We’ll end off our foray into the nature and make-up of G-d here and then
venture into less utterly transcendent though lofty spiritual realms,
including the nature of our own beings; the meaning of our lives; what G-d
expects of us; and how our righteousness or wrongfulness affects us
personally as well as the entire world, the Jewish year, the Jewish day, and
so much more.
Ramchal offers one last insight into G-d's being here and then sums up the
entire chapter by encapsulating the six facts about G-d that we'd do well to
dwell on and take to heart if we're ever going to understand this world and
His ways in it.
His last point is that it's likewise important to know that there’s only one
G-d. This isn’t simply the idea that there’s only one Creator and L-rd of
the universe, which most people of faith accept as true. His position is
that G-d is necessarily that by dint of the following fact.
Everything in this universe is a product of a more comprehensive phenomenon,
rule, or being that explains it, overrides it, and allows it to exist
1. As such, G-d Almighty is the one overriding and comprehensive
Being behind the existence of the universe without Whom nothing could exist
or be explicable.
So while Ramchal had already shown that G-d's existence “depends on nothing
else” and that He exists “of His own volition” 2, his point here
is that G-d is unique in that 3, and that “everything else
depends on Him” for its existence and all else, and “cannot exist on its
Thus the six facts about G-d we'd need to recall are that He exists (1:1:1),
He's “whole” (1:1:2), His existence is imperative (1:1:3), He's utterly
Self-sufficient (1:1:4), He's “simple” (1:1:5), and, as we just saw, that
there's only one of Him 5.
1. An abstract example would be the fact that the unrelated numbers 907 and
6,322 (to pick any two at random) are both a product of the fact that
there’s a linear number system, without which they wouldn’t make sense or
exist. And a concrete example would be the fact that all parts of a painting
are a product of the entire painting, and only exist because the painting
itself does. This principle also explains all laws of nature, of physics, etc.
2. See 1:1:4 and 4:4:1.
3. There’s another way that G-d is unique. He alone determines what will
happen in the end. See 4:4:1; Klach Pitchei Chochma 1 (in Ramchal’s own
commentary there); and Da’at Tevunot 36. While this is a very important
point and is central to Ramchal’s thinking, he nonetheless didn’t expand
upon it in “The Way of G-d”.
Some would suggest that Ramchal is indicating another unique aspect of G-d:
that only He exists and nothing else has autonomous existence. While this
idea (referred to as “Panentheism” -- not Pantheism which is a wholly other
idea and heretical) is cited in a number of illustrious works of Jewish
Mysticism (see Sefer Tanya 1:48 and all of the second section there; Nephesh
HaChaim 3:2-8; Pitchei Sha’arim, Netiv HaTzimtzum 6; etc.), and while it’s
erroneously recorded as the gist of 1:1:6 in all Feldheim editions of “The
Way of G-d” in their sidebar, Ramchal never spoke of this idea.
There’s one way, though, that one might legitimately claim that this is
Ramchal’s intention here. There’s another version of the line which we’ve
translated as “everything else depends on Him” and “cannot exist on its
own”. Using that alternative text, R’ Aryeh Kaplan translated the phrase to
read “all other things … partake of Him and do not have intrinsic
existence”. While that’s an elegant way of expressing Panentheism,
still-and-all no other version of the text of “The Way of G-d” (including R’
Y. Spinner’s, which is based on the original manuscript, and doesn’t even
cite R’ Kaplan’s version as an alternative reading) uses this alternative text.
4. See Ma’amar HaChochma as well as Yesodei HaTorah 1:4.
5. A final point. The Way of G-d is set out like a tree. It starts with a
seed, sets out roots, and extends upward and outward. The "seed" has been
this chapter, which discusses G-d's make-up. All that follows is an offshoot
of it. So, always keep this chapter in mind and dwell on it often. For
without it -- without G-d and what we know of Him -- nothing else makes sense.
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.