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Ramchal's - Daat Tevunot
taught by Rav Avraham Brandwein
A creature can never ultimately grasp Elokut, because Elokut is infinite, whereas a created entity is always finite and limited. So that portion of Elokut - meaning, that aspect of Elokut that the Neshamah does grasp - that aspect is considered a part. That is, it is no longer a part of Elokut, but is now a separate entity. This must be understood well...
The main principle is that there is never any change in Elokut, as the prophet says, "Ani Havayah, Lo Shiniti - I am Hashem, I do not change." All change is therefore from the point of view of the created world, the mekablim, the receivers. When we say that the Neshamah is a portion of Elokut, we do not mean that Elokut can be divided into segments. Elokut cannot be divided, because all movement, all change, is a result of a lack. Lack stimulates movement, which is meant to compensate the lack. In other words, why does a person get up in the morning? Why does he go to work? Why does he feel a need to learn? Because he feels an inner lack. The more active a person is, the greater his sense of lack. Rest, the opposite of action, indicates less lack, fewer needs, and therefore entails far less movement, far less action.
All changes, all divisions, derive from lack. Since Elokut does not lack, it is characterized as being absolute Rest and Tranquility. All change, when applied to Elokut, do not imply that change is taking place in Elokut itself, only in relation to the mekablim, the receivers. We will explain this with a mashal.
Take a piece of colored glass. For instance, a glass colored red, or blue, or green. Place this piece of glass in front of the sun. The light that streams through this glass will now take on the color of the glass, red, or blue, or green. Of course, these "colored lights" are not intrinsic to the sunlight itself. The sun does not change just because its light passes through such colored glass. The change in the color of the light is solely a result of passing through the colored glass, the mekabel, the receiver. We may say that the light is red, or blue, or green, but we do not mean that the source of the light has been effected by this change. The change only exists from the point of view of the mekablim. We therefore say that this is a portion of the light of the sun.
In the same way, the Neshamah is made up of two things. First of all, we have the Neshamah itself, the will to receive. But this will to receive is not all there is to the Neshamah. For the Neshamah is also a portion of Elokut on high. What then is this Elokut that the Neshamah is a portion of? That very spiritual light, that very Godly light that the Neshamah receives into itself... Since the Neshamah is limited, and it cannot receive the totality of Elokut into itself (because this is impossible for a finite creature to fully experience the Infinite Creator... It can never grasp more than its limitations as a creature allow it to grasp...). So that very light that it is able to receive into itself is called a chelek of Elokut.
This then is the meaning of chelek eloka mima'al. The intention is not that Elokut can be divided into parts. Rather, when we speak of change and movement, this is always from the point of view of the mekablim.
To summarize: The Neshamah consists of vessel and light. The vessel, is the will to receive, and this also has a light. Of course, the light is limited and restricted to the level of the vessel that contains it. So also the Elokut of the Neshamah. At the same time that its Source is Infinite, when it is separated so to speak and told to come down into the world, it is limited to the capacity of the will to receive it... As it grows and develops more, so this capacity grows and it resembles its Source more and more. It transforms its will from the will to receive into the will to give. By doing this it resembles its Creator...
Let us now return to our text: The Sechel says: Ana Panaich Mu'adot? - What specific goal do you wish to attain? In other words, What do you wish to know? Behold, there are thirteen principles that are fundamental to the Torah. Which of these do you wish to consider?
The Neshamah says: I have no trouble believing in all thirteen principles without any reservations whatsoever. There are some, however, that I believe and understand, while there are others that I believe in, but which I have trouble understanding and comprehending clearly.
That is, there are certain principles that I believe in and also understand and comprehend, but there are others that, while I admit that they are true, and accept the fact that I am commanded to believe in them, I have trouble understanding them. The only reason I believe that they are true is because I am commanded to do so whether I understand them or not. But I really do not understand.
The Sechel asks: Which do you hold through belief alone, and which through reason as well?
The Neshamah answers: [I believe and understand:]
All of these I believe and understand, and I require no further explanation concerning them. The final four principles, however, I do not understand. They are:
Ten: Divine Providence.
I surely believe in these as articles of faith, but I would like to acquire rational understanding of them that would be intellectually satisfying.
We see here two things. The Neshamah finds no trouble believing and even understanding that Hashem exists and that His Unity is Absolute and All-encompassing. She understands that Hashem brought the world into existence from nothing and that He gave theTorah to Moshe. She does not understanding, however, Hashgachah, how Hashem runs the world, how He rewards and punishes... Thus, although she believes, meaning, she believes that Hashem is good and does good, that everything He does is for our best, she does not understand through her own experience, or her own experience seems to contradict this...
This is the meaning of believing that Hashem is mashgiach (oversees and supervises) everything. Because, to the best of our understanding, Hashem Yitbarach is the Ultimate Good, and His desire is to bestow the Ultimate Good on us, which, as Ramchal explains in Derech Hashem, is the reward of being able to attach ourselves to Him based on our own efforts.Therefore, even those things that happen to us that do not seem to be for our benefit, still, we are commanded to believe that these things also come from Him.
The problem is, and this is what bothers the Neshamah, besides believing in this, she wants to understand.
So the Sechel asks: What exactly is difficult for you to understand about this?
The Neshamah now articulates her problem: [I am bothered by] certain powerful events that take place in the world [and which cause great changes in the world], which seem at first sight to indicate the opposite of (or a complete absence of) Hashgachah (Divine Providence), God forbid. [The problem is that] it is almost impossible to logically understand such events because we cannot see where they lead to. [The total concealment that characterizes these events prevents us from understanding] what Hashem wants from His creations. To what end is He directing things? What will the final unfolding be? For Hashem's actions are so vast that the human mind cannot comprehend them. I would therefore like you to teach me and guide me on a straight path, to see the rightness of these things, without deviating to the right or left.
First of all it is important to be aware of a very important principle. The questions that the Neshamah asks are not questions of curiosity, or academic or philosophical questions. Concerning questions like these, the Mishnah in Chapter Two of Chagigah has already taught us: Whoever contemplates the following things - it would have been better had he not been born: What is above, what is below, what was before, and what will be after.
This refers to a person who wants to probe what reality was like before Hashem created the world, or what will be in the end of days, the final generations, what will happen then... These are not practical questions. The Neshamah, on the other hand, wants to know about those things that have a bearing on her, so that she will be able to serve Hashem better. This is consistent with what we saw at the beginning, "Know today and bring [this knowledge] into your heart that Havayah is the Supreme Being." It is for this reason that the Neshamah does not ask about Hashem's Unity, His Eternity. Rather, she asks about things that human beings have trouble understanding about their own lives, namely, the things that seem to indicate the opposite of Hashgachah, the absence of Hashgachah.
What is the opposite of Hashgachah? It is known that when we speak about Hashem, we understand that He is utterly Good and wishes to make that Goodness accessible to us. And this is how we should conceive of Him, that He is HaTov VeHaMetiv, utterly Good and Giving. Still, there are certain experiences that seem to contradict this. For instance, as we shall see, the problem of the suffering of the righteous, and the success of the wicked. Each and every individual is bothered by and grapples with these things in one way or another. Sometimes we feel that Hashem is with us, allowing us to transcend our circumstances. At other times, all seems so dark. Hashem's Presence is greatly concealed. In other words, sometimes we experience aliyot (ascents) and at other times, yeridot (descents).
Therefore, in order to really come to the clear Knowledge of Havayah Hu Ha Elokim, we have to know that Havayah, Hashem's Compassion, His Goodness also determines everything that happens in our lives, that Havayah Hu HaElokim. Even Elokim, and Elokim alludes to the powers of Nature, and in Nature we see that things do not always seem to fit our concept of Hashem's running the world for our benefit... Even Elokim.
It is about this that the Neshamah asks. Why? Because her whole ability to serve Hashem depends on her making peace with these things. These are therefore not only philosophical or theoretical questions, but questions of practical concern. Therefore the whole difference between true Torah and philosophical speculation is that Torah concerns itself with the service of the heart. We thus see that the answers that were given by the Prophets and all the great Leaders of Israel, were not answers of what seemed most correct, but answers that hey had already lived through and with, meaning to say, they grasped them in actuality, as the verse itself tells us, "And bring this knowledge into your heart." Therefore, they did not just give us good guesses or nice theories, or what seemed right to them.
This is therefore the question of the Neshamah: How does Hashem run the world?
We can now add another important point. The truth is, that in order to come to the truth, to understand it, a person must first of all believe. Meaning, there are two levels of Emunah, of believing.
The first level is to believe because we were thus commanded, even if we don't understand, meaning, that our minds and our feelings cannot see that a particular experience was for our benefit. Nevertheless, we are commanded to believe that Kol Mah deAvid Rachmana LeTav Avid (everything that the Compassionate One does is for the good). That everything is from heaven, that nothing happens below without something first happening above, as our chachamim said, "A person does not even receive a knock on his finger without it having been decreed first above." That everything is for the Good even if we do not see it.
After this, there is a higher level, when a person comes to the level of understanding. When he sees the end results of a thing, he grasps how it could only have come about after a prior hester (a divine concealment) or an evil occurrence. He understands now that these things only appeared to contradict the principle of Kol Mah deAvid Rachmana LeTavAvid because, when they were happening, he couldn't possibly have seen what would result from them.
This is similar to a man who does not understand how to make a piece of clothing. If he happens to see a tailor cutting cloth for a suit, he will think that the tailor is ruining a perfectly good piece of material. The truth is, however, that this destructive act is really a tikkun (a fixing, something that is for an ultimate good).
This is similar to what we see concerning the laws of Shabbat. The Halachah is that only one who destroys something for the sake of fixing it has done an actual melachah on Shabbat. Whereas if someone just destroys something, this is not considered a melachah.
Another example is if someone who knows nothing about agriculture will see a farmer planting seeds in the ground, he will imagine that that is the end of that seed.
He could also taste a fruit which is bitter because it is still unripe, and think that it will never be fit for consumption.
In all of these cases, however, if a person could see ahead a few steps, he would understand that the present is merely part of a process that leads to something ultimately very good.(5) Being part of a process that leads to good makes even the part that is not good into something good and beneficial. When it is seen alone, out of context, as an solated event, it is considered bad. But when it is seen as part of a purposeful process of Ultimate Good, it is no longer considered evil, but good. This is the second level of Daat, of knowing and understanding, that the Neshamah wishes to acquire, "a rational understanding that would be intellectually satisfying."
Now, what about Emunah? The Mitzvah of Emunah (Believing in Hashem's Existence) is the first commandment of the Aseret HaDibrot (Ten Commandments). As the verse says, "Anochi Hashem Elokecha." But the truth is that a person who has reached this level of Emunah which includes Daat (Knowledge and Understanding) has reached a higher level of Emunah. This is the true Emunah, the Emunah that is desired of us.
For example, imagine a ruler or a king of a country whose subjects believe in him without question. They know him, they are familiar with his great wisdom, his great righteousness. They recognize that everything he does it for their good. Without a doubt, they will obey whatever he commands. If he raises the tax, they will pay it willingly, and won't ask questions. Why? Because they know that everything he does is for their benefit. They therefore do not ask questions, Why? Why do you demand this? Why do you act thus? Because they know and are certain. Knowing the ruler's reasons will not add to their faith in him. They rely on his judgment completely.
But if a there was a ruler or a king about whom there was a doubt about his actions, his wisdom. Then, everything he would command, every decree, every order, immediately, all kinds of doubts and questions would arise. Why does he act thus? Why does he oppress us with such taxes? And the burden of the ruler's decrees needn't be that heavy. The smallest tax will arouse questions. Why? Because it is human nature that the moment we don't understand what we are being asked to do, we will balk. Every new decree will cause us difficulties.
We see this, for example, when a simple person asks someone else to bring him something, even from a distance of a couple of feet. He will question why. Why do I have do serve you? Can't you do it yourself? On the other hand, if this was an important personage asking him to do this, he wouldn't think twice. He would even run a great distance willingly. He would find no difficulty whatsoever. Why? Because the basic difficulty of doing anything arises from the doubt a person has, his inability to believe, that what he is being commanded is right.
Therefore, when a person reaches this higher level of Emunah together with Daat,and he sees the greatness of Hashem's ways, he now does everything out of the purest Emunah. On the contrary, Emunah is for him even greater than the reasons that he understands. Because he understands that any reason he could possibly understand is limited and could never exhaust the real reasons behind Hashem's actions. He understands that human comprehension is limited, while Hashem's commamdments are extremely sublime. As David HaMelech said, "LeChol Tichla Ra'itiKetz - To every purpose I have seen an end, Rechava Mitzvotecha Meod - but Your commandments are extremely vast," that is, without end, infinite. On the other hand, any reason we could understand would be limited in its scope, limited to how we perceive things. Therefore, having reached the level where he intuits Hashem's greatness, that He is Melech Malchei HaMelachim, and he truly grasps the implications of this, he, on the contrary, prefers pure Emunah, Emunah that transcends Daat.
We therefore have two types of Emunah. The first level of Emunah is lower than a person's Daat, and it is also an Emunah that a person feels he must believe, but does not understand why he must believe. He believes because he is commanded to believe. This is not the highest level of Emunah. It is important, but not the highest level. It is important as a beginning, as we see at Mount Sinai, "Hashem lifted the mountain up over them and told them: If you receive this Torah, fine. If you do not, then this will be your burial plot." In response, we said "Naaseh VeNishma - We will do and we will hear." What is Naaseh? It is the initial level of Emunah, the level at which we do not yet understand, but we do anyway. Nishma is already a higher level of understanding. And beyond this is, after having understand to a certain extent, there is the level of Emunah that transcends understanding.This is the highest level...
Now we understand why the main function of Emumah is when things are concealed, during a time of Hester Panim, the hiding of Hashem's Hashgachah. When we do not see clearly from our limited point of view that what is happening is coming from the Tov HaMetiv, the One who is Good and who does only Good. At times like these, we need the highest level of Emunah.
This also involves the matter of the Tachlit, the Purpose of things. The Neshamah says here: "What does Hashem want from His creations? To what end is He directing things? What will the final unfolding be?" In order to understand the concept of Tachlit, Purpose, we can take the following mashal.
Imagine a person who receives only good, if there was such a thing. For example, he is served a drink, and the drink is very good, sweet and pleasing. Once he determines that the drink is good, he drinks and asks no questions. This is what pleases him, gives him benefit and pleasure, so he drinks
If, however, he would be served or commanded or forced to drink something bitter, he would immediately ask Why? For what purpose? Wny should I drink this? This teaches us that the questions about Tachlit usually come up when there is a question of something that seem bad. This is where our Avodah (our service) becomes operative; when a person asks: Why is the world like this? Why is there evil in the world? This is one of the things that spurs a person...
1.. Copyright, Rabbi Avraham Brandwein, Jerusalem. Translation by Avraham Sutton. Questions welcome. Please address all inquiries to Rabbi Avraham Brandwein, P.O.B. 14056, Jerusalem Israel.
2.. The phrase Daat Tevunot is difficult to translate. It is for this reason that Rabbi Shraga Silverstein, who translated this sefer into English, did not even attempt to translate it literally. Instead, he rendered it The Understanding Heart, which is Lev Mevin in Hebrew. But this just begs the question: What does Daat Tevunot mean? One possible answer is that it could refer to a very comprehensive Yediyah (Knowledge) which is made up of many Tevunot (Understandings). Daat is 1) a unified Knowledge or 2) a comprehensive Awareness, and Tevunot are the levels of Understanding which must be acquired one at a time, but which are really only parts of the Higher Knowledge that binds and unifies them.
3.. The Kabbalists also mention that when we say Baruch Hashem HaMevorach LeOlam VaEd in our morning prayers, that each of these five words corresponds to one of the levels of the soul. When we say Baruch we intend receiving our Nefesh. When we say Hashem, we intend receiving our Ruach, and so on.
4.. In fact, the main difference between the spiritual and the physical involves the concept of space. In the spiritual dimension, there is no concept of space as we know it. See Yad, Yesodey HaTorah 2:5; Pardes Rimonim 6:6; Etz Chaim 1:2 (p. 27 in Ashlag); Shomer Emunim HaKadmon 2:49; Amud HaAvodah, Hakdamah Gedolah 15.
5.. And this in fact is exactly what the verse means in Bereshit, "And Elokim saw all that He had made, vehinei tov meod (and behold, it was very good)." Concerning which the chachamim say that tov is the yetzer tov (good inclination) but tov meod is the yetzer ra (evil inclination). How could evil be considered "very good"?! Rather, it is because Hashem surveyed ALL that He had made, from beginning to end. In the total picture of things, even evil is good.