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Derech HaShem: 1.1 Belief in and about G-d

The Ramchal begins by making six points of belief that are vital to an understanding of G-d and the entire system:

  1. G-d exists; His existence precedes all and is eternal.
  2. We can never really know G-d Himself; that knowledge is beyond the capability of a created being.
  3. G-d exists perforce.  That is, the whole concept of existence only has meaning within the context of G-d.  In a sense, He precedes even existence itself.
  4. G-d does not depend on anything else, but everything else depends on Him.  He brings into being and constantly sustains everything.
  5. G-d is absolutely without parts or division.  When we speak of G-d's attributes (His knowledge, His mercy, His kindness), those are completely our perception and not something intrinsic to Him.  From G-d's point of view (so to speak), they are all one: Him.
  6. G-d is unique and cannot not even be described in terms of anything besides G-d Himself.
The importance and implications of (6) are discussed at some length in Da'as T'vunos.

Note I am using the term "G-d" (instead of HaShem, for example) to stress the point that anything that we can name (HaShem, Sha-kai, kel, etc) is itself a creation; it is a guise via which G-d chooses to interact with His creation, but not at all His true essence.  That is, each name we use is referring to a particular way in which G-d interacts with the world.  Some names can actually even be used to bring about "supernatural" effects, as the Ramchal discusses later (not "outside of the whole system", but "outside of teva/nature").  His true essence, however, is completely inaccessible to us.  We refer to that in shmone esrei at the end of modim when we say, "hatov shimcha, u'l'cha na'eh l'hodos" -- "Your name (ie, the way You present yourself in all of its guises) is good, and to You (ie, the unnameable and unfathomable true essence which is You) is appropriate to acknowledge/thank"  With that clarity, we'll stop ever asking "why did G-d do such and such" (because that is impossible for us to know); rather we will ask, "what am I to learn from the fact that G-d chose to do such and such".
Second, we know these things via nevua and mesora, but can be logically derived (according to the Ramchal).  We see here (again) the importance of nevua.  In this case, however, the mesora gives us the strength of conviction to know and stand behind (and up to) these ideas even when I can't derive them logically.  It is something like the belief in atoms.  I have (of course) never seen an atom (because they cannot actually be seen) and I may not even know the evidence or proof them their existence.  However, I have confidence in their existence because I know that the truth of their existence has been examined in a public forum and reviewed by experts in the field.  Here too (in fact even more so), I have no second thoughts about the veracity and importance of these idea.

Finally, we see from (4) that Orthodox/Torah Judaism is not really a religion.  Judaism are not about inspiration, or how spirituality fits into your life, or why bad things happen to good people.  Rather it is an all encompassing knowledge and understanding of all reality.  You can't really ask if questions like, "Is G-d good" because there is no external scale of "good/bad" by which to judge  or even measure Him.  He simply "is", and everything else -- us, good/evil, Coca-Cola -- is nothing but and expression of His will.  The Torah is the blueprint for creation and HaShem has not only allowed us but actually invited us to participate in His magnum opus: Reality.

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