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Da'at Tevunot - The Knowing Heart

Section 3, Chapter 3

1.

You might think that all good, just, and laudable things were nourished by “good emanations” from G-d whereas all bad, unjust, and disgraceful things were nourished by some sorts of “bad emanations” on His part, but you’d be woefully wrong. Because G-d is good and beneficent and He would never purposefully nourish bad, unjust, and disgraceful things. After all, as Ramchal words it, He is “the source of all that’s good, and wrong would simply not derive from the source of good”.

So where in fact does wrong and injustice come from, if not from G-d? Didn’t He say of Himself, “I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the L-rd do all these things”? (Isaiah 45:7) [1].

2.

The simple answer is that while He did indeed “create evil”, injustice, and all wrongdoing -- along with everything else -- He never said there or anywhere else that He does evil things or the like. There’s a whole other process at work as far as wrong is concerned.

Acts of true and full goodness, justice, and righteousness are directly and vigorously nourished by G-d’s emanations, to be sure; but when it comes to acts of evil, injustice, and wrongfulness, G-d only enables those sorts of things to come about back-handedly, if you will, reluctantly by reducing His emanations to them to one degree or another.

He wouldn’t do away with their emanations altogether since the people, circumstances, and other factors behind them would simply be undone in the process (as if their “plug” had been pulled). By just reducing or foreshortening their source of energy He enables them to do what they do but doesn’t “support” them, so to speak -- doesn’t enable them to grow or encourage them in their path [2].

The Torah illustrates that phenomenon by these statements: “You (G-d) hid Your countenance and I became frightened” (Psalms 30:8), as well as “You hide Your countenance and they are frightened” (Psalms 104:29), and most especially this one (in G-d’s own words): “My wrath will rage against them on that day, and I will … hide My face from them … and many evils and troubles will befall them, and they will say on that day, 'Is it not because our G-d is no longer among us, that these evils have befallen us?'” (Deuteronomy 31:17) [3]. From another perspective, it can be said that all instances of wrong, injustice and the like are actually lacks of goodness [4].

Given all that, this world, with its countless good and bad phenomena is thus an amalgam of emanations and a foreshortening of emanation.

3.

But, how could anything be said to come about by a lack of Divine emanation if everything was created by it; doesn’t wrong and injustice exist?

It comes to this: when we speak of G-d having “created” the universe we refer to His having created all of existence en toto at first, and to it then differentiating into the nearly infinite number of elements that comprise it now thanks to the laws of nature that He set up [5]. So, when He created this world which embraces both good and evil He certainly discharged emanations to start it all off. It’s just that some of them were of lower “wattage”, if you will; less potent. Those are the sorts of emanations that nourish wrong and injustice. They’re “flawed” to a degree, certainly less than full-blossomed, and somehow “out of character” for G-d.

So while all of reality, humanity, and history is a product of Divine emanations, all instances of goodness are a direct and full product of them, while all instances of wrong and injustice are a product of this novel sort of lesser-emanation.


Notes:

[1] See R’ Friedlander’s cogent remark to the effect that mention of G-d’s having created darkness in this verse, aside from having created evil, alludes to His having created the phenomenon of His hiddeness, to be cited soon (iyyun 25).

[2] For again, in short, wrong and injustice must exist if we’re to be free agents of choice and to be allowed to choose to do and be good. They will be undone in the end, but not until then. The point remains though that they needn’t be well-nourished and healthy along the way.

[3] There’s a subtle point being made here which we might easily overlook. By citing verses that all speak of G-d hiding His countenance here Ramchal is alluding to statements made earlier about the difference between the body and the soul. For we’d learned (see 2:5 and elsewhere) that the soul is a product of G-d’s revelation and of a full-flowering of His Presence -- just as acts of goodness are products of the full strength of G-d’s emanation. And that the body is a product of His hiding His countenance -- just as acts of evil are products of G-d’s emanation being hidden and foreshortened. The understated implication is that the body will indeed be done away with in the end (despite statements to the contrary in 2:10:3 and 2:11:1), just as all acts of wrong and injustice will be. See our last note to 2:11.

[4] From this perspective, if you’re cheated of your money, for example, you’d in fact be seen as a victim of a lack of compassion; if you’re unfairly called a fool, you’re a victim of bad judgment; and on another level and perhaps most illustrative, if you’re ill, you’re suffering from a weakened liver perhaps or poor blood-circulation and the like -- you’re not simply and abstractly “ill”.

[5] See Klallim Rishonim 11(beginning) for Kabbalistic references to this idea; R’ Shriki’s citation of Adir Bamarom p. 405 in note 64, his citation of Klach Pitchei Chochma 39 in his note 66, his reference to of Adir Bamarom p. 104, to Klallim Mitoch Milchamet Moshe, to Klallim Rishonim 9 (as well as 11), and to Klach Pitchei Chochma49 in note 66*, as well as his note 68 for a summation of the argument here (Kabbalistically and otherwise); and see R’ Goldblatt’s note 24, as well as his remarks on note 38 on p. 479 of his edition.


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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