Thursday, July 01, 2004

A Condensation of "Da'at Tevunot" (Part 3)

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Part Three: The Epoch of "Hester Panim" (The Concealing of the Divine Visage)

1. This epoch is characterized by the presence -- and outright prominence -- of both right and wrong, throughout. Neither right nor wrong is as clear-cut or open-and-shut as it could be; and each has its own vindicator. While baffling, that situation still and all allows for choice, and it thus affords us the chance to perfect ourselves (by choice). But it also allows for out-and-out wrong and all its complications to become stronger.

2. Despite that, though, and not withstanding its hiddenness, G-d's goodness and presence still *does* manifest itself in the universe then, though in a relatively reduced state.

3. Another way of putting that is to say that despite appearances, G-d's utter dominion *is* still in play then -- in the background. It's in fact the force behind all that happens, and it still-and-all sees to it that everything -- right and wrong -- that happens contributes to the eventual revelation of G-d's utter dominion. (Ponder the stunning implications of that! And consider it in light of Song of Songs 2:9's statement that "My beloved is like a gazelle or young hart", so swift is He; "behold, He stands behind our wall" for now, but He nonetheless "looks in through the windows, and peers through the lattice", ready to come forward any moment.)

4. It's just that the Divine attribute of justice (which rewards right and disciplines wrong) must still play itself out in the course of things as they are now, even though G-d's ameliorating attribute of utter dominion (which transcends right and wrong) is still-and-all here as we said, in the background.

5. But that raises another question about G-d's revelation of His ultimate dominion. Didn't we already point out that G-d's full Being can't be comprehended? So what's the significance of the statement that He'll eventually reveal His full dominion?

6. This touches on a profound notion with wide and high implications that's only to be said outright by the unperturbed, and in a hush. But let's at least offer this: that it does indeed speak to G-d's very Being itself. Yet let's also suggest that we not go deeper into the sea than we can swim.

7. But in short, it harkens back to the idea we'd mentioned that G-d utilized and manifested just a fragment of His Being to create the cosmos (see Part 2, #1 and #21; and #2 above), and thusby created the universe that we could endure (and that could provide us with all our needs), rather than one that He's fully capable of creating. It's also important to underscore that He likewise created us in a way that only expresses a fragment of *our* being, in order to allow us the opportunity to perfect ourselves.

8. So, in answer to the question posed in #5 above, when G-d reveals His utter Dominion over everything, that wouldn't be His very Self He'd be revealing so much as "only" the highest and most sublime aspect of Himself that He utilizes to interface with the truncated universe He created. But we're also taught that that revelation will then undue our blemishes and will allow us to achieve the sort of relative perfection apropos to our beings. (Ramchal refers to our ultimate perfect state elsewhere, but that's beyond the scope of the subject at hand).

9. Everything in the universe -- right and wrong, major and minor, etc. -- will serve to have ushered in that near-perfect state at that point. And we'll come to understand in the course of the World to Come just how everything in fact played such a role and served to assert G-d's Omniscience.

10. At bottom it all comes down to the fact that every act of perfection is attributable to something G-d Himself did or had something else do, much the way that everything continues to exist thanks only to G-d's own will that it does. For G-d must exist for anything else to exist while everything exists only because G-d wants it to. For His will provides the "space" (i.e., wherewithal) for everything to exist. After all, He existed before anything else did and thus enabled and continues to enable everything else to exist; and he's utterly independent -- though desirous -- of them and everything associated with them.

(c) 2004 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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