Monthly Archives: December 2016

Da’at Tevunot 1:15 (# 48 middle – 50)

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:15 (# 48 middle – 50)

1.

Despite the daunting reality of G-d’s seeming absence in this world, bear in mind that His ultimate aim is to disclose His presence and sovereignty, and to make it clear that His having concealed it in the first place was a means to reveal it in the end 1. For, though His hiddenness allowed for the system of right and wrong 2, G-d will ultimately bring everything to a state of perfection 3 and shower all with His beneficence 4.

And so eventually the whole murky system of right and wrong that G-d established here for the meanwhile will be undone, and all will be set right; for the 6,000 year-long period of spiritual trial and error will have played itself out, and G-d’s presence will be manifest along with all the perfection that will follow in its wake. In fact, G-d is consequently always affecting, shifting, and arranging things and circumstances here and now to bring that day about, and every single day brings us closer to it 5.

As the prophets affirmed, “You have (always) done great things … O L-rd my G-d. For Your wonders and Your thoughts are for (i.e., directed toward) us” (Psalms 40:6), “You (G-d) have dealt wondrously; (You have conjured) devices (for the revelation of Your Yichud) from long ago” (Isaiah 25:1), and “G-d … devises means so that anyone who is banished (as a consequence of his sins) will not be cast from Him (in the end)” (2 Samuel 14:14).

Understand though that the whole process — G-d’s hiddenness and His eventual revelation — had to follow a measured course of action. For as Ramchal puts it, “G-d certainly didn’t want to adopt a system of right and wrong for a certain amount of time, then abandon it and set up another one in which His sovereignty would reign in one fell swoop, like someone who regretted what he’d done (and seemed to have changed his mind)”.

Instead, G-d wanted to bring the change about from “within” in such a way that His sovereignty would simply evolve out of the system of right and wrong we experience now. And then the experience of perfection and G-d’s Yichud would be revealed, and the two eras 6 will stand in clear contradistinction to each other, as we’ll see later on.

3.

The truth is that G-d interacts with us even now both ways at the same time. As we all know, He now allows for reward and punishment 7, and thus judges and rules accordingly; yet at the same time He unobtrusively and covertly allows His inherent benevolence that will eventually lead to perfection to permeate the world as well 8.

Interestingly enough, G-d seems to allow Himself to be swayed by, or to even be subservient to our actions and ethics in the here and now, and to thus reward or punish in reaction to us rather than His own penchants 9.

But know that while G-d certainly judges our actions and responds to them measure for measure, and He has innumerable ways and agents to administer justice10, nevertheless He is still in actual fact bringing everything to the state of perfection 11.

That’s not to deny the fact that He still-and-all has purposely held back His sovereignty from the world, created us imperfect, and has us endure more darkness than light in a world of wrong and injustice. It’s just that the fact remains that He will manifest His full benevolence and sovereignty in due course and will bring us to the state of perfection that is our destiny.  For, the revelation of G-d’s Yichud is the truth that simmers beneath the surface of things that roils more and more resoundingly and comes closer and closer to the top 12.

Footnotes:

1                That is, G-d purposely hid His presence, which then has us yearn for it, which makes its appearance the greatest favor He in His beneficence can grant us. As there’s no greater gift than a need fulfilled; and there’s no greater need than the one for G-d’s manifest presence.

See Clallim Rishonim 6 for a discussion of the Kabbalistic themes underlying this chapter. In short, after G-d hid His presence as a consequence of the Tzimtzum (see note 7 to 1:1, note 6 to 1:3) He left a mere “Trace” of His presence behind (see note 7 to 1:14). At a certain point He reintroduced a fuller stream of His presence termed the Kav (or “Line”) which enables more and more of His presence to appear, so as to affect the perfection referred to in this chapter. The interplaying of the Kav and Reshimu is what’s depicted here, and it’s a central theme in Ramchal’s thoughts. See his Assarah Orot 7.

2                Within which some enjoy and deserve G-d’s favor and others don’t.

3                See 6:6 below for discussion of the state of perfection.

4                Let’s clarify this. We all see the need for reward and punishment in this world, given that there’s right and wrong which should be reacted to appropriately. But there simply won’t be a role for any of that once everyone is dazed and stunned by the stark reality of G-d’s presence and sovereignty: that reality will simply undo wrongdoing (and thus punishment). And that is what we’re heading toward .

5                That’s to say that every seeming impediment, every “sideswipe” and “curve ball”, will prove to have been perfectly timed, fully appropriate, on-target, and imperative. For it will be found that absolutely nothing was independent of the process of revelation, nothing irrelevant to it; everything said, thought, done, and planned was a part of it all, along with each nuance and shade-of-a-nuance. The underlying point is that the great redemption and revelation of G-d’s sovereignty is indeed on its way, whether we know it or not. Have faith, for the great mystery will be solved, and the knottiest of puzzles will be unraveled right before your eyes.

6                I.e., “before” and “after” the revelation of G-d’s sovereignty.

7                Ramchal terms this His “values-based rule” (G-d’s other means of interaction is termed His “Yichud– and perfection-based rule” as we’ll see in the note 12 below).

8                We could perhaps liken G-d’s Yichud-mode to our autonomic nervous system and His values-based mode to our voluntary movements. The autonomic nervous system controls various vital bodily functions on its own and without our input, and sees to it that we thrive (sometimes even despite ourselves). Our voluntary movements, on the other hand, follow our dictates, right or wrong, and can either better or even undo us. In much the same way, it’s G-d’s Yichud-mode that always sees to it that we thrive — more so, that we perfect ourselves; while His values-based mode allows us the freedom to better or harm ourselves.

9                Ramchal remarks in the text here that this in fact explains statements that seem to deny G-d’s sovereignty such as Psalms 68:35, Deuteronomy 32:18, (see Eicha Rabbah 1:33 about these two verses), Zachariah 3:9, and Jeremiah 50:20.

His point seems to be that it’s as if G-d wasn’t G-d at all so much as a servant to a higher force than Himself whom He’s to answer to, if you will — right and wrong. But the truth is that G-d does indeed work on two levels at the same time: He allows Himself to “acquiesce” to His own creation’s demands on the one hand, but He also sees to it that His own will is the last word, as the mode of acquiescence will eventually be undone and G-d’s sovereignty will indeed manifest itself — as soon as G-d decides it should.

10              In fact, that goes far to explain the odd and surprising roles we find ourselves in from time to time as we act as G-d’s agents for others, unbeknownst even to ourselves; and it also accounts for the utterly unexpected appearance of so many things in our life.

11              Ramchal also remarks in the text that all of this explains the statements, “I, G-d, do not change” (Malachi 3:6) and “I have never changed” (Zohar 3:281a), which mean to say that even though G-d may seem to acquiesce to others’ wishes now, nonetheless His native sovereignty will be apparent in the process of time.

12              The Neshama asks the Sechel at this point in the text to encapsulate his main points here. We’ll present his words in this note rather than above to avoid redundancy.

“G-d manifests two traits in this world: a values-based rule and a Yichud-and-perfection-based one. The values-based rule necessitates (the existence of both) right and wrong which all good and bad phenomena depend on, and it’s rooted in G-d’s hiddenness and (innate) benevolence, and in His concealed perfection.

“The Yichud-and-perfection-based rule (on the other hand) is the trait that will (eventually) bring on the perfection of all created things (even when they don’t deserve it) and is rooted in G-d’s inherent benevolence. (The latter) functions regularly though clandestinely in the presence of the values-based rule so as to bring everything to perfection (in the end), and it’s rooted in G-d’s inherent pure benevolence. Despite its hiddenness it never fails to shine goodness upon us. (In short,) while His values-based rule is (now) manifest and outright, (G-d’s full and perfect) sovereignty is hidden and concealed (though certainly with us all along).”

(c) 2016 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————-

AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman’s translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here at a discount.

You can still purchase a copy of Rabbi Feldman’s translation of “The Gates of Repentance” here at a discount as well.

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes on www.torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal”.

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:15 (# 48 [middle] – 50)

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:15 (# 48 [middle] – 50)

Despite G-d’s seeming absence in this world, His ultimate aim is to disclose His presence and to make it clear that His having concealed it was a means of ultimately revealing it.

Right and wrong will be undone and all will be set right It’s just that the whole process has to follow a measured course of action, and that His sovereignty evolve out of the system of right and wrong.

In fact, G-d interacts with us now both ways at the same time. And though He seems to be swayed by our choices, He’s still bringing everything to the state of perfection.

For though He purposely withheld His sovereignty, created us imperfect, and has us endure wrong and injustice, He will ultimately manifest His sovereignty and bring on the state of perfection.

ואמנם בהיות הכונה התכליתית רק גילוי היחוד, ולא העלמו, וכמו שביארנו לעיל, כי אין ההעלם הזה אלא אמצעי כדי לבא אל הסוף הזה של הגילוי; על כן, אף על פי שהסתיר פניו לחדש בו דבר הנהגת הטוב ורע הזאת, שב על כל פנים והשקיף במדת טובו, ולפי חק ממשלתו, להשלים סיבוב כל ההנהגה הזאת בתיקון הכללי.

וזה דבר פשוט, כי כבר שמעת איך קץ שם לחשך זה של הטוב ורע כל זמן השיתא אלפי שנין; וכבר גזר מראשית אחרית אשר תכלינה כל אלה, וישאר יחודו מגולה, וטובת העולם קבועה לנצח נצחים. אם כן, כל יום ויום שעובר, נמצא העולם קרב יותר אל שלמותו; ולא עוד, אלא שהקב”ה מסיבות מתהפך בעומק עצתו, ומגלגל גלגולים תמיד, להביא העולם אל השלמות הזה.

והוא מה שאמר הכתוב (תהלים מ, ו), “רבות עשית אתה ה’ אלהי נפלאותיך ומחשבותיך אלינו”; וכן אמר הנביא (ישעיהו כה, א), “עצות מרחוק אמונה אומן”; וכן נאמר (שמואל – ב יד, יד), “וחשב מחשבות לבלתי ידח ממנו נדח”. כי ודאי אין הקב”ה רוצה לאחוז בדרך הטוב ורע כל כך זמן, ואחר כך לעזבה ולתפוס בדרך הממשלה והיחוד ברגע אחד, כאדם המתחרט ומתנחם; אלא מעומק עצתו ית’ הוא לגלגל מסיבותיו מעומק חכמה כל כך, עד שמתוך הטוב ורע עצמו נגיע סוף סוף לדבר זה, שיהיה הכל נשלם, ויהיה הוא ית”ש מגלה יחודו. ועוד יתבאר מזה לקמן בס”ד:

ונמצא שבאמת בשתי מדות אלה אוחז האדון ב”ה תמיד, ושתים אלה קבע בחוקו מוסדי ארץ, א’ – מדת השכר ועונש, היא הנהגת הטוב והרע בשיקול אחד לזכות ולחובה, ונקראת הנהגה זאת, הנהגת המשפט, שהקב”ה יושב ודן כל העולם כולו לפי מעשיהם הטובים והרעים. ואתיא תוך משפטו זה – מדת טובו אשר לפי חק שלמותו, לפי ענין ממשלתו, שבכחו הוא רוצה לתקן את כל נבראיו.

והנה, לפי מדת השכר ועונש – הקב”ה, כביכול, משעבד מעשיו למעשי בני אדם, שאם הם טובים גם הוא יטיב להם, ואם הם רעים יוכרח, כביכול, להענישם; וכענין הכתוב (תהלים סח, לו), “תנו עוז לאלהים”; והפכו (דברים לב, יח), “צור ילדך תשי”; וכמאמרם ז”ל (איכה רבה א, לג), “בזמן שישראל עושים רצונו של מקום – מוסיפים כח בגבורה של מעלה, וכשאינן עושים רצונו של מקום – מתישין כח של מעלה”, ח”ו, ולפי מדת ממשלתו ושליטתו אמר (זכריה ג, ט), “ומשתי את עון הארץ ההיא ביום אחד”; (ירמיהו נ, כ), “יבוקש את עון ישראל ואיננו ואת חטאת יהודה ולא תמצאנה”. והנה לפי מדת הטוב ורע – משפטי ה’ אמת לתת לאיש כדרכיו מדה כנגד מדה, והרבה דרכים למקום לשלם לאדם כפעלו, וכאורח איש ימציאנו, אכו לחסד אם לשבטו. אך לפי עצת טובו בחק שלמותו ית’ – הצד השוה שבהן, להחזיר את הכל – לטוב שלם, לתיקון הגמור שיהיה באחרונה. ועל דבר זה נאמר (מלאכי ג, ו), “אני ה’ לא שניתי”. ובמדרשו של רשב”י אמרו (זוהר כי תצא רפא. וע”ש), “לא אשתני בכל אתר”. ואמנם הנהגת השכר ועונש היא המגולית ונראית תמיד לעיני הכל, אך הגלגול שהוא מגלגל הכל לטובה עמוק עמוק הוא, ולא עבידא לאיגלויי כי אם לבסוף, אבל מתגלגל הוא והולך בכל עת ובכל שעה ודאי, ואינו פוסק:

ונמצא, שודאי כבש האדון ב”ה, כביכול, את חק שלמותו בבריאת הנבראים האלה, ובראם חסרים ולא שלמים, ושם להם דרך הנהגה ומין השפעה שאינה אלא חשך סתרו ית’, שממנו בא מציאות שיקול הטוב ורע, ויש מציאות לחטאים ופגמיהם ולעונשים וקלקולים. ואף על פי כן שב והביט בטוב חוקו אל הנבראים האלה לתקנם התיקון הכללי והגמור העתיד לבא, שעליו מסבב את כל הגלגל דבר יום ביומו, וממשיך דברי הטוב ורע עצמו, לגמור בתיקון שלם בכח יחוד שליטתו ית”ש:

(נ) אמר השכל – שתי מידות שם הקב”ה לנהג בם את עולמו, אחת – מידת המשפט, ואחת – מידת השליטה והממשלה היחידית. מידת המשפט היא מידת הטוב ורע, שבה תלויים כל עניני הטובות והרעות בכל תולדותיהם; ומקור המידה הוא הסתר פני טובו, והעלם שלמותו. מידת הממשלה היחידית היא מידת תיקון כל הנבראים בכחו יתברך, אף על פי שמצד עצמם לא היו ראויים לזה, והיא הסובבת והולכת בהעלם בכל דרכי המשפט עצמו, לסבב כל דבר אל השלמות לבד; ומקורה הוא חק טובו הפשוט ית’, שאף על פי שנתעלם, לא זז מלהשקיף עלינו לטובה. מידת המשפט היא המתגלית ונראית, מידת הממשלה היא המתעלמת ומסתתרת לפנים:

(c) 2016 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————-

AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman’s translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here at a discount.

You can still purchase a copy of Rabbi Feldman’s translation of “The Gates of Repentance” here at a discount as well.

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes on www.torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal”.

Da’at Tevunot 1:14 (# 48 beg.)

Da’at Tevunot 1:14 (# 48 beg.)

1.

Knowing now what we do of His omnipotence and benevolence, we’d have expected G-d Almighty to have produced a perfect, utterly and unimaginably effulgent, fecund, boundless, wholly good, G-dly world 1. But He clearly didn’t.

Instead, simply because He 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: imperfection 2. And it is that imperfection which forms the crux of our universe and the epoch of time we’re in now.

So, let’s characterize this epoch of time in which our own ethical and spiritual input plays so active a role and where G-d hides His presence 3.

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; in which we’re either drawn to G-d, which is our goal, or distracted from Him; 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 exiled and quashed for thousands of years; the one in which humankind is sometimes lofty, other times base; 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 can’t be denied is that this world of right and wrong is also the one in which the righteous are vexed and challenged, where each and every move they make is scrutinized; where we’re sometimes soiled and other times cleansed; and where destructive forces are loosed and our people are subjugated to foreign, even idolatrous values and control.

The point again 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 instead He purposefully and willfully created the one we’re in now, and that He’ll undo it after His goal will have been met 6.

3.

Understand, though — and this is an important point — that that’s not to say that G-d has abandoned this world (G-d forbid!). For He still bestows us with existence and vigor by means of what’s termed 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.

G-d 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 he himself”, as Ramchal puts it, like “the smudge left behind after letters are erased” rather than the letters, as “more darkness than light” compared to the full vigor it could exhibit. We’re satisfied with that, not knowing any better and given that “from our perspective, that’s all of life”, in Ramchal’s words here 8.

The point is that G-d’s emanations have to come to us to that degree at least, though, or we’d simply be undone 9. Nonetheless, what remain 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.

Footnotes:

1             See 1:2:3.

2             3:1 below will speak of the originality of imperfection and wrongfulness.

3             Let’s retrace our steps here in order to understand what’s being offered.

Recall that Ramchal referred to the fact that there’ll be three epochs of time in 1:11:3 (as well as 1:10:1): the one within which G-d’s presence is hidden, the one in which His presence is to be revealed, and the transition period between the two.  He then stepped aside for a while to focus on the various “tools” G-d uses to interact with us in 1:12-13, but he’s now returning to the three epochs, beginning with the one in which G-d’s presence is hidden.

4            Ramchal cites the following verses that depict the end of this epoch as 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).

5             The idea that “everything is in the hands of Heaven but the fear of Heaven” 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, His sovereignty is not only not undone, it’s actually bolstered.

6             That’s to reiterate the point 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. See 1:10:1 above.

7             His “emanation” or what’s described in the text as the “overflowing of G-d’s superabundant goodness” is termed shepha in Hebrew. See Job 22:11 and 38:34 which speak of an “abundance (shepha) of water over-covering you”; Vayikrah Rabbah 27, where G-d is depicted as providing plentifully (mashpia) when He gives; and refer to Derech Hashem 2:8:3.

There are some other Kabbalistic references here, too. Without going into great detail, the Kabbalists speak of a “Trace” of G-dliness left behind after the Tzimtzum process (spoken of in note 7 to 1:1 above and note 6 to 1:3). which is known in Hebrew as the reshimu. It’s alluded to here, given that it represents the minimum amount of G-dliness needed for the world to function spoken of here. For discussions of the reshimu in Ramchal’s works see Clallim Rishonim 5 and 6*, and Klach Pitchei Chochma 26-27,

8             As such, we’re like very poor people who know nothing of what life can be like with the wealth that others know of and are to be pitied for our short-sightedness.

9             Not as if our batteries had suddenly died and we’d be left behind to rust off the side of the road, but rather as if we’d simply vanished without a trace.

In fact, after 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, he then asked Him quite spectacularly to just, “blot me out from Your book” (Exodus 32:32) if G-d wouldn’t forgive them. G-d clearly didn’t acquiesce to that, but we have to wonder if anyone (significant or otherwise) 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.

 

(c) 2016 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

———————————————————-

AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman’s translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here at a discount.

You can still purchase a copy of Rabbi Feldman’s translation of “The Gates of Repentance” here at a discount as well.

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes on www.torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal