Friday, September 18, 2009

Da’at Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart

Da’at Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart
Section 2, Chapter 10

Let’s begin to delve at last into the main points of this section of Da’at Tevunot: the resurrection of the dead and the World to Come as we follow the sure stream of human progress in the process [1].

The first thing to know is that all of that will only come about in the process of great stretches of time -- ten millennia, the Tradition offers -- and as a result of great and mysterious, mystical machinations involving our bodies and souls, G-d’s ever more manifest presence, and the makeup of the universe at large [2].

Let’s start at the end, though -- when the universe will have reached its ultimate goal, when G-d’s presence will be palpable, and when both body and soul will have attained their full potential. This will all occur in the last of five stages, which corresponds to the World to Come [3].

At that ultimate point, the soul will “return to its source” after having “soared upward as a result of her accomplishments”, as it was designed to do from the first. Body and soul will be as one then, but the soul will be decidedly dominant while the body will hardly have a presence.

That’s to say that while the b ody will certainly be there in the mix, it will “be almost non-existent, and will be utterly and wholly subservient to the soul” then. In fact, Ramchal states, “it couldn’t even be referred to by a name” since it would have so faint a presence, and it could “only be said to exist” and to “have no (other) effect” than that.


As the Tradition explains it, reality as it stands now will only last for 6,000 years, after which all will be undone then redone by G-d in the course of the seventh millennium (Sanhedrin 97b), when the “righteous will fly about over the surface of the waters” with the wings that G-d would have granted them (Ibid. 92a), in fulfillment of the verse that reads, “those who hope in the L-rd will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31).

Hence, there will prove to be three epochs of time: present reality, the seventh millennium, and the epoch of utter renewal (which will encompass the recondite eight, ninth, and tenth millennia [4]).

That all would have been preceded of course by what we’d term “foretime”, the era prior to the creation of reality as we know it and of all of mortal reality. But that doesn’t factor into the subject at hand whatsoever, so Ramchal doesn’t touch on it here (though he expands upon it greatly in his Kabbalistic works, as most Kabbalists did).


Ramchal then explains that in terms of G-d’s aforementioned hiddenness and revelation. Since “the whole issue of the dominance of the body” is a consequence of G-d withholding His light (i.e., His presence), which defines reality as we know it now, it follows then that in the end -- when G-d’s presence will be fully manifest and the soul will be in full bloom -- the body will be powerless and of no real consequence.

It’s important to underscore that that’s not at all to say that the body won’t exist then, since as we’d indicated before both body and soul will ultimately be rewarded for their efforts. It’s simply that the body will no longer have no consequence, no effect, will exercise no push and pull, and it will enjoy no significance; instead, it will be utterly deferential to the soul to which it will cling for dear life and purpose, and to which it will be wholly subsumed [5].

We’ll explain the preceding epochs of time next.


[1] We’d need to retrace our steps up to now in this second section of this work to explain where we’re going.

We first set out to discuss “the fact that we’re comprised of two utterly antithetical, seemingly irreconcilable elements: rank physicality and sublime spirituality” (2:1:2), and we began by delving into “the partnership of body-and-soul that we are”, in order to “see how our two parts collaborate” (2:5:1). We explored the relationship of G-d’s hidden and revealed aspects in this world to our body and soul (2:5:3, 2:6:1, 2:8:3), then we side-tracked to discuss the realm in which body and soul interact, the face (Ch. 2:9). We’ll now begin the process of “marking off the various depths to which body and soul can cling to each other in the course of time” ( 2:8:1) and go on from there to discuss human (and post-human) progress.

[2] Understand of course that the term “millennium” isn’t to be taken literally, as time will no longer figure in once the world approaches the tenth “millennium” and beyond.

[3] See R’ Shriki’s note 56 (also see there and notes 57-58 for his Kabbalistic references as well). See his note 57 where R’ Shriki’s cites from Klallim Rishonim 9 which alludes to an eventual near-erasure of all traces of the body. Also see20R’ Friedlander’s Iyyun 21.

[4] In short, the seventh millennium: Messianic Era; the eighth and ninth millennia: post Messianic, involving the resurrection of the dead, the Day of Judgment; and the tenth millennium: the World to Come.

See R’ Shriki’s note 59 where he cites the chronology based on Sanhedrin 97a, Klallim Rishonim 9, and Ma’amar HaIkkurim. (But see R’ Friedlander’s note 186 where he says that the resurrection of the dead will occur before the beginning of the seve nth millennium. Also see his iyyun 23 which lays out the chronology otherwise.)

[5] As we indicated in note 3 to 2:2 above, “the ‘body’ in this context includes one's mind, personality, memories, and the like -- not just one's rank physicality”. The implication then is that there’ll come a time when one’s own mind (or consciousness), personality, and memories -- one’s whole sense of self -- will be in a state of semi-sleep and near extinction, for all intents and purposes. There would likely be a sense of self-consciousness, but it would seemingly be so still and passive as to hardly matter.

Perhaps -- and this is all conjecture -- it would be analogous to the feeling one has when reacting rapturously to music or lofty thought, when the sounds or ideas overtake one’s being and sense of self, and when the body certainly goes on its physiological way, the senses still work, and the brain still accepts signals, but when the person wouldn’t respond if his or her name was being called, and would only return to normal consciousness after some prodding, and after he or she would have to blink a lot and catch a breath before being able to go on. The point to remember, though, is that the immortal soul, which far transcends all this, will go on as always, and will be unaffected by any of it.

Ramchal, Copyright &copy 2009 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and