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Preview of Da’at Tevunot 2:1 (# 59-68)

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:19 (# 58)

We’d now do well to discuss man, given that all we have to talk about is centered on him, since his existence is the whole point of G-d’s actions, and since it’s man who serves G-d. Understanding man will thus help us to understand all that preceded him, given that he was its goal. We’ll concentrate, though, on his makeup, his actions, and on the consequences of those actions.

We’ll first touch on the subject of the resurrection of the dead, which we’d cited early on. We’ll concentrate on the point that since G-d granted man both a body and a soul to use in his Divine service it only follows that both should enjoy the ultimate reward. But we’d also need to dwell on the whole idea of man’s body and soul being initially joined together, then separated, then fully joined in the end, since those phenomena certainly have their effects on a person.

(נט) אמרה הנשמה – בענין הזה כבר ישבתני ישוב גמור. עתה, הייתי חפצה. להבין מציאות האדם, כי זה לדעתי מה שצריך להבין אל נכון, כי הרי עליו סובבים והולכים כל הדרושים, ומשא העבודה – עליו הוא:

(ס) אמר השכל – הנה צדקת בדבריך, האדם הוא הכונה התכליתית בכל מעשיו ית”ש. על כן, רק מי שיבין את ואת על בוריו,ידע תוכיות כל הקודם אליו, כי מגמת הכל הוא רק לבא אל התכלית הזה:

(סא) אמרה הנשמה – אף כאן יהיה לנו לדרוש הרבה מאד:

(סב) אמר השכל – על שלשה דברים צריכים אנו לדבר, על מציאותו של האדם, על מעשיו, ועל פרי מעשיו:

(סג) אמרה הנשמה – אם כן, הדרוש הוא רחב ביותר:

(סד) אמר השכל – אבל ריש מילין נאמר, ואידך פירושא נניח לחכם ויחכם עוד:

(סה) אמרה הנשמה – דבר דבריך:

(סו) אמר השכל – כאן צריכים לבא אל ענין תחיית המתים, שאנו מאמינים בו ודאי בלי שום ספק:

(סז) אמרה הנשמה – הלא זה אחד מן הדברים שכבר העירותיך לבארם, כי חפצה אני לעמוד על תוכן ענינם:

(סח) אמר השכל – הנה ענין תחיית המתים בקיצור ובכלל פשוט הוא. כי כאשר ברא הקב”ה את האדם גוף ונשמה לעבוד ולמשא, שניהם כאחד, את כל עבודת הקודש, התורה והמצוה אשר נתן להם, הנה ראוי הוא שגם בקבלה השכר הנצחי יחדיו יהיו, כי לא יתכן שיהיה הגוף עמל ולא לו, והרי אין הקב”ה מקפח שכר כל בריה (ב”ק לח ע”א). אבל מה שצריך להתבונן הוא על פרטי החיבור הזה של גוף ונשמה, בהתחברם, בהפרדם, ובשובם להתחבר חיבור גמור; כי הן כל אלה יפעל אל עם כל האדם, והוא לא דבר ריק הוא ודאי. על כן אלה הפרטים הם שצריכים ביאור, וביאור רחב ומספיק:

 (c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.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).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Da’at Tevunot 1: 19 (# 58)

Da’at Tevunot 1: 19 (# 58)

1.

We’re now at the end of the first section of Da’at Tevunot in which Ramchal has set out to explain how G-d interacts with us as well as what His ultimate plans for the universe are, and he’s about to broach the recondite subject of the resurrection of the dead. His aim here, though, is to underscore the point made just before that it’s G-d’s will alone that steers everything 1.

He’ll do that by citing the well-known statement that “G-d is the site of the universe while the universe isn’t the site of G-d” (Breishit Rabbah 68:9). But we’d need to uncover some things before we could come to understand how that statement illustrates the point that it’s G-d’s willingness alone that upholds the universe’s very moorings.

2.

As Ramchal made the point early on 2, we know that only G-d’s existence is imperative 3. His point here is that everything else exists only because He wants it to 4. After all, aren’t we told that G-d’s will controls the great amorphous “upper waters” (Breishit Rabbah 4:3, Ta’anit 10A) and the colossal “support beams” that bear heaven and earth (Chagigah 12b); that it’s His “outstretched arms” which the cosmos rest and depend upon for stability (Ibid.); and that He bears everything here down below from up above (Yalkut Shimoni 1:964) 5? But the truth of the matter is that G-d Almighty didn’t need anything else: He single-handedly created and maintains the universe simply because He wants it to exist.

Knowing that, we can now understand the statement that “G-d is the site of the universe while the universe isn’t the site of G-d”. It means to say that while G-d Himself needs nothing in the background for Him to exist 6, the universe, on the other hand, simply couldn’t exist without G-d in the background wanting it to exist 7. For, indeed, it’s G-d’s will alone that serves as the reality behind everything since nothing could exist without it.

For, He existed before anything else could have, though certain ancient thinkers denied that, claiming instead that both He and the universe always existed. But that’s not true as the universe isn’t immortal — G-d had to want to create it, as nothing could exist without that in the background. Indeed, G-d wasn’t at all impelled by any “need” to create the universe: He created everything completely “out of the blue” and by dint of His own will.

3.

Ramchal then cites something that seems to contradict this. The psalmist wrote, “May G-d’s glory endure forever; May He always be pleased with 8 His handiwork” (Psalms 104:31). Doesn’t that seem to imply that it’s His handiwork — we — who please Him; that somehow we’re able to see to it that He’s glorified forever; and that He’s thus in some way better-off by our existence?

But of course that’s not so, and the explanation is as follows. Being that nothing could exist without G-d’s willingness for it to exist, the only reason why it could be implied that we have those abilities is because He wanted there to be entities that could please and glorify Him. Indeed, everything exists, is interacted with and continues to exist only because G-d wants that to be so 9.

Footnotes:

1                Refer to the end of 1:18. Also see Clallim Rishonim 4.

2                See 1:5 above and note 1 there.

3                I.e., only His existence is indispensable while everything else is expendable.

4                As such, everything then becomes indispensable because He wants it to exist. It’s just that they’re not inherently indispensable like G-d is. There are very many deep implications to this idea, but suffice it to say it follows that whatever exists is thus purposeful, intended, and indispensable, without exception.

5                That’s to say that while these statements set out to explain the “mechanics” of G-d’s control, G-d doesn’t literally take hold of the upper waters or the support beams, and He doesn’t have arms to bear the cosmos, but He does will all of those things to function the way they do so the universe can exist.

6                Because His existence is imperative and depends on nothing else, as we said.

7                That is, while G-d’s willingness for the universe to exist functions as the “site”, “space” or “setting” within which everything is situated – its background, His existence requires nothing of the sort.

Understand it also as underscoring the fact that while G-d can contain the entire universe and thus all of reality, and more, in His being, His being is too large for the universe to contain.

8                Or, by

9                Ramchal is making an important albeit erudite point here. He’s reiterating the important idea that not only is G-d’s being imperative but His will and thus His utter sovereignty (after all, what greater proof of His sovereignty is there than the fact that He need only stop willing for the universe to exist and it will!) are also utterly imperative.

See Ramchal’s own comments to Klach Pitchei Chochma 1, and see our first note to 1:5 above.

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.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).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

 

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:19 (# 58)

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:19 (# 58)

We’re taught that “G-d is the site of the universe while the universe isn’t the site of G-d” (Breishit Rabbah 68:9). But what does that mean? Ramchal contends that it illustrates the point that it’s G-d’s willingness alone that upholds the universe’s very moorings.

As Ramchal made the point early on, we know that only G-d’s existence is imperative. The point here is that everything else exists only because He wants it to. Thus, “G-d is the site of the universe while the universe isn’t the site of G-d” means to say that while G-d Himself needs nothing in the background for Him to exist, the universe simply couldn’t exist without G-d in the background wanting it to exist.

For, He existed before anything else could have, though certain ancient thinkers denied that. But the universe isn’t immortal — G-d had to want to create it, as nothing could exist without that in the background. And let it be reiterated that both G-d’s existence and His utter sovereignty are imperative, nothing else.

(נח) אמר השכל – אפרש לך יותר הקדמתי זאת, ותביני ענין עמוק; וכן תביני מאמרם ז”ל (ב”ר סח, ט), “הוא מקומו של עולם ואין העולם מקומו”:

הנה, אין שום דבר מוכרח המציאות אלא מציאותו ית’, וכל הנמצא זולת זה אין לו מציאות אלא בחפצו ית’, ונמצא תלוי ועומד רק ברצונו ית’. ועל כן נקרא, שכל המציאות המצוי תלוי במאמרו ית’, כענין מה שאמרו במים העליונים (ב”ר ד, ג; תענית י ע”א) וכענין זה אמרו ז”ל (חגיגה יב ע”ב), “הארץ על מה עומדת – על העמודים וכו’, וסערה תלויה בזרועו של הקב”ה”. וכן אמרו עוד (ילק”ש ח”א, תתקסד), “בשר ודם למטה ממשואו, אבל הקב”ה למעלה ממשואו, שנאמר (דברים לג, כז), ומתחת זרועות עולם”. המשילוהו בזה כאילו הוא תומך כל המציאות בכל פרטיו, והוא עומד עליהם מלמעלה:

וכלל והענין הוא הדבר אשר דברתי, שכיון שאין המציאות המחודש ממנו ית’ מוכרח אליו כלל, אם כן הרי הוא נתמך רק על מה שרצונו הפשוט רוצה בו. ותביני מאד שרק רצונו וגזירתו זאת הוא המקום לכל הנמצאים, וזולת זה לא היה מקום כלל. ועל כן הוא ית”ש קדום ודאי, אך אין בריאתו קדומה, ולאפוקי מהמינים שאומרים, כיון שהוא קדום צריך שגם העולם יהיה קדמון. כי עד שלא רצה וגזר בזה, לא היה מקום לנבראים לימצא; אדרבה, לפי מציאותו ית’ אין להם ענין, כי אינם כדבר המוטבע בחוק טבעו של האדם, אלא הוא לבדו ית’ יש לו לימצא בהכרח ולא זולתו, וזה פשוט. אלא ברצותו בהם, וגזר גזירה זאת שימצאו הנמצאים, אז יש להם מקום, ולא בלא זה. ונמצא, שכשגזר בזה – הרי נתן מקום לכל הבנינים שבנה אחר כך:

ועוד תביני, שאף על פי ועכשיו אנו יודעים שהקב”ה שמח על כל מעשיו, והם לכבוד אליו, כענין שנאמר (תהלים קד, לא), “יהי כבוד ה’ לעולם ישמח ה’ במעשיו”, לא נחשוב מפני זה שבזמן שלא היו נמצאים אלה, אם כן היתה חסרה ממנו ית’ שמחה או כבוד ח”ו. אלא כבר אמרנו, האדון ית”ש במציאותו הפשוט – אין מקום לנבראים עמו כלל, כי אינם שייכים בענינו. אבל ברצותו בהם, אז מפני החפץ והרצון הזה נמצאים לו לשמחה, כביכול, ולכבוד. כי ודאי החפץ הזה הוא הנותן מציאות הנמצאים האלה, ונקרא שאינו מושלם, אם אין מציאותם נעשה. והרי זה כמקום העומד ליבנות עליו בנינים, שהוא חלל עד שלא נמלא מן הבנינים ההם. ולא הנבראים לבד, אלא אפילו כל דרכי ההנהגה והחוקים, מיני ההשפעה שזכרנו, שהם לפי ערכנו ולא לפי ערכו, אין להם ענין כלל אלא ברצותו במציאות הנמצאים. על כן רק על פי החפץ הזה חידשם כולם, ואינם מוכרחים בו; אבל גם הם בכלל הבנינים הממלאים את המקום הזה, כי אלו ואלו צריכים להשלמת החפץ הזה, וזה פשוט. והרי ביארנו מה שדי לנו בענין הזה:

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.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).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Da’at Tevunot 1:18 (# 56 [cont.] – 57)

Da’at Tevunot 1:18 (# 56 [cont.] – 57)

1.

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.

Footnotes:

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 feldman@torah.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).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:18 (# 56 [cont.] – 57)

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:18 (# 56 [cont.] – 57)

G-d’s own ways are perfect yet He interacts with us through the relative system of reward and punishment, and still-and-all leads everything toward perfection. We’d thus need to know how all of these elements interact.

The ultimate factor to recall though is that, despite the contradictions indicated above, everything is always and exclusively a product of G-d’s will.

והנה צריך שתדעי כי ההנהגה המתיחסת ממש לאדון ב”ה היא הנהגת השלמות, כי הוא שלם, פועל והולך בשלמותו. ובהיות שכבר סידר ושם החוקים והסדרים למה שיגיע אל הנבראים לפי דרך הטוב ורע, הנה יחשבו תולדות החוקים והמדות ההם כדבר הבא מאליו, לפי מה שנחקק והוכן בכל מדה ומדה:

ואמנם, כל זמן שהנהגת הטוב ורע צריכה לשמש, מפעולת השלמות עצמו ימשכו הפעולות הבאות מחוקי הטוב ורע.; וזה, כי על כל פנים מקור הכל הוא השלמות, ואפילו מה שנעשה לפי הטוב ורע, הוא סיבוב וגלגול שהולך אל נקודת השלמות, אלא שכל זמן העלם היחוד צריך שילכו הדברים כסדר הזה. על כן מן השלמות עצמו ימשכו ממילא הפעולות ההמה, כיון שלפי הרצון והחכמה העליונה אותם הדברים צריכים לצאת ממקור השלמות עצמו כל זמן העלם היחוד. וסוף כל סוף, פרי פעולת השלמות יהיה, החזיר כל הנהגה אליו לגמרי… והרי זה ענין שלישי להבחין בכל מדה ממדותיו ית’, והוא, הימשך תולדות המדה ההיא מכח פעולת השלמות עצמו, והרי זה כמו דבר אמצעי בין השלמות ובין המדה לפי ענינה, והוא מתחלף בכל מדה לפי התחלף ענין המדה, כי לפי ענינה כך היא מתפעלת מן השלמות. ויש להבחין גם באמצעית הזאת ענינה העצמי ודרך העשותו, וכמו שנבאר להלן:

ואמנם עוד יש לנו לדעת, שכל הענינים האלה כולם תלויים רק ברצונו ית’, שאין להם לא מציאות ולא הויה וקיום כלל אלא ברצונו ית’, השולט ביכלתו הבלתי בעלת תכלית, כי הוא אמר ויהי הוא צוה ויעמדו. ועל כן כח רצונו ית’ נודע בכולם, שהוא לבדו המקיימם בכל עניניהם, בכל חלקיהם ופרטיהם, כמו שכל הנבראים עצמם הוא לבדו המקיימם בכל תכונותיהם וכל אשר בהם, שאין להם ולא לשום ענין שבהם מציאות זולתו:

(נז) אמרה הנשמה – זה פשוט אצלי ואין לי ספק בו:

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.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).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Da’at Tevunot 1:17 (# 54 – 56 [beg.])

Da’at Tevunot 1:17 (# 54 – 56 [beg.])

1.

There’s something not to be denied about G-d’s interactions with us, and it’s this 1. There are times when He acts in an open and above-board sort of way with us, as when He punishes or rewards us for our deeds, “showing us His hand” if you will and directly responding to our actions, measure for measure.

And then there are times when His actions don’t quite fit that pattern and His reactions aren’t at all straightforward, as when He functions in response to what Ramchal terms His own “profound counsel” 2 — His own plan which aims to lead us all toward the ultimate rectification and sees to it that everything contributes to that end.

In fact, that only stands to reason. After all, haven’t we been taught that “everything done by Heaven is (for the) good” (Berachot 60a); and hasn’t the prophet said, “In that day we will say, ‘I will praise You, G-d; for though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away and You have comforted me” (Isaiah 12:1)3?

Indeed, we’ll come to understand for ourselves in the end that behind everything that happens in the world lies the fact that G-d will eventually make His ways known to us, that only goodness and blessings will come about despite our travails, that utter goodness will always rise up out of the bad, and that no one will ultimately be rejected as a consequence of his sins so much as “treated” for and cleansed of them, and that everything will be set right. It will become clear that all G-d intended from the first was to rectify things.

2.

It will also become manifest in retrospect that G-d’s ways have always been far more “awesome, and infinitely wide and deep” than we imagined, as Ramchal puts it, and staggeringly beyond our ken. And it will be understood how “even the least significant of His actions is so full of wisdom and depth that it’s impossible to plumb them”.

For, while G-d’s actions “may seem to be straightforward” at times, still-and-all “their contents are (in fact) esoteric” and a by-product of G-d’s occult plan to do good; and they’ve always been rooted in “goodness rather than harm” even if we can’t “see them or understand (them in that light) now”. For, we can only grasp a “drop from the great sea” of His deeds and intentions 4.

We’ll also eventually come to know that even when He chides us and has us suffer trial and tribulation, things are not what they appear to be — it’s all for the good, as G-d only means to rectify us. He isn’t set on rejecting wrongdoers as the notion of “retribution” would seem to indicate. For, as He Himself said, “Have I any pleasure at all when a wrongdoer dies? …; (I’d rather) he repent of his ways and live!” (Ezekiel 18:23).

That’s to say that we’ll sooner or later see through the apparent and peer onto the meant. For, “as soon as G-d enlightens our eyes with insight”, Ramchal says, “we’ll come to understand (in retrospect) through the very things that happened” to us themselves before we became aware all contributed to His goal 5.

So let it be reiterated that whatever happens to us now as a consequence of our bad or good actions is still-and-all rooted in our ultimate perfected state, when “the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped” (Isaiah 35:5), For we’ll come to see and to understand the truth of G-d’s ways then as we never could before, and we’ll catch sight of the wisdom that runs through them like a rivulet of quicksilver 6.

Footnotes:

1             This chapter returns to 1:15 and reiterates the important idea expressed there that G-d is always tilting the cosmos in the direction of perfection, and that nothing could ever thwart that. But it does underscore another point, which we’ll address below.

The truth be told, there are several instances in Da’at Tevunot, here and there, where Ramchal seems to be redundant. But it’s our contention that he purposefully repeats himself in order to underscore just how vitally important it is for us to grasp the things being said.

But see Klallim Rishonim 7 for other shades of meaning suggested here. They touch on the mystery of the “immanent” versus the “transcendent” lights spoken of by the Kabbalists. Ramchal contends that the imminent lights represent the way things seem to be while the transcendent ones represent things beyond our ken.

2             See 6:1:2 below, Clallei Milchamot Moshe 7, and Breishit Rabbah (Eikev) for use of this unusual and captivating turn of phrase.

3                That is, “In that day”, i.e., in the end, “we will say, ‘I will praise You, G-d; for though You were once angry with me,” I have come to understand that “Your anger is now turned away and You have comforted me instead”.

4                This is Ramchal’s additional stance here, referred to in note 1 above: that not only can’t we understand G-d Himself but that even His actions are frequently unfathomable.

5                That’s to say, we’ll eventually sit stunned assessing it all and say, “Now I understand why this and that (seemingly bad thing) happened to me – it was so that thus and such (good thing) could come about”.

6             Ramchal is careful to point out here in the text, though, that the overwhelming benevolence that we’re to experience will only come our way to the degree that we can handle it — it will not be to the degree that G-d’s own inherent essential benevolence could express itself. That’s to say that even though there’s much more to remark about the stupendous things we’re to experience than we’ve indicated, the point remains that there’s an even more stunning level that can’t even be cited.

Ramchal sets out to encapsulate this chapter at the end which we’ll offer here rather than above to avoid redundancy.

As he puts it, “G-d’s own inherent perfection is utterly unfathomable. But since He wanted to express His benevolence through acts that are in our ambit and not beyond it, He brought about various things that would eventually have us achieve perfection and a state of rectification. This factor underlies all His actions (here) and is their common denominator. Some and only some of this hidden factor can be caught sight of in G-d’s actions themselves when G-d wants us to open our eyes (to the truth of things), but G-d’s awesome and profound wisdom keeps the vast majority of it hidden away and unfathomable.”

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.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).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:17 (# 54 – 56 [beg.])

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:17 (# 54 – 56 [beg.])

G-d interacts with us both overtly and covertly, but in the end everything is for the good, whether it seems to be or not. And it’s all there to bring about the great rectification.  We’ll understand in retrospect just how everything that happened was for the good (though we won’t and couldn’t understand that utterly so).

(נד) אמר השכל – עוד אודיעך בענין הזה דבר יותר פרטי, והוא – כי ודאי בכל מדה ומדה שהוא ית”ש מודד לנו, נבחין שני ענינים, הנראה והנסתר; דהיינו, הנראה הוא השכר והעונש, למי שנמדדה לו המדה ההיא לפי מה שהיא, הטובה היא אם רעה; והנסתר היא העצה העמוקה הנמצאת תמיד בכל מדותיו, להביא בהן את הבריות לתיקון הכללי. כי כך היא המדה ודאי, שאין לך מעשה קטן או גדול שאין תוכיות כוונתו לתיקון השלם, וכענין שאמרו (ברכות ס, כגירסת ע”י), “כל מאי דעבדין מן שמיא – טב”. והם הם דברי הנביא (ישעיהו יב, א), “ישוב אפך ותנחמני”, כי יודיע דרכיו הקב”ה לעתיד לבא לעיני כל ישראל איך אפילו התוכחות והיסורין לא היו אלא הזמנות לטובה, והכנה ממש לברכה. כי הקב”ה אינו רוצה אלא בתיקון בריאתו, ואינו דוחה הרשעים בשתי ידים; אלא אדרבה, מצרפם בכור להתקן, ולצאת מנוקים מכל סיג. והכוונה זאת אחת היא לו ית’ בכל מעשיו שהוא [עושה] עמנו, להימין ולהשמאיל, וכמו שביארנו לעיל:

ואמנם צריך שתדעי כי כל מעשה ה’ נורא הוא, ורחב ועמוק לאין תכלית, כענין שנאמר (תהלים צב, ו), “מה גדלו מעשיך ה'”; והקטן שבכל מעשיו יש בו כל כך מן החכמה הרבה והעמוקה, שאי אפשר לרדת לעמקה לעולם, והוא ענין הכתוב (תהלים שם), “מאד עמקו מחשבותיך”. והנה עתה אין מעשי ה’ מובנים לנו כלל, אלא שטחיותם הוא הנראה, ותוכיותם האמיתי מסתתר, כי הרי התוך הזה שוה בכולם – שכולם רק טוב ולא רע כלל, וזה אינו נראה ומובן עתה ודאי. אך לעתיד לבא זה לפחות נראה ונשיג – איך היו כולם מסיבות תחבולותיו ית’ עמוקות להטיב לנו באחריתנו. אבל לא נדמה מפני זה שנשיג סוף החכמה הרבה הנכללת במעשים ההם, כי כל מה שישיג אדם אפילו ממעשי הבורא אינו אלא כטפה מן הים הגדול. ועל כן נדע שבהיות שרצה האדון להשקיף בחק טובו שזכרנו על בריותיו, הנה כל המעשים המגיעים לנו עתה על פי דרך השכר ועונש, יש בתוכם מה שאין בברם ודאי – מה שמגלגל ומסבב בטובו תמיד להשלים תיקוננו. ויש בתוך הזה מה שיתגלה לעתיד לבא מיד, שנאמר (ישעיהו לה, ה), “אז תפקחנה עיני עורים”, היא הכונה, המחשבה הנראית וניכרת מתוך המעשים עצמם, שמיד שיאורו עינינו באור הדעה נבינה מן המעשה עצמו אשר נעשה. אמנם, יש ויש ודאי מן החכמה העמוקה במעשים ההם, מה שאינו ניכר ומושג מכחם של המעשים כלל; כי מרוממות החכמה העליונה הוא, שאינה ניכרת אפילו מפעולותיה. וזה וזה אינם אלא מעשי טובו ית’ המשקיף עלינו לטובה, אך תמיד לפי ערכנו, ולא לפי ערכו, וכמו שביארנו; כי אין זה אלא מה שנמשך מחק שלמותו, אבל בעשותו מעשיו רק לפי מה שנוגע לנו:

(נה) אמרה הנשמה – תכלול גם הענין הזה:

(נו) אמר השכל – זה הכלל, שלמותו ית’ מצד עצמו אינו מושג כלל, אך ברצותו לעשות בחק טובו, לפחות באותם המעשים שהם לפי ערכנו, לא יותר, שם עצות וגלגולי הנהגה להביא כל הבריות אל שלמות ותיקון, וזה הנסתר שבכל מעשיו, צד השוה שבהן. ונסתרם זה – קצת מן הקצת ממנו מתגלה וניכר מתוך המעשים עצמם, כשרוצה הקב”ה לפקוח עינינו. אפס רובו עדיין ישאר מרומם ונשגב ולא מושג כלל, מרוב עומק חכמתו ית’ הנפלאה:

(c) 2017 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

 

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.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).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal” that can be subscribed to.

Da’at Tevunot 1:16 (# 51 – 53)

Da’at Tevunot 1:16 (# 51 – 53)

1.

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.

2.

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.

.3.

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.

Footnotes:

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 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 1:16 (# 51 – 53)

Preview of Da’at Tevunot 1:16 (# 51 – 53)

Even the sort of utter rule that G-d’s sovereignty entails which will be revealed is distinct from G-d’s very Self. Since G-d’s sovereignty has to do with His relationship with the cosmos and His Self is utterly apart from creation and beyond our ken

It’s just that G-d decided to function within the dimensions that we function in when He created the universe rather than within His own reality. So while His own full Self won’t ever be revealed, we experience something of His presence now, and will know a fuller expression of it in the end.

G-d could be said to have “held Himself back” by two enormous degrees. Firstly, He only does things here that we can endure. And secondly, He also hasn’t even manifested the degree of benevolence that we could bear, as while He could have created us from the beginning as perfect as we could be He didn’t.

.The point remains that G-d didn’t want our state of imperfection to go on forever and for there to always be moral contentions. Rather, He wanted perfection to evolve from the midst of it. But let it never be forgotten that our destined perfection can’t compare to G-d’s own inherent perfection whatsoever.

(נא) אמרה הנשמה – עדיין אני צריכה ישוב קצת על ענין מידת הממשלה הזאת שזכרת, כי אינני מבינה היטב את פעולת שלמותו הפשוט ית’, כי לפי הנראה אף היא אינה מחק השלמות, כי כבר אמרת שאין שלמות האמיתי מושג:

 (נב) אמר השכל – היטבת לדקדק. ועתה אעמידך על בורים של דברים. שלמותו ית’ הפשוט אי אפשר להשיגו כלל ועיקר, הוא הוא השלמות האמיתי הבלתי נודע לנו כלל, והנה זה מרומם ונשגב מעצמו מכל עניני הנבראים. כי מיד שרצה לנהג בריותיו, קבע ורצה במדות האלה שהם כולם ענינים מתיחסים לנבראים, ולא לפי ערכו כלל; ונמצא, מהותו הפשוט מסולק מכל הענינים האלה לגמרי. ולא עוד, אלא שאפילו בפעולותיו אלה עצמם לפי ערך הנבראים – מה שהיה יכול לעשות לא עשה; ואדרבה כבש, כביכול, את טובו לבלתי עשות מה שהיה ראוי לו לעשות לפי טוב חקו. וזה, כי אפילו ברצותו לנהג הנבראים ולהגלות להם רק לפי ערכם, ולא לפי ערכו, היה יכול על כל פנים ליגלות להם ולנהגם לפחות לפי ערכם זה, אך בשלמות בלא חסרונות, וכמו שיהיה סוף סוף לעתיד לבא. ומחק טובו וחסדו היה זה ליגלות להם בהטבה רבה ובהשפעה רווחת, ומחק שלמותו היה לעשות מעשיו שלמות בלא חסרונות; וכבש כל זה, ורצה לעשותם בחסרונות, וחסרי ההארה כמות שהם:

ואמנם, לא רצה על כל פנים להניח עולמו כך, שיהיה תמיד הולך וסוער בשותפות הטוב והרע, אלא מטעם טובו הגדול היה לשים הנהגה אחת ועצה עמוקה לסבב כל הדברים מתוך הטוב ורע עצמו אל התיקון השלם השייך לימצא בהם; ומחק שלמותו הוא זה לעשות שעל כל פנים יהיו מעשיו מושלמים, ולא ישארו בחסרונם. אמנם אין זה מעשה שלמותו הפשוט לפי עצמו הבלתי מושג, כי פשיטותו אינו שייך בעניננו בשום פנים. אלא הוא הדבר אשר דברתי, כי על כל פנים מחק שלמותו הוא שאפילו שרוצה לפעול רק לפי הנבראים – אך יפעול עמהם בשלמות. וזה הוא מקור ההנהגה – עצה העמוקה שאמרתי, המסבבת וממשכת את הכל לתיקון הגמור:

ואולם אהנו מעשיו ודאי בכבישת רחמיו, כביכול, שזכרנו, שלא יעשה כחק שלמותו להיות הבריות שלמים מתחילתם, אלא תחילתם חסר, וסופם יהיה שלם, מטעם טובו הגדול כמו שביארנו. שאלמלא היה מניח לעולם רק מדת המשפט, לא היו הבריות יוצאים מדי דפים לעולם, כי תמיד היו נמצאים צדיקים ורשעים, טובות ורעות, ברכה וקללה. אך עתה, אף על פי שבתחילה כך הוא, לא יהיה כן בסופו. ועל כן נשארה מדת המשפט בגלוי ומדת התיקון הכללי בהסתר, כי מעשיה בסתר הם, עד סוף דבר שיתוקן כל המציאות כולו לעתיד לבא:

(נג) אמרה הנשמה – עתה נתישבתי, כי ודאי דרך התיקון הכללי מחק טובו ית’ הוא ודאי, אך על כל פנים ברצותו לפעול עמנו רק לפי ערכנו, ולא לפי ערכו:

 (c) 2017 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 1:15 (# 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

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