Da'at Tevunot - The Knowing Heart
Section 7, Chapter 11
1. Though they were privileged to observe so much about the workings of this
world, there were a couple of especially stunning and fundamental phenomena
that the prophets nonetheless couldn’t observe: the act of creation, and the
reality of the World to Come.
We’d discussed the World to Come a number of times before in this work ,
so we’ll now offer Ramchal’s view on the issue of creation ex nihilo (i.e.,
the fact that G-d had everything derive out of sheer nothingness). This is
in fact the last subject of Da’at Tevunot in this, its final chapter.
2. There are a number of befuddling things to consider when it comes to
this, though. Let’s begin with what we’ll never know: how G-d created the
world, i.e., His process. That’s utterly beyond us. (After all, He would
have used pre-creation processes and means which, by definition, are beyond
our realm and experience.) All we can begin to know is “what He worked on,
and in what order”, Ramchal offers (since both the phenomena involved and
the order in which they came about were all post-creational).
That having been said he then offers that the actual substance that G-d
created was utterly and fundamentally new. That raises a thorny question
though: doesn’t the fact that something utterly new came about indicate a
change in G-d’s mind, so to speak? Doesn’t it suggest that while at one
point G-d only allowed for pre-creation but He then decided to turn the
corner and allow for post-creational matter? But we’re told that “G--d … is
not human, so He does not change his mind” (Numbers 23:19).
Ramchal’s response is that G-d didn’t “change His mind” whatsoever. He
always had it in mind to create the cosmos, but He only actually brought it
about at the point when He decided to. Thus, creation existed before
creation, but didn’t come into play until G-d decided it would and set the
process “in gear”, if you will.
As to the ordering of things which we can grasp, Ramchal offers that the
first “gears” that G-d set in place were decidedly sublime and beyond our
ken, but that the downward chain of them that came into play one after the
other were less and less sublime, and more and more along the lines of
processes we could understand. They’re termed His “emanations” and they are
the means by which G-d interacts with the universe (which we discussed in
great detail in this work) .
 See 2: 3, 4, 10-11; 4:7; 6:4-5, etc.
 For Kabbalistic references see R’ Goldblatt’s notes 1, 11, and 13 as
well as notes 90-91 on p. 491 of his edition, and R’ Shriki’s notes 185-186
(as well as his short introduction to this chapter).
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.