Da’at Tevunot 1:14 (# 48 beg.)
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.
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.
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.
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
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