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Da'at Tevunot - The Knowing Heart

Section 5, Chapter 1

1. We’d learned about G-d’s interactions with us in great detail in the last section; let’s now delve into our interactions with Him, and see how each affects our common relations [1].

The most fundamental way that G-d interacts with us is by granting us life, of course. Each moment we’re alive we thus interact with Him on that level at least. Of course that tie isn’t unbound once we die; a different sort of interaction occurs then. But that’s beside our point here.

What needs to be said actually is that G-d has not only granted us life -- He has granted us existence itself, be it before life, in the course of it, or after it. Our very being, not only our lives, is only true because He wills it.

That’s to say that when a person is born, he’s placed “on record” of sorts: He can never have not have been born, and we fervently believe that he will never cease to have existed after his demise. There’s no undoing of that reality. Had that person not been granted reality though, he’d be on no record whatsoever, if you will.

It is not simply that all record of his having existed would be lost or undone; there would simply be none.

Understand as well that the very universe and all of reality also only exists because G-d wants it to as well.

Ramchal offers us a well-known analogy to that. “For just as the soul keeps the body alive and without it the body would surely be undone” he offers, “G-d’s interactions likewise keep everything ‘alive’, and without them the universe would be undone”. And he adds that that’s why G-d has been termed “The Soul of all souls”.

That’s to say that G-d’s interactions are the very “engine” and force behind material, spiritual, earthly, heavenly, and other interactions. As we’d put it today, G-d is “behind everything”.

2. But don’t misunderstand. G-d isn’t “behind” each and every act that occurs throughout the cosmos as if to suggest that He’s the direct cause of everything, because He isn’t. G-d allows for everything, since He alone granted it existence and allows it continued existence. But humankind (along with other elements of creation) also holds sway in the course of things, and we too are responsible for many actions.

That’s to say that having the freedom to act whichever way we see fit (within our purview; after all we can’t just decide to fly or to disappear, etc.) we too are “behind” many things … though to a less ultimate degree than G-d is. And thus we of our own volition can ascend or descend ethically and spiritually.

We’ll explore the implications of all that in the chapters to follow.


[1] See Klallim Rishonim 25 for this chapter’s Kabbalistic references as well as R’ Friedlander’s Iyyun 41; R’ Goldblatt’s notes 2-5, 7 and note 75 on p. 486 of his edition; and R’ Shriki’s notes 128-129.

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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