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Da’at Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart

Section 1, Chapter 14

1. We would have expected G-d Almighty to produce a perfect, utterly and unimaginably effulgent, fecund, boundless, wholly good, G-dly world. After all, the more gifted and inspired the artisan, the more suffused with being, quality, presence, and artistry his creation. But He clearly did not create such a world [1].

Instead, simply because He’d wanted to interact with us in a particular way before He revealed His Yichud, He uncharacteristically formulated an utterly and radically original other sort of reality: im perfection. And it is that imperfection which forms the crux of our universe and the epoch of time we’re in [2].

So, let’s characterize this epoch of time in which we play so active a role and where G-d hides His presence [3]. We’ll delve into the time when His Presence is made manifest and the transition period between the two as well later on.

2.

The current epoch is the one in which good and bad choices are there for the taking and in which the righteous are to be rewarded and the wrongful punished. It’s also the realm in which we’re either drawn to G-d, which is our goal, or distracted from Him; the one wherein the Jewish Nation, the people chosen by G-d Himself to execute His plan and make the whole of it right and just-so, can somehow be exiled20and quashed for thousands of years; the one in which humankind is sometimes lofty, other times base; it’s where all the unholy, polluted phenomena like idolatry and the like which the prophets promised would be undone in the end now function [4]; and it’s where the principle that "everything is in the hands of Heaven but the fear of Heaven" (Berachot 32B) holds sway, by virtue of the fact that G-d who indeed controls everything nevertheless allows for wrongfulness and injustice [5].

What's not to be denied, though, is that this world of right and wrong is also the one in which the righteous cannot rest, where each and every move the piou s make is scrutinized; where we're sometimes soiled and other times cleansed; where destructive forces are loosed and our people are subjugated to foreign, even idolatrous values and control.

The bottom line is, though, that had G-d wanted to, He could certainly have created the world otherwise by revealing His Yichud from the first and disallowing for wrong and injustice. But He did not. Instead, He purposefully and willfully created the one we’re in now, and will undo it after His goal would have been met [6].

3.

Understand, though -- and this is an important point -- that that’s not to say that He has abandoned this world (G-d forbid) so much as “turned His back” on it. He still bestows us with existence and vigor by means of what’s referred to as His “emanations” [7]. It's just that those emanations don't cascade down to the world as they would be inclined to so much as flow (perhaps even only trickle) down.

He nonetheless sees to it that the world is sustained all the time, by spurring it on and granting it vigor. It’s just that the degree of vigor He allocates for it at this point is nearly nothing compared to what His own abilities would ordinarily allow for. Hence, the force pulsing throughout this universe is “like a shadow of someone, rather than himself”, as Ramchal puts it, like “the smudge left behind after letters are erased” rather than the letters, “more darkness than light” compared to the full vigor it could enjoy.

G-d’s emanation would have to come to us to that degree at least, though, or we'd simply be undone -- not as if our batteries had suddenly died, but rather as if we’d simply vanished without a trace [8]. Nonetheless, what remains as a consequence of this constricted level of emanation, which is a by-product of G-d hiding His Presence from us, is our world, and our life -- the reality and mother-substance we've been thrust into, depend on, trust, and have come to accept as all of reality.

Notes:

[1] See 1:2:4.

[2] See ¶ 96 which speaks of the originality of wrongfulness; but also see R’ Shriki’s note 36 where he understands a reference to the sephirot and to G-d’s institution of a “seder hapaulah b’hadragah” (gradual (managed) activity).

[3] Recall that Ramchal cited three epochs of time in Ch. 1 above: the one within which G-d's presence is hidden, the one in which His presence will be revealed, and the transition stage between the two. He stepped aside for a while to focus on the various “tools” G-d uses to interact with us here in Ch’s 12-13, and he’s now returning to the three epochs.

[4] Ramchal cites the following verses that depict this epoch as the one in which "the haughtiness of man will be bowed down, and the arrogance of men will be brought low; when G-d alone will be exalted .... and (when) He will completely abolish the idols" (Isaiah 2:17-18), when "it will come to pass ... says the L-rd of hosts, that I will cut away the names of the idols from the land, and they will no more be remembered" (Zachariah 13:2), and when G-d "will destroy death forever; ... wipe the tears away from all faces; and will remove the insult of His people from all the earth; ... and it will be said on that day, 'Behold! This is our G-d for whom we have waited!' and He will save us" (Isaiah 25:8-9).

In point of fact, all the citations clearly refer to the conclusion of this epoch or perhaps to a certain point along the transition stage before the third epoch.

[5] The idea that "everything is in the hands of Heaven but the fear of Heaven" also implies that G-d's sovereignty can apparently be undone if we decide not to "fear Heaven”, i.e., not to take G-d seriously. The point is, though, that since it's G-d Himself who has granted us that freedom as well as the wherewithal we would need to follow through on it (see beginning of Tomer Devorah), His sovereignty is not only not undone, it's actually bolstered.

[6] That's to say that the world of right and wrong and of exile will eventually be undone and replaced by a newer, transcendent reality that's beyond right and wrong, reward and punishment; for none of that will be necessary once G-d's Yichud will be revealed. As the only purpose all of that serves is to point out how hidden G-d's Yichud was to that point, which will then cease to be relevant. (But see R’ Friedlander’s iyyun 13 where he addresses Ramchal’s idea of perfection lying in the depths of the imperfection waiting to blossom.)

But, consider the wondrous and daunting implications of all that! For one thing, it categorizes everything we now know of as temporary and a means to an end rather than an end unto itself. And it underscores G-d's ability to turn everything around in an ins tant.

[7] This "emanation" or what’s often described as an "overflowing of G-d's superabundant greatness" is termed shepha in Hebrew. See Job 22:11 and 38:34 which speak of an "abundance (shepha) of water over-covering you"; Vayikrah Rabba 27, where G-d is depicted as providing plentifully (mashpia) when He gives; and refer to Derech Hashem 2:8:3.

The reshimu w e spoke of in the previous chapter (see note 2 there) comes into play here as well. See R’ Shriki’s note 37 as well as Klach Pitchei Chochma 26-27 and Klallim Rishonim 5; also see R’ Greenblatt’s notes 6 & 8 (and 10) and p. 475.

[8] Moses spoke to G-d about the Jewish Nation’s grave sin of having constructed the Golden Calf and pleaded with G-d to forgive them, then asked Him quite spectacularly to just, "blot me out from Your book" (Exodus 32:32) if He wouldn't. G-d clearly didn't acquiesce to that, but we have to wonder if anyone (significant or not) might have been blotted out of the Torah, in fact, without leaving a trace. In any event, this seems to serve as the paradigm of just how things would be if G-d were to utterly remove His shepha, G-d forbid: all records would be gone about this world and it would be as if it had never existed.


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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