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Daat Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart

Section 1, Chapter 6

1. Look, let’s make one thing clear, G-d seems to have said in utter exasperation at one point: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways"; for just "as the heavens are higher than the earth, so (too) are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts (higher) than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). There’s simply no comparison between Him and us, but we tend to forget that.

Yet G-d wants us to understand His ways in this world and to draw lessons from them. So He “adjusted” His ways to ours if you will, Ramchal asserts, and works within our own sense of reality, and our assumptions, perceptions, and expectations.

“G-d could in fact have created the world according to His infinite abilities”, we’re reminded; in sheer disregard of the ways of logic and utterly indifferent to any laws of physics or reason instead of the way He did. For, indeed, who established physical laws or reason in the first place but Him? Why assume that things must function mathematically correctly? Neither laws nor patterns had to have been sewn into the fabric of creation; all could have been radically ad hoc and entrancingly unknowable from first to last -- without either a first or a last at that!

After all, almighty as He is, G-d could certainly have created an absolutely inscrutable cosmos completely out of our experience -- one not only without air, food, etc., but without sense, makeup, or moorings: a terrible and mysterious lack-of-everything but existence as far as we9 9d be concerned.

But if He created the world in that manner “we wouldn’t be able to grasp His ways whatsoever” given our limited scope (and what might be termed our “provincial” time- and space-bound perspectives), Ramchal points out. So G-d complied with our needs [1].

But He did that not only because He wanted us to understand His ways, but because He actually encourages us to do everything we can to understand them. And so rather than just “agreeing” to function within our limits, G- d deliberately chose to [2], and thus granted us the means to reflect on His ways “and to understand at least some small measure of it”.

That’s why He was reported in the Torah to have created the world in a series of steps and in a particular order -- in six days, day after day -- rather than “in one fell swoop … as He could have” as Ramchal underscores: all so that we could begin to grasp His ways here [3].

In any event, the point is that G-d fashioned a universe to conform to the means we have of grasping it and His role in it -- which included allowing for wrongdoing and injustice, as we’ll see.

2.

Now, if we’re ever going to internalize the principles of the Jewish Faith that Ramchal spoke of in his introduction we’d especially need to understand why there’s wrongdoing, injustice, and all sorts of imperfections in this world [4]. For they seem to stymie G-d’s sovereignty by disallowing Him to be as loving and benevolent as He’s apt to be [5].

After all, doesn’t His Yichud, His sovereignty, imply that He’s “unopposed and unimpeded”, as we’d been told? And isn’t the gist of the five errors that people make about Him the idea that He’s somehow limited [6]? So how could there be wrongdoing?

The point is that G-d purposely a llowed for all wrongdoing, injustice, and evil to exist from the first. But we’re taught that He’ll eventually undo all of it [7]. And His undoing of it will give emphasis to the fact that, despite appearances to the contrary, G-d’s rule is indeed sovereign - - for He was able to create forces that seem to counter Him, and to have then eradicated them [8].

3.

Hence, by first withholding His beneficence and allowing for wrongdoing and injustice G-d granted us the wherewithal to serve Him (thanks to free will), which then enables us to earn our reward: the stark discovery that almighty G-d is just that; that all wrong and evil is null and void; and that G-d is beneficent.

Indeed, all wrongdoing will prove to have been nothing other than a straw- man -- a huge and daunting artifice apparently given the power to oppose G- d Almighty Himself, but not actually so. And the contrast between what we’d always accepted as real and inevitable (i.e., the presence of wrongdoing and injustice) and the actual, definitive reality that will present itself to us in the end (i.e., G-d’s supreme sovereignty and benevolence) will stun us, it will be so fetching and magnificent. And we’ll finally “get it” [9].

It follows then that the revelation of G-d’s Yichud is the central-point of all of existence and that everything else is commentary (i.e., derivative) [10].

Notes:

[1] This point needn’t raise the question of why G-d couldn’t have created us capable of enduring an utterly G-dly environment. See note 5 to 1:1 for reference to an analogous question. In t ruth, though, the argument could be made that had G-d created that other sort of world, then we would have been able to comprehend it because we would have been “of it”, i.e., acclimated to it much the way we’re acclimated to the world of space and time. Apparently there are other things about our reality that further fit into G-d’s plans that escape us now.

[2] That’s to say that rather than being compelled to comply with our needs (which would deny His sovereignty) G-d chose to comply to them because doing so helped Him achieve His ultimate goal.

[3] See R’ Shriki’s note 23, where he states that Ramchal is here introducing the idea of “gradations”, referring to ¶ 118 later on and to Klach Pitchei Chochma 30 (in Peirush).

[4] See 1: 5:2 where the idea of right versus wrong was first introduced.

[5] See 1:1:3.

[6] See 1:5.

[7] “Eventually wrongdoing will actually turn back into good ... all harm will be rectified, and all evil turned back into actual good ... (when) G- d’s Yichud is revealed” (Klach Pitchei Chochma 4).

Incidentally, this phenomenon could be depicted as a universal and all- encompassing display of the notion that our personal wrongdoings can be transformed into merits through repentance (see Yoma 86B).

[8] This is a much too concise response to one of the most vexing of questions, why evil exists. Suffice it to say that more will be said about it. The most lucid explanation of its existence of course is the fact that we’re free to encourage it if we choose to, having been given free will.

The gist of Rambam’s argument, for one, is that there are actually three kinds of wrong and injustice: natural occurrences of it, as in floods, earthquakes, etc., which man can’t control; what might be termed “societal” instances of it, as in wars, conflicts, etc., which mankind (or at least its leadership) is to be held responsible for; and then there are private, person-to-person instances if it, which individuals can and20are expected to control. It then follows that since most instances of wrong and injustices are man-made, we have only ourselves to blame. In point of fact, Rambam says, if one were to dispassionately consider the world at large -- rather than his own circumstances, or passing instances of wrong -- he couldn’t help but notice that the world as a whole is good (Moreh Nevuchim 3:8–12).

Also see R’ Shriki’s thorough treatment of the subject in pp. 314-328 of his edition.

[9] Ramchal compares and contrasts G-d’s Yichud with His other traits cited before -- like His wisdom, knowledge, might, etc. -- at length in this chapter, but we saw no need to include that discussion here in this treatment. The point of the matter is that in the end G-d’s Yichud will prove to be His most definitive trait, since all the others will only become clear to us when His Yichud is manifest. See note 1 to 1:4 above.

[10] See Klallim 3 and R’ Goldblatt’s citation and explication of it in this context at note 21; R’ Friedlander’s note 42; and R’ Shriki’s note 24.

It has been said in fact that Ramchal’s assertion here that the role of G- d’s Yichud in the universe is the most important revelation in Da’at Tevunot (see R’ Friedlander’s note 43), and that seems to be fair to say. For it explains so much about this world, about our role in it, about injustice and evil, and about G-d’s ultimate intentions.


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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