Da'at Tevunot - The Knowing Heart
Section 4, Chapter 1
We’ve learned that all wrong and injustice -- all pure evil, all cynical
wrongdoing, all disregard for goodness and righteousness, all selfishness
and hatefulness -- will be undone in the end, and that G-d’s presence will
eventually be conspicuous and oh-so right there. But what’s a human to do
in the in the interim; and what sort of system will serve society for the
Thus we learn that G-d established a system of justice after He’d set out
the parameters of wrong and injustice. So it’s time now to lay out the
details of that system and to explain the sorts of rewards and punishments
that go along with it . This second “tract”, if you will, is the realm in
which we live out our moral and religious lives right now and that
determines our destiny -- for the meanwhile .
Understand of course that G-d has no need for such a system Himself to be
sure, and that He’s utterly unaffected by it. As it’s said, “If you sin, how
does that affect him? ... If you are righteous, what do you give Him?” (Job
He simply instituted a system that we would need, with notions of right and
wrong as well as appropriate reward and punishment, and that would grant us
insight into what would help or harm us spiritually. For though G-d doesn’t
need us to do anything per se; He simply wants our input and loves it when
we’re advanced .
So G-d instituted the moral and spiritual system of right and wrong in which
we struggle to better ourselves, our world, and our relationship to Him;
where people occupy different spiritual planes, and where they’re exposed to
various means of rectifying things and to all the other elements of that system.
But all that obviously called for the setting-up of a series of complex
essentials like appropriate reward and punishment and the like. After all,
there’d need to be a way to determine which reward is to be granted for
which particular good act and what punishment each wrongful act deserves;
which realm each reward or punishment is to play itself out, which is to say
in the here-and-now or in the Afterlife; how close to or far from G-d each
act is to bring its perpetrator; how to undo harm; how to repent for one’s
own wrongdoing, or the sort of misfortune that anyone who doesn’t repent
would have to bear be rectified; etc. All of that would be needed as long as
wrong and injustice reign.
Nonetheless the point still remains that hidden within this system and
moving at its own pace deep within and far in the background is the other
system -- the one that will eventually allow for G-d’s Yichud to hold full
sway and to undo all wrong and injustice. The point is that we’d need to be
aware of both of these fundamental systems if we’re to understand G-d’s plan
for this universe.
 For Kabbalistic references see R’ Friedlander’s notes 304 and 306; R’
Goldblatt’s notes 8 and 21, as well as note 60 on p. 485 of his edition and
notes 2-3 on p. 268 there; and R’ Shriki’s note 98.
 See 1:14-16 where we laid out G-d’s two modes of functioning in the
world: openly and clandestinely. While those chapters focused on both modes
by comparing and contrasting them, Ramchal is about to explicate the latter,
when reward and punishment form the backdrop behind everything we experience
before our eyes (as well as what lies deep in the background).
 The Midrash raises the following point. “What does G-d care whether
someone slaughters an animal on precisely the right spot on the neck rather
than another before eating it? Will slaughtering it on one spot benefit Him
while doing it on another one harm Him? Does G-d truly care whether someone
eats a non-kosher animal or a kosher one?... (The point of the matter is
that) mitzvot were given to purify G-d’s creatures (and not for His sake)”
(Midrash Tanchuma, Parshat Shemini).
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.