Da’at Tevunot 1:16 (# 51 – 53)
We need to make an important point, though. Are we saying that G-d’s very Self will be revealed? Didn’t we say that His Self is simply unknowable and can’t be experienced 1? No, His very Self won’t be.
For, even the sort of utter rule and control over everything that His sovereignty entails which will be revealed in the end is distinct from G-d’s very Self. Since G-d’s sovereignty has to do with His relationship with the cosmos and His very Self is utterly apart from creation and utterly beyond our experience and ken 2.
It’s just that G-d decided to function to a degree within the dimensions and paradigms that we function in when He created the universe rather than within His own unfathomable reality. So while His own full Self lies in the background and won’t ever be revealed 3 we experience something of His presence here and now, and will know a far fuller flowering of that in the end, as we’d said.
In fact, G-d could be said to have “held Himself back”, if you will, by two enormous degrees 4. Firstly, He only does things here that we can endure rather than what He’s fully capable of manifesting, and thus holds Himself back from displaying His natively full, blindingly rich benevolence simply because we couldn’t bear it.
And secondly, He also hasn’t even manifested the degree of benevolence that we could and will bear in the end— for now. As while He could have created us from the beginning as perfect and as capable of basking in the light of His sovereignty as we could, He didn’t, for His own good reasons 5.
The point remains, though, that G-d didn’t want our state of imperfection to go on forever — for there to always be the sort of Sturm und Drang, blessings and curses, and moral contentions that characterize our world now. Rather, He wanted perfection to flower forth from the midst of it all.
But let it never be forgotten or mistaken: our destined, relevant perfection cannot compare to G-d’s own inherent perfection whatsoever. As His perfection, “His utter simplicity” as Ramchal words it, “is utterly irrelevant to our experience” no matter how exalted that experience will be.
1 See 1:3:2 above and note 4 there as well as 1:12:2 and note 3 there.
2 For G-d Himself exists in a space-less, time-less “space” and “time” that’s utterly devoid of definition and beyond conjecture, and is chockfull of utter G-d and nothing else. Were we to dare try to portray that realm in the context of anything in our experience we’d gingerly liken it to something as abstract and subtle as the notion of having the idea for an idea, or to a memory we might have had once of having had a memory long ago. But that too is inadequate for our understanding of the utterly subtle and nonrepresentational nature of G-d’s context.
3 Other than to Himself.
4 See 1:2:3 above as well as Clallim Rishonim 2 and 6 (further on than what’s cited in the previous chapter) and Klach Pitchei Chochma 28.
5 So G-d Himself lies far, far in the background and is removed from our experience. And not only is that so but the single facet of His Being that we will experience — the revelation of His sovereignty — has purposely been denied us up to now. Perhaps that explains the sense of terrible and chill distance from Him that we often feel, although maybe the promise and expectation of the revelation of His sovereignty explains the sense we have of His otherwise very real presence. Recall, though, that we’re still and all able to attach unto His presence indeed, as Ramchal assures us in several places here and elsewhere (See notes 2 and 3 to 1:2 for reference to this).
(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.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).