"The Way of G-d"
Part 1: "The Fundamental Principles of Reality"
Ch. 5: "The Spiritual Realm"
Up to this point in the chapter we've encountered the backdrop from on high
that is the system of transcendent forces. And it has seemed that indeed, as
the sages put it, "Everything is in the hands of Heaven" (Berachot 33A).
Since we've been shown that everything originates in and springs forth from
But that phrase has another element to it as well. In full it reads,
"Everything is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven"-- which
surely implies that not everything is "Heaven sent", as the expression
We've discussed the implications of the "fear of Heaven" before, where we
spoke of it as the state in which one is fully and deeply stunned by G-d’s
presence. In the context of the statement that "Everything is in the hands of
Heaven except the fear of Heaven”, though, the "fear of Heaven" stands for
something else. It represents *our reactions* to the "everything (that) is in
the hands of Heaven". For, of course, everyone reacts one way or another to
But why would the *fear* of Heaven be concentrated on? Indeed, some of our
reactions are emotional, others are intellectual, while yet others are
physical and action-based. But while the "fear of heaven" seems to imply an
emotional reaction, it actually also implies intellectual and physical
reactions. Since strong emotions foster thoughts and actions.
The point is again, though, that the transcendent forces certainly do hold
sway in the universe (with G-d's guidance of course-- let's never forget that
they're His "paraphernalia" and "tools", and merely do His bidding). Yet
we’re free to react to what they do and we can be expected to do things on
our own as a result of those reactions.
So it seems we humans play a more active part in the workings of the universe
than we might have thought when we first discovered the transcendent forces.
Let's examine where we matter and where we don't, if you will.
Ramchal, like many explicators before him, assures us that we humans have
free will. We can do what we decide to do, and nothing and no one-- not the
transcendent forces, not even G-d Almighty-- would hold us back. (We
discussed this somewhat in the past, but we'll be explaining it in the
present context a little differently.)
Of course many would argue that we’re often compelled to do things, by dint
of background and influence; and that there are things we simply can't do--
like fly off into the distance on our own. Also, how dare we say that not
even G-d Almighty would hold us back?
So it’s important to point out that the freedom of will we have is the
freedom to make ethical and mitzvah-related choices-- to do particular
things that effect others and the world at large, or to refrain from doing
No one makes those choices for us; nothing in our background is so powerful
as to deny us that ability. And G-d Himself implanted this independent streak
within us, so He elects not to hold us back (since our free will serves His
higher purpose-- but this isn't the place to discuss that). It must be added
though, that some things are out of our hands, even when they touch upon
ethical choices. Because G-d does cause certain things to happen despite us.
But we'll leave that for now.
As such, there are two major thrusts in the universe. "From up above,
downward" and "from down below, upward" as the Kabbalists put it. We thus see
the playing-out of the universe as a great dance within which the forces
sometimes lead and we follow; and other times when we lead and the forces
follow. And our taking the lead or not is up to us.
The underlying point, though, is that when we don't act out of free will
(either by choice or by happenstance) we're lead; and when we do act out of
free will, we lead. But let's take a step back, because even when we act out
of free will, we still and all don't directly lead the dance and direct the
transcendent forces. Because we’re "down here" after all, and they're "up
What we're empowered to do is to elect to influence physical things. And they
in turn influence the transcendent forces behind them, since physical things
and the transcendent forces are linked, as we said. We thus influence things
to go "backwards" that way, and to have the physical affect the
transcendent-- which then turns around and affects the physical again but in
a different way, thanks to our influence. But that will come up shortly.
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