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Da'at Tevunot - The Knowing Heart

Section 3, Chapter 1

1.

Probably the most vexing topic of all is why there’s evil, injustice, and wrongdoing in a world created by a good and benevolent G-d who expects and enables us to be good and just. After all, what purpose does wrong and injustice serve? Why did G-d allow for them from the first, and why does He let them go on? All this touches upon our next principle of the Jewish Faith: the reality of reward and punishment [1].

In order to explain that, though, we’d first have to reiterate something said early on -- that humankind was handed the responsibility of perfecting both itself and all of creation along with it [2], and of eradicating all wrong [3].

And the process is to begin with us and radiate outward, by our avoiding all wrongdoing ourselves and then making sure that it’s never practiced anywhere else [4]. That’s why “every single person is obliged to say, ‘The world was created for my sake’” (Sanhedrin 5b) [5].

2.

But obviously we’d need to probe more deeply into this all. What, for example, is the essential nature and definition of wrong and injustice? What gives it its power and what would annul it?

And we’d need to understand just how original wrong and injustice are, given that G-d who created them to be unlike anything else, and so that they’d accomplish the specific ends He in mind for them. We’d also need to explore how wrong and injustice touch on our free will, and how they’re meant to test our mettle and provide us with our ultimate charge [6]. We’d do well to understand just how utterly antithetical that wrong and injustice are by nature to G-d Himself, given how beneficent and loving (and hence neither wrongful nor unjust) He is, and to appreciate what the very existence of wrong and injustice says about G-d’s abilities given that.

Finally, we’d need to understand the transient nature of wrong and injustice, given that we’re assured that they’ll be undone in the end [7].


[1] That is, the topic at hand is an explanation of the reward due the righteous for being innocent of the world’s wrong and injustice, and the punishment due the wrongful for engaging in it. And then, once we understand the justice and righteousness behind all that, we’ll come to understand the place of wrong and injustice in the world in retrospect.

This subject was discussed to a lesser extent in 1:2, 1:6-10, and 1:14.

[2] See 1:1:2.

[3] Interestingly enough, we hadn’t been told until now that the eradication of wrong and injustice would depend on us (though see 1:11:1 for an allusion to that) -- only that it would eventually come about. Ramchal apparently felt that we were aware enough by now of the “grand plan” for ourselves and the universe at large, and that it’s now time for us to consciously shoulder this burden.

[4] We’re reminded of the brilliant insight of Rabbi Yisroel Salanter who said that when he was a young man, he wanted to change the world, but he found it was hard to do that, so he tried to change his people. When he found he couldn’t change his people he began to focus on his own town. When he couldn't change the town he tried to change his family. Then finally he began to realize that the only thing he could change would be himself, and he suddenly realized that if long ago he had changed himself, that he could have made an impact on his family, they and he could have made an impact on their town, that could have changed his nation and he could indeed have changed the world.

[5] The entire Talmudic citation is fecund with meaning vis a vis our context. It begins, “It is for this reason that humankind was created one (of a kind) and unique in the world: To teach that whoever destroys a single soul is regarded as though he destroyed a complete world, and whoever saves a single soul is regarded as though he saved a complete world”, meaning (in our context) save your own soul so as to do as much for all of humanity.

The quote goes on to say that we were also created one of a kind and unique “for the sake of peace among created beings, so one person shouldn’t say to another, ‘My father was greater than yours,’ and that heretics should not say, ‘There are many ruling powers in heaven’; also to proclaim the greatness of the King of kings blessed be He. For while a human being stamps a hundred coins with one seal and they are all alike, the King of kings blessed be He has stamped every human with the seal of the first man yet not one of them is like the other”, meaning to say (again in our context) that once wrong and injustice is undone, and G-d’s sovereignty reigns supreme it will be clear that we’re all products of His being alone, that He alone rules, and that everything is under His creative control.

And it’s with all that in mind that “every single person is obliged to say, ‘The world was created for my sake’”, since I can help manifest all this with my efforts.

[6] We’ll explore the way wrong actually helps us in our personal growth and how “commendable” it is for that. See Zohar 2, p. 163a for an ironic perspective on that.

[7] See R’ Shriki’s note 61 for his important citation from Adir Bamarom p. 396 about how the existence of wrong and injustice seems to fly in the face of G-d’s Yichud, as well as his own remarks in note 62.


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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