Da’at Tevunot 1:18 (# 56 [cont.] – 57)
This needs to be said too, before we come to the end of this first part of Da’at Tevunot. It’s that it’s vitally important to recall that G-d’s own ways are utterly and unfailingly perfect, yet He interacts with us in this imperfect world. How so? — by specifically accommodating His actions to the reality of the reward and punishment system that He established. Indeed, He tailors each of His ways here to the needs and makeup of that system 1.
And G-d’s own perfect ways will continue to accommodate themselves to the reward and punishment system as long as it will go on 2. But at bottom it is perfection that undergirds all of reality — even when the system of reward and punishment is at play, since perfection is what guides and moves everything along 3.
It’s just that as long as G-d’s utter sovereignty lies hidden away as it must for the meanwhile, things will go on the way we’ve thus depicted them for as long as G-d’s wisdom deems that they must. In any event, things will return to the original state of perfection in the end.
And so we’re presented with three components to factor into G-d’s interactions with us: the eventual revelation of His sovereignty, the day to day ethics-based system of reward and punishment, and G-d’s accommodating His perfection to that system. It follows then that we’d need to grasp all three if we’re ever to truly understand things here in the world.
Never forget, though, that it’s G-d’s will that steers all of the above and drives it; and that everything depends on His infinite abilities and will 4, He chose each thing’s makeup and ways, and everything is under His control.
1 Ramchal doesn’t make this point here but he’s alluding to the fact that even though we can’t really grasp that yet, that’s the reality. For, just as we humans can only perceive the universe through the filters of space, time, and our senses, we can likewise only perceive G-d’s actions through the filter of the reward and punishment system that He set up rather than on their own.
The closest analogy to it – though it’s far from perfect – is the fact that we only understand our parents’ conduct when we’re young by the ways they reward or punish us for our actions, when that really says very little about themselves and their capacities.
It’s also fair to say that the fact that the reward and punishment system is the stage upon which the human experience plays itself out now – and will be until G-d’s sovereignty is exhibited — might explain why we often focus more on Divine retribution than on Divine love.
See Clallim Rishonim 6, “Harashimu” which discusses the Kabbalistic notions relevant here (i.e., the rashimu versus the kav), as well as Ibid. 23 “Inyan Hamochin”.
2 That’s to say that much the way that the soul undergirds the body (by keeping it alive, etc.) yet it accommodates itself to the body’s ways (by enabling it to express its physical needs, etc.), G-d’s perfection will continue to undergird the universe yet accommodate itself to the moral needs of society and human interactions as long as it has to (see 2:6 below for a discussion about the relationship between body and soul on this level).
3 See Clallim Rishonim 6, “V’od yesh”.
4 After all isn’t it said that, “The heavens were made by G-d’s word; by the breath of His mouth all their host (were made)” (Psalms 33:6); that “You, G-d, You are the only one. You made the heavens, the highest heavens and all their hosts, the earth and all that is upon it, the seas and all that is in them. You (alone) grant them all life” (Nehemiah 9:6); that we’re to “Lift up (our) eyes on high and see who has created these!” (Isaiah 40:26); and that “It was I (G-d alone) who made the earth and created mankind on it; it was My hands that stretched out the heavens; I commanded all their host” (Isaiah 45:12).
(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Feldman’s new annotated translation of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag’s “Introduction to the Zohar” is available as “The Kabbalah of Self” on Kindle here. His annotated translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here and his annotated translation of Rabbeinu Yonah’s “The Gates of Repentance” is available here.
He has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).