Ralbag’s Opinion on Hashem’s Knowledge of the Future

Ralbag’s Opinion on Hashem’s Knowledge of the Future

Wednesday, January 19th, '11

From: “—–, Jacob” <—–@rkco.com>

To: “rabbishapiro@yahoo.com” <rabbishapiro@yahoo.com>
Sent: Wed, December 29, 2010 4:29:34 PM
Subject: Shiur on derech Hashem

Dear Reb Yaakov,

I  really enjoy listening to your shiur on Derech Hashem found on Teachittome.com website. I was listening to the second shiur and you mentioned the machlokas of the Ralbag and Rambam on how Hashem recreates the world every day. I was subsequently reminded of the Ralbag’s position onYideas Hashem, which I believe he holds that Hashem chooses not to know what one will choose to do thus eliminating the problem of “how can we have bechera if Hashem’s fore knowledge is the cause of all thing. Can you explain this position as an obvious difficulty arises, if I’m understanding theRalbag’s position correctly: How can something exist if Hashem does not know about it, given that Hashem “resides beyond time” and his knowledge is the reason for all existence  how can there possibly be something “out” of Hashem’s knowledge- it can’t possibly exist?

Looking forward to hearing the rest of your shiurim,

Jacob ——-



Re: Shiur on derech Hashem
Rabbi Shapiro <rabbishapiro@yahoo.com> 

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To: “——-, Jacob” <——@rkco.com> 

Sholom Aleichem Jacob,

About Hashem “blocking” His knowledge of the future, I think you’re thinking of the Raavad in Emunah Haramah, or a certain Ohr HaChaim that some people think that’s what he means but he really doesn’t. The Ralbag says (Milchamos Hashem 3:3) that Hashem cannot know the future, but He can infallibly calculate the effects of any and all given causes, and since everything that will ever happen is dependent on causes, He can know the future in this way. But an exception would be human choice. Since a human has free will to defy the things that have an effect on his choices (upbringing, mood, personality, influence of the stars etc), an ability given only to humans, therefore, Hashem cannot know what they will ultimately choose, since He cannot rely on the causes to determine that.

Now you have 2 good questions: (a) If Hashem is lemmalah min hazeman why would the fact that a choice is in the future be an impediment to Him knowing it? If He can know the present, He can also know the future, since the only difference between present and future is time, and Hashem is immune to time? and (b) since the whole universe is only the Ratzon Hashem, that would include people’s choices as well, so how can those choices exist as the ratzon hashem without Hashem knowing His own Ratzon??

Let’s take the first question first. To my understanding, the reason why the Ralbag holds that Hashem cannot look into the future is because the future does not exist, not even “in the future.” . It’s not that if I will perform a certain act tomorrow, that means today that act exists “in the future.” No. It means that act does not exist at all. Anywhere. Only past and present exist, not  the future. When the future becomes the present, meaning, tomorrow, when I actually do that act, then it exists. Before that, it is non-existent. There is no “place” to see what happens “in the future” because nothing really happens “in the future”. When they happen, then they happen in the present. But the “future”, as a place to “look” to determine what will happen tomorrow, is a myth. Tomorrow does not exist. Only today and yesterday. Therefore, Hashem cannot simply look into the future to see what will happen, since there is nowhere for Him to look. It doesn;t exist. It’s like saying “if theoretically I would have had a sibling born 10 years ago, would it have been a boy or a girl?” The question is absurd, and you cant expect even Hashem to know the answer because there is no answer, since in fact no sibling was born. So too asking Hashem what will happen in the future is equally absurd, since the future too is not reality.

Unless. Unless someone can figure out based on what exists now, all the causes and circumstances that exist today, what the future will be – to predict flawlessly if the stock market will g up or down, for example, not because you look into the future but because you know the present, and the effects it will have later on. That, Hashem can do even according to the Ralbag. And that means Hashem knows everything in the future because it will all depend on prior causes, EXCEPT human bechirah, which gives a person the ability to defy all causes.

So how can Hashem know what a person will choose?

Being lemaalah min hazman according to the Ralbag means that time does not affect Hashem. So when Hashem “does” something, what He will do, did do and does all happens “at once”. But He subjected humans to time, which means not that time is limitation of human vision that they can only see past and present, but rather, it means that when humans do things, they do not happen all at once, but rather when one thing happens, the next thing that will happen does not yet exist anywhere. The actions of humans actually exist one at a time, as opposed to existing all at once but being unable to be perceived.

We think of time as a spreadsheet, where each cell represents a point in time. We look at being lemaalah min hazman like being able to see all the cells at once, whereas someone subject to time can only see one cell at a time. The Ralbag learns differently. he holds that the cells only get filled one at a time, the future cells are never flled until they become the present. So there is no cell to look at where you can see what will happen in the future.

As far as Hashem’s will being the world, the Ralbag will hold that Hashem’s will, where human choice is concerned, Hashem’s will is contingent. meaning, it is designed like a giant If-Then-Else statement, where He leaves it to the human, who is endowed with a chelek elokah mimaal that enables him to choose freely. But it is not a contradiction to the ratzon hashem because the ratzon hashem said that He wants it possible for a person to choose either way.

Now one more important thing. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that the Ralbag will hold that Hashem really does know everything in the future, including human choices, and what he wrote in Milchemes Hashem does not contradict that — as follows:

The Rambam answers the question of yediah and bechirah simply by saying that knowledge is indeed a contradiction to free will, but Hashem has no knowledge. Knowledge is a human trait, like eyes and teeth. Hashem doesnt need knowledge, because He is not ignorant of anything even without knowledge. He “knows” but not with “knowledge.” I explained this on my tapes. Now the Ralbag disagrees with this, in milchamos hashem above, and he says that Hashem in fact does have knowledge, but the ultimate knowledge, way above that of humans, but knowledge nonetheless, which would preclude free choice if it extended to knowledge of future choices.

OK. But none of the problems the Ralbag has with the idea of Hashem having “non-ignorance” as opposed to “knowledge” negate the idea of non-ignorance per se. They merely say that we cannot say Hashem has no “knowledge”. So really,  Ralbag could hold that Hashem in fact does have the non-ignorance that the Rambam mentions, but He also has “knowledge.” And since He has knowledge also, that knowledge would negate bechirah, which is why he said Hashem’s knowledge does not include the future. But the Ralbag could very well hold that Hashem in fact knows the future the way the Rambam says He does, which everyone agrees would not negate Bechiah. The Ralbag just holds that we must also attribute to Hashem “knowledge” as well as “non-ignorance.”

If so, even according to the Ralbag, Hashem would be “non ignorant” of the future, including human choices, and merely “knowledgeable” of the past and present. The Rambam holds Hashem is “knowledgeable” of nothing, and his information is all due to “non-ignorance.”

Just a theory.

Hope this helps.




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