Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Petach 2 (Part 1)

Klach Pitchei Chochma -- 138 Openings to Wisdom

By Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto

as adapted by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman


Petach Two

רצונו של המאציל ית"ש הוא רק טוב, ולכן לא יתקיים שום דבר אלא טובו. וכל מה שהוא רע בתחלה, אינו יוצא מרשות אחר ח"ו, שיוכל להתקיים נגדו, אלא סופו הוא טוב ודאי. ואז נודע שלא יש רשות אחר אלא הוא:

The Emanator wants only (to do) good, so nothing but (manifestations of) His goodness will endure. Hence, all that's initially wrongful does not emanate from another sphere of influence that could oppose Him; instead it will undoubtedly (prove to) be good in the end, thanks to which it will be known that there's no sphere of influence apart from Him."


This petach comes to solve the apparent contradiction between G-d's overarching beneficence as it has been revealed to us by the tradition, and the reality of wrongdoing and evil. (This is no small matter of course for many reasons, but most especially because in a very real sense it's the existence of wrongdoing, evil, injustice and the like that prevents many from believing in and trusting G-d.)

But in point of fact not only are we told here that G-d "wants only (to do) good", it's also said in the very next petach that "ultimately, the world was created so that G-d could be beneficent" and "bestow utmost goodness" upon the universe [1]. And so while we can't deny that there's wrongdoing, it still and all must somehow play a part in His beneficence. So we'll explore the connection between human wrongfulness and Divine beneficence here.

This petach also serves to reconcile the fact of G-d's Yichud (as discussed in the first petach) in light of wrongdoing. For if wrong was somehow a mistake on G-d's part – something that passed Him by, if you will – or if it was out of His control, then He wouldn't be omnipotent and sovereign: He'd be second-in-command after wrong. And that would countervail His Yichud. But since He's indeed omnipotent and sovereign, it's again clear that wrong and evil had to have been created by Him for His own good ends and that "it will undoubtedly (prove to) be good in the end".

We might also think that the existence of wrongdoing would compel G-d to act a certain way (to oppose it as a matter of course and to invariably punish those guilty of it). But that would also make Him subservient to it, which would again negate His sovereignty. And lastly, why should wrongdoers suffer (albeit it justifiably); doesn't their pain and anguish seem to contradict G-d's beneficence?

So let's see what Ramchal offers to clarify all this.



[1] See Da'at Tevunot 36, where Ramchal makes the point that G-d is so beneficent that He even benefits the wrongful (no matter how counter-intuitive that seems to be at this point).

As to sources for the controvertible idea that G-d only wants to do good: see the beginning of Ari's Eitz Chaim. Also see Ramchal's Da'at Tevunot 18, Derech Hashem 1:2, Klallei Pitchei Chochma v'Da'at 1, as well as the statement in Messilat Yesharim (Ch. 1) that "we were created to delight in G-d and enjoy the radiance of His Divine presence".

Also see Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's only Hebrew-language work, Moreh Ohr, in which he cites other classical sources for this idea, including the declaration in Birkat Hamazon that "You (G-d) are good and beneficent to all", as well as the verses that read "O consider and see that G-d is good" (Psalms 34:9), "give thanks to G-d, for He is good" (106:1), "You (G-d) are good, and do good" (119:68), and "G-d is good to all" (145:9). He also cites Emunot v'Deot 3 (at beginning), Shiur Komah, "Torah" (13); Shelah, "Beit Yisrael"; Pardes, "Seder Atzilut" 4; and Reishit Chochma, Teshuvah 1 as other sources.

And see Arimat Yadi (Ginzei Ramchal p. 226) about the fact that G-d is certainly not beholden to this principle (since His being beholden to anything diminishes His sovereignty), it's just that this is one option among an infinite number of them available to Him and He elected to "subjugate" Himself to it for His own ends.

(c) 2007 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman's translation of "The Gates of Repentance" has been reissued at *at a discount*!
You can order it right now from here
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has also translated and commented upon "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason Aronson Publishers). His new work on Maimonides' "The Eight Chapters" will soon be available.
Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes on www.torah.org entitled
"Spiritual Excellence" and "Ramchal"