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Da’at Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart

Section 1, Chapter 17

1. There’s something not to be denied though about G-d’s interactions with us, and it’s this [1]. There are times when He acts in an open and above- board way with us, as when He punishes or rewards us for our deeds, “showing us His hand” if you will, and directly responding to our actions, measure for measure.

And then there are times when His actions don’t quite fit that pattern and He’s not all that straightforward with us, as when He functions in response to what Ramchal terms His own “profound counsel” [2] -- His own plan which aims to lead us toward perfection and sees to it that everything contributes to that end.

And in fact, that only stands to reason, After all, haven’t we been taught that “everything done by Heaven is (for the) good” (Berachot 60a, Ain Yaakov text) and hasn’t the prophet said, “In that day” -- in the end -- “(we) will say, ‘I will praise You, G-d; for though You were (once) angry with me,” I have come to understand that “Your anger is (now) turned away and You have comforted me” (Isaiah 12:1)?

So we’re to understand that behind everything that happens in the world lies the fact that G-d will make His ways known to us in the end, that only good will come about despite our travails, that utter goodness will always rise up out of the bad, and that no one will ultimately be rejected as a consequence of his sins so much as “treated” for them and set right. And that it will become clear that all G-d meant from the first was to rectify things.

2. It will also become manifest in retrospect that G-d’s ways ha ve always been far more “awesome, and infinitely wide and deep” than we imagined, as Ramchal terms it, and staggeringly beyond our ken. And it will be understood how “even the least significant of His actions is so full of wisdom and depth that it’s impossible to plumb them”. For, while G-d’s actions “may seem to be straightforward (at times), their contents are nonetheless (always) esoteric” and a byproduct of G-d’s occult plan to do good, and they’ve always been rooted in “goodness rather than harm” even if we can’t “see them or understand (them in that light) now”.

We’ll also eventually come to know that even when He chides us and has us suffer trial and tribulation, that it’s all for the good, as G-d only means to rectify us; and that He isn’t set on rejecting wrongdoers as the notion of “retribution” would seem to indicate. For, as He Himself said, “’Have I any pleasure at all when a wrongdoer dies’ …; (I’d prefer) that he repent of his ways and live!” (Ezekiel 18:23). And we’ll learn that while G-d certainly tests and vexes wrongdoers, He only does that to uphold them in the end [3]. That’s to say that we’ll sooner or later see through the supposed and peer onto the meant.

So let it be reiterated that whatever happens to us now as a consequence of our bad or good actions is still-and-all rooted in our ultimate perfected state, when “the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped” (Isaiah 35:5), For we’ll come to see and to understand as we never could before, and we’ll come to catch sight of the wisdom that runs through things like a rivulet of quick color [4].


[1] This chapter returns to 1:15 and quite frankly simply reiterates the important idea offered there that G-d is always tilting the cosmos in the direction of perfection, and that nothing could ever thwart that. It also clears up questions that may have come up because of things said there that might seem to blunt that. The truth be told, there are several points in Da’at Tevunot, here and elsewhere, where Ramchal seems to be redundant. But it’s our contention that he purposefully repeats himself in order to drum his points in and to underscore just how vitally important they are.

See Klallim Rishonim 7 for a Kabbalistic understanding of this chapter, as well as R’ Goldblatt’s note 7 and his comments on pp. 475-476, R’ Friedlander’s Iyyun 16 (at end), and R’ Shriki’s note 39 (to some degree).

[2] See ¶167 below, Clallei Milchamot Moshe 7, and Breishit Rabbah (Eikev) for use of this unusual and captivating turn of phrase.

[3] According to R’ Shriki (based on Klach Pitchei Chochma 49) the process will begin in the Messianic Era (note 40), but see 1:6 above (note 9) and R’ Friedlander’s note 92 to this chapter.

[4] Ramchal is careful to point out here in the text, though, that that degree of overarching benevolence we’re to experience will only come our way to the degree we can handle -- it will not be an expression of G-d’s own inherent essential benevolence. That’s to say that even though there’s much more to remark about the stupendous things we’re to experience than we’ve indicated, the point remains that there’s an even more stupendous element that can’t even be cited.

He then sets out to encapsulate the chapter at its end, which we’ll offer here rather than above, to avoid further redundancy. As he puts it, “G-d’s own inherent Perfection is utterly unfathomable. But since He wanted to express His benevolence through acts that are in our ambit and not beyond it, He brought about various things that would eventually have us achieve perfection and a state of rectification. This factor underlies all His actions (here) and is their common denominator. Some and only some of this hidden factor can become clear to us in the things (of this world) itself when G-d wants us to become aware (of the hidden factor), but the vast majority of it remains hidden away and unfathomable.”

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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