having had a memory long
ago. But that too is inadequate for our understanding of G-d’s context.
It’s just that G-d decided to function within the dimensions and paradigms
that we function in rather than within His own unfathomable reality alone.
So while His own full Self lies in the background and won’t ever be
revealed (other than to Himself) we experience something of His presence
here and now, and will know a far fuller flowering of it in the end .
In fact, G-d could be said to have separated His Self and abilities from
our experience by a couple of degrees . Firstly, He only does things
here that we can endure rather than what He’s fully capable of doing, and
He thus holds Himself back from manifesting His natively full, blindingly
rich benevolence simply because we couldn’t bear it.
And secondly, He also has not even manifested the degree of benevolence
that we could and will bear -- for now. As while He could have created us
from the beginning as perfect and as capable of basking in the light of
His sovereignty as we could, He didn’t, for His own good reasons .
So G-d seems to lie far, far in the background and to be so removed from
our experience, and the single facet of His Being that we will experience,
His Yichud, has purposely been denied us up to now. Perhaps that explains
the sense of terrible and chill distance from Him that we often feel,
though maybe the promise and expectation of the revelation of His Yichud
explains the sense we have of His presence. Recall, however, that we’re
still and all able to attach unto His presence indeed, as Ramchal assures
us in several places here and elsewhere .
The point remains, though, that G-d didn’t want our state of imperfection
to go on forever -- for there to always be the sort of sturm und drang,
blessings and curses, and moral contentions that characterize our world
now. Rather, He wanted perfection to flower forth from the midst of it all.
But let it never be forgotten or mistaken: our destined, relevant
perfection cannot compare to G-d’s own inherent perfection whatsoever. As
His perfection, “His utter simplicity” as Ramchal words it, “is utterly
irrelevant to our experience” no matter how exalted that experience will
See for example the statement that “G-d calls upon us to perfect
ourselves and the universe at large, and … the reward (for that) i n fact
will be an experience of G-d Himself” (1:2:5). But see 1:3:2 where we
warned that “[I]t’s vitally important to know that we cannot grasp G-d’s
full and infinite being. That’s simply beyond us. What we can understand
though (and will experience in the end) is a fragment of G-d’s being --
that aspect of Him that He displays in this world”, but that we “won’t be
discussing G-d Himself” in this work, nor can we ever. And that speaks to
Ramchal’s point in this chapter.
 See 1:12:2 and the sources cited in the footnotes there.
 See Clallam Rishonim 6, Klach Pitchei Chochma 28.
 See R’ Friedlander’s Iyyun15.
 See 1:10 for a fleshing out of the principles that all this entails.
 See notes 2 and 3 to 1:2, and note 2 to 1:11 for reference to this.
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.