Right and Wrong (finale)

As we’d pointed out a few paragraphs back, Ramchal contends that one of the major factors of the God Yichud is the detail that all bad will revert to goodness once His Yichud is revealed; we’ll end this section with a discussion of that.

As Ramchal words it here, “in the end all harm will be rectified and all wrong will revert to actual goodness. And God’s Yichud will thus be revealed” (Petach 4) [1]. For in fact, “wrongfulness reverting to goodness is itself the mystery of the complete (revelation of God’s) Yichud” (comments to Petach 4).

But the idea of all wrong reverting to goodness seems highly problematic to say the least; for one thing, because Ramchal seems to say something else at other points. He indicates a number of times that wrong will eventually be undone after having been defeated by goodness, both in every individual’s lifetime and in the course of human history [2], which is far less radical and much more consistent with the prevailing view. But that’s clearly not his contention here in Klach.

The notion that all wrong will revert to goodness is also challenging because it seems to imply that everyone will “get off scot-free” in the end, if you will [3]; or that the breakdown of right versus wrong will ultimately prove to be meaningless or useless. So let’s see how Ramchal addresses those issues.

One point to be made is that wrongdoers will not “get away with murder” whatsoever, as the expression goes, in that “everything will (eventually) be utterly perfected and rectified … either through repentance or retribution” (commentary to Petach 1), and thus fairly and deservedly rather than arbitrarily [4]. And each person will indeed be made to answer for his or her deeds [5].

Why then did God create evil in the first place if it’s only going to be destroyed in the end? Because God’s ultimate “goal wouldn’t be reached otherwise” (commentary to Petach 2). For wrong will prove to have functioned as a “straw man” if you will, who seems to thwart God’s wishes. Once it is done away with, though, it will be clear that “whatever we perceive as ostensibly thwarting His will only does so because He permitted it to” (commentary to Petach 1).

As such, wrong was created to be destroyed, and God’s having done that was comparable to someone “breaking (something) so as to fix (it later on)” (commentary to Petach 4), meaning to say on purpose and for a constructive end. And as a consequence, “whatever is initially wrongful (by all appearances) … will undoubtedly (prove to be) good in the end (Petach 2), and “and it will (thus) be realized and clear in retrospect that there is only one Ruler” (commentary to Petach 2) [6].

This completes “On the Revelation of God’s Yichud and His Beneficence”. Ramchal provides us with this fine encapsulation of it:

Several things are involved here. First, God’s Yichud will actually be revealed. Since this involves having evil revert back to goodness, that couldn’t actually come about until evil was actualized in the lower realms. Secondly, the revelation of God’s Yichud will be so precious that (those who experience it) will enjoy great delight when they attain it. Thirdly, since this revelation involves an initial concealment, that fact allows a place for (our Divine) service (in life) and it allows for reward when it’s experienced…. But as soon as God’s Yichud will be revealed, there will no longer be a need for (our Divine) service” (comments to Petach 4) [7].

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Notes:

[1]       See the statement that all “wrong was created to be undone (in the end)” Da’at Tevunot 124. Also see Ginzei Ramchal p. 247.

[2]       See for example Iggerot Ramchal 4, 14, 23; Klallim Rishonim pp. 294-295; Ma’amar HaGeulah, and elsewhere. See Y. Avivi’s analysis on pp. 98-100 of Zohar Ramchal with examples offered, as well as his argument there (as well as on pp. 206-208, 289) that Ramchal’s views evolved over time to the one expressed here. But see R’ Shriki’s arguments against that chronology in Rechev Yisrael p. 180 note 53*. Also see R’ Friedlander’s statement at the end of the first paragraph on p. 36 (English pagination) in his edition of Klach.

But one need only read the following statement by Ramchal to understand his intentions: “The left (side; i.e., the side of wrong) will (first) be subdued by the right (side; i.e., the side of goodness) when good will dominate, and (then) wrong will revert to goodness” (Sod HaYichud in Ginzei Ramchal p. 264). Also see the discussion near the end of BT Yoma (86b) to the affect that one’s sins will be turned to merits rather than just atoned for when he repents out of a true love of God, which will presumably be true of all of humankind when God’s Yichud will become manifest.

[3]       As Ramchal puts it here, “In the end, all people, whether righteous or wrongful, will enjoy (God’s) largess” (commentary to Petach 2).

[4]       See Derech Hashem 2:3:5, 9; Messilat Yesharim Ch. 5; and R’ Friedlander’s note 461, on p. 187 of his edition of Da’at Tevunot.

[5]       After indicating that “all people, whether righteous or wrongful, will enjoy (God’s) largess” as we cited in our note above Ramchal then indicated there that “however, God has to deal with each individual according to his ways” (commentary to Petach 2). His point there is to not only underscore Divine Justice but to also indicate how that too helps explain God’s Yichud. For as he goes on there to say, “for (while) it’s necessary to punish the wrongful, (that’s only) in order to exonerate them afterwards. (After all,) if His intention was to reject the wrongful, they should actually be destroyed rather than be punished so as to be purified later on. The fact that they are punished to benefit them later is clear proof that His will is only for good” (commentary to Petach 2).

[6]       See Ramchal’s comments to Petach 49 on p. 180.

Also see R’ Shriki’s thorough treatment of the matter on pp. 168-180 of his edition of Da’at Tevunot, and on pp. 229-281 in Rechev Yisrael

We contend, though, that at bottom Ramchal’s point is that given that God Himself is goodness itself (see Derech Hashem 1:2 and Klach 30 p. 101, and the statement that “there’s no wrong either in ‘The Beginning’ or ‘The End’, as everything is good (i.e. God) then” [Sod HaYichud in Ginzei Ramchal p. 264]), it thus follows that when wrongfulness is undone, reality as we know it will implode upon itself as well (see our note 2 to this section), and “all wrong will revert to actual goodness” (Petach 4), i.e., Godliness.

[7]       Also see Adir Bamarom p. 393.

(c) 2010 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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