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Da’at Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart

Section 1, Chapter 8

1.

Indeed, “all imperfection will vanish and everything remaining will be set right” once G-d’s sovereignty will manifest itself and G-d reigns supreme, Ramchal declares [1]. We’ll then see outright that He dwells among us and interacts with us; for on His own and patently He will have undone the iron furnace of all the wrong and unfairness we each experience, miraculously and in all His Glory.

Needless to say, that will have great and radically transformative implications for the world. For one thing it will underscore the astonishing fact that while indeed, and as we all know only too well, everything is flawed -- in the end the flawed state of things will prove to have been ephemeral and not at all native to the world. And wrongfullness will come to be seen as a “passing phase”, if you will [2].

Understand of course that G-d didn’t disclose His Yichud from the first for a good reason: it would have foiled His intentions for us to perfect ourselves, as we’d seen [3]. So He held Himself back, if you will, and granted us the opportunity to reveal His countenance on our own. But as we’ll see, there will prove to be several ways that can come about -- with some more tolerable than others.

2.

One way would be our following the mitzvah-system. For when we do, as Ramchal words it, “the mitzvah-acts themselves shine a clandestine light upon (anyone engaged in them) … which enables him to perfect himself thus by and to bask in the Light of Life” i.e., G-d’s presence [4].

Now, that’s all very much in keeping with the great bulk of the traditional teachings about the purpose and conseque nces of observing the mitzvah-system. But if it’s also true that we’re all going to eventually encounter G-d’s Presence as we’re told, observant or not, then what means will those who don’t observe mitzvot have to encounter G-d? There are two: by either suffering the otherworldly consequences of not observing them, or by coming to observe them after not having done so (i.e., by repenting) [5].

In any event, we’re assured that G-d’s presence will indeed be revealed to us in the end, one way or the other.

3.

Now, it also stands to reason that any denial of G-d’s existence will be undone right then and there. After all, how could anyone deny a truth suddenly made lushly and boldly manifest? But as a consequence, our free choice -- the very element of our being that now sets us apart from all other beings above and below us, and which enables us to make the ethical and spiritual choices that set the course of our eternal lives -- will be undone right there and then, as will all our untoward urges [6]. And we’ll spontaneously do only good.

In any event, the Highest Wisdom decided that until all that happens, the world would go on in its helter-skelter way for as long as G-d deems fit, and that wrong and injustice would continue to hold20sway, seemingly imperviously. In fact, G-d’s wisdom also allowed for the possibility that mankind might even reach its lowest ebb, if things must come to that. But G-d has still and all seen to it that the world won’t be undone despite all its wrongdoing. For He’ll eventually rectify all wrongs and prove His absolute sovereignty in the face of all of it, as we said.

It’s in fact the promise of all that which has been the very basis of our people’s hope in the future and has enabled us to endure this seemingly interminable and bitter exile. For we know that in the end it will be seen that the greater the evil there had been, the more dramatic and profound will be the revelation of G-d’s absolute sovereignty in the face of it. And we’ll witness salvation springing forth mightily from out of the very depths [7].

Notes:

[1] It will be the time when “G-d’s ransomed will return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; and come upon joy and gladness“ (Isaiah 35:10) -- when we’ll “sing (out) and rejoice” about the fact that, as G-d says outright, “Behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst” (Zachariah 2:14), which is to say that He’ll “reign in (our) midst” (Isaiah 52:7), and we’ll see for ourselves how “the sun will no more be (our) light by day; nor will the moon give light to (us) for brightness, but G-d (Himself) will be to (us) an everlasting light, and G-d (will be our) glory“ (Isaiah 60:19) as He manifests His Yichud.

G-d’s disclosing His Yichud is also referred to as His “revealing His countenance”, contrary to His “hiding His countenance”. See Numbers 6:25- 26: “May the L-d cause His countenance to shine upon you and favor you, (and) may the L-rd raise His countenance toward you and grant you peace".

The contrast between G-d’s hiding and revealing His countenance will factor into other phenomenon as well as we’ll see in ¶’s 48 and 108 ff. Also see Derech Hashem 1:4:10.

[2] We’ve grown so used to wrongdoing and injustice that we tend to take it in stride. Children, on the other hand, are flabbergasted by it and say things like, “That’s not fair! It shouldn’t be!” They know that wrong is just ... wrong, and bad is bad. And so they’ll have been proven to be right when G-d’s goodness and fairness will have full reign, and when we sad, weathered adults will have been proven too cynical.

[3] See 1:1:2.

[4] Ramchal cites the Talmudic statement “s’char mitzvah, mitzvah” (Pirkei Avot 4:2) as an illustration of the mechanism behind this. The usual rendition of this is, “The reward of a mitzvah is (another) mitzvah” which implies that whe n one fulfills a mitzvah he’s either moved to or otherwise enabled to do others in its wake. But the original can also be read, “The reward of a mitzvah is the M’tzave (The “One who Commands”), i.e., a revelation of G-d Himself, which is Ramchal’s point. Understand though, of course, that G-d unto Himself won’t be revealed to us -- “only” His sovereignty. But that will prove be so very soul-satisfying that we wouldn’t dare ask the difference at the time.

See Derech Hashem 4:4:4.

[5] There’s a world of things to be said about these three options (mi tzvah observance, repentance, or retribution) whose implications are vast, but we’ll limit ourselves to the following. The most important point is that each and every one of us is sure to experience the Divine up close. The first implication though is that some of us will come to it willingly while others will come to it “kicking and screaming”, if you will. Second, that mitzvot are far more than ceremony, symbolism, ritual, liturgy, esoterica, and institutionalized folklore, as some presume -- they are, in fact, the very means to experience the Divine, nothing less. And third, that those who don’t take advantage of those means to draw close to G-d will suffer as a consequence.

But this last point also calls for some discussion since many are offended by the notion of Divine retribution, mostly it seems because they believe that G-d overlooks our dalliances and makes allowances for everything. But make no mistake about it: just as we’re to be commended for our goodness, and just as G-d never over looks an act of kindness no matter how small, we’re likewise to be blamed for each act of meanness, hence no act of wrongdoing is ever forgotten either. Otherwise neither we nor anything we do could be said to matter. That being so, and taken that we all do untoward things, it stands to reason that we’ll all have to answer for what we do.

The fourth lesson to be drawn is that the consequences of sin are still and all avoidable once one knows that he has committed them. For at bottom repentance comes down to turning one’s back on one’s mistaken choices, owning up to them, regretting the mistake, and choosing never to do that again.

See ¶134 below an d Adir Bamarom p.211.

[6] Ramchal cites Ezekiel 36:26-27, Shabbat 151a, and Kohelet Rabbah 12:2.

That’s to say that we’re only free to be presumptuous enough to make boldly wrongheaded ethical and spiritual decisions as long as the truth of G-d’s ever-presence doesn’t stand us down and leaves us no choice but to acquiesce to it, as it eventually will. So, once G-d’s presence is manifest, there’ll be no choice but to do His bidding, which we’d only want to do anyway, and=2 0gladly so.

But don’t underestimate the primordial shift involved in the undoing of human free will. After all, as Rambam puts it, “the human species is unique in the world and unlike any other (in this way specifically) .... in that man, of his own volition, consciously and with his own mind, can distinguish between good and evil, and can (freely) do whatever he wants to do, either good or evil, without anyone stopping him” (Hilchot Teshuvah 5:1); and, “the ability to willfully do either good or bad things at any time is an essential part of our beings” (Sh’mone Perakim Ch. 8). So in a sense, we’ll no longer be human when G-d’s Yichud is revealed; we’ll be “angelic”, as Ramchal words it in our text.

[7] Thus the revelation of G-d’s Yichud is akin to the rare phenomenon of “everything falling into place”; and to a series of vexing contradictions somehow being solved in one fell swoop which will then solve all mysteries, undo all chaos, and affirm our faith in G-d, ourselves, and our world.

See R’ Friedlander’s comment 55 about how the fact and growth of wrong will itself bolster the effect of the revelation of G-d’s Yichud. Also see R’ Goldblatt’s discussion of tzimtzum and kav in relationship to this chapter on p. 474 (¶ 11) of his edition.


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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