Monday, June 28, 2004

A Condensation of "Da'at Tevunot" (Part 1)

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Part One: G-d Wants Man to Perfect Himself In Order to Enjoy His Beneficence

1. We're taught that G-d founded the universe upon justice, goodness, and design (see Deuteronomy 32:4). But our experience seems to contradict that, so in order to convince of us of it, we'd need to backtrack and understand a number of things about ourselves and the world that would explain how it's true -- and why we don't perceive it as being so.

2. What we'll delve into then is our makeup (which won't be explained until later on), what's expected of us (see #3 below), and our raison d'etre (see #10 below).

3. What's expected of us, at bottom, is to perfect ourselves along and the entire universe.

4. But why would we have to do that? In order to answer that, we'd first have to determine why G-d created us in the first place, but we can only explain that after first defining G-d.

5. So in sequence:
a) we'll start off by defining G-d (#6 below),
b) we'll then uncover why He created us (#7 below), and we'll go on from there to explain
c) what we're expected to perfect about ourselves (#10 below).

6. The truth of the matter is that we *can't* define G-d -- as He is in His Essence, at least -- since we can't begin to fathom that. But what we *can* grasp to some degree is how He presents Himself in the universe and interacts with us, since that's clarified by the Torah and the Tradition. Hence, G-d is defined as the ultimate beneficent Being (since He gives all and needs nothing in return).

7. Now, since a beneficent Being like Himself would only be expected to have others whom He could benefit, He'd thus "need" to create such beings (suffice it to say that G-d "needs" nothing, but that's beyond this short treatment). Thus, the reason why G-d created us was so that we might enjoy His largesse.

8. And yet in order for His creations to enjoy His beneficence and not be "embarrassed" -- i.e., compromised -- by that, they'd somehow need to *earn* what they receive. So, we're expected to serve Him and to thus perfect ourselves in the process of our own volition in order to truly enjoy His beneficence.

9. But, what's imperfect or flawed about us in the first place, and what kind of perfection are we capable of achieving?

10. What human perfection comes to, essentially, is the ability to adhere onto G-d's Presence and to come to know Him; and what's imperfect about us which we're expected to rectify are the flaws that isolate us from Him. So, our raison d'etre is to indeed adhere onto G-d's presence and to know Him.

11. Next it's important to realize that G-d *purposely* didn't create a perfect universe -- just so that we could perfect ourselves and thus benefit from His beneficence.

12. But, what it is it that enables us to perfect ourselves in the first place? We'll come back to that after having first touched upon a number of points.

(c) 2004 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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