Sunday, September 09, 2007

Petach 2 (Part 2)

Klach Pitchei Chochma -- 138 Openings to Wisdom

By Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto

as adapted by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Petach Two (Part 2)


Ramchal first discusses the idea of wrongdoers having to suffer (even justifiably).

He revealed elsewhere that G-d wants everyone to enjoy His benevolence in full [2] and that He takes no pleasure in punishment and retribution. For as He Himself put it, “As surely as I live … I take no pleasure in the death of the wrongful, but rather (in the fact) that they turn from their ways and live. (So,) Turn! Turn from your wrongful ways!” (Ezekiel 33:11).

But there are indeed wrongdoers in the world and acts of injustice, and G-d “contends with everyone in accordance with his nature”. That’s to say that G-d doesn’t ignore wrongdoing and look the other way (see Baba Kamma50A) anymore than He closes His eyes to good and righteousness [3], which is only fair. And so, the wrongful are indeed disciplined when that’s called for, though their subsequent anguish seems to contradict G-d’s beneficence.

The point is that they’re not punished for punishment’s sake: only “in order (for them) to be forgiven afterwards” as a consequence of their having been refined in the process. For “punishment” isn’t that in fact so much as “decontamination”, if you will. And so “in the end … everyone -- be he righteous or (initially) wrongful -- will profit from G-d’s beneficence”.

The other point to be made is that G-d saw to it that “just as (punishment) will not go on forever in each individual case” -- since we’re purified here in life, through trials and tribulations, and in the afterlife, and once someone is purified he’s left in full favor in G-d’s eyes once again -- punishment will likewise not “go on forever for the world at large”. For wrong will cleansed from the universe en toto in the end [4]. Hence, G-d will indeed prove to be utterly and absolutely beneficent.

In any event, the point remains that wrong and wrongdoers do exist indeed, and they’re contended with by G-d, but that’s not the be-all and end-all of wrong. For it serves a role in the universe (in fact a vital one at that, as we’ll see [5]), and it will eventually be undone, since “nothing but (manifestations of) G-d’s goodness will endure” in the end.


[2] See Ma’amar HaIkkurim, “Gan Eden”; Derech Hashem 2:2.

[3] See Messilat Yesharim Ch. 4 (nears the end).

[4] See Da’at Tevunot 66-75 and Derech Hashem 1:3.

[5] We’ll learn later on that rather than being a force in open contradiction to G-d’s beneficence and sovereignty, wrongfulness will actually affirm it.

(c) 2007 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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