Judaism Above the Clouds – Divine Providence

By Leibel Estrin

 

Since G-d is the sole force vitalizing our reality; everything that exists or occurs reflects G-dly intent. There is no such thing as a “chance” or “coincidence.” Even a blade of grass waving in the wind expresses G-d’s intention at that moment.

The expression of G-d in the world is called Divine Providence or Hashgocha Protis. It is behind every act, no matter how small or how large.

Since G-d, by definition, is the Essence of Good (and every other attribute), everything G-d expresses that goodness.

How can we understand Divine Providence in a world that appears to be chaotic, if not at times, psychotic?

There are two ways to answer this: from our view and from G-d’s.

Imagine that you are looking at the back of a needlepoint landscape. From this perspective, all you see is a collection of threads of various colors. Everything looks random. Then you turn the needlepoint around. Now you see how everything fits. Each stitch serves a purpose. If there was a stitch missing, the entire effect would be lacking.

Now let’s flip the painting to the back. If you look closely, you may be able to make out a pattern and maybe a form. You might even be able to see relationships that were hidden.

Similarly, G-d “views” the picture as it is in the totality of existence. We mentioned before that every event and occurrence reflects G-d’s intent. Furthermore, G-d’s intent expresses itself in all three dimensions of our existence: time, space, and soul.

Yet there have been obvious occurrences throughout history that do not appear to be “good” by any definition we can imagine.

There have been individual tragedies, national tragedies, events that defy any attempt to understand them. All things are true from our perspective. Furthermore, any attempt to understand someone’s suffering, G-d forbid, ends up as either a rationalization or justification. The fact is, we cannot justify another’s suffering, nor should we. Instead, we must do everything in our power to alleviate it.

If see someone suffering, we must cry out and ask for Hashem’s mercy, help the person in any way we can, and do acts of kindness and goodness on the person’s behalf.

If, G-d forbid, we are in physical or emotional pain, we must look inside and try to learn something from the situation. Perhaps we are being given a challenge to overcome or perhaps G-d is helping us to correct some blemish that may have occurred either in this lifetime or another.

Whatever the cause, our response must be to plead for G-d’s tender mercies, to improve our behavior, to increase in acts of goodness and kindness, and seek out the advice of a sage who relates to us and, therefore, can advise us properly.

The bottom line is that a creation cannot know its Creator, as the prophet Isaiah (55:8) relates, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the L-RD.

We must learn about Judaism and G-d to the point where we are certain that the Divine Plan represents the ultimate Good for everyone and everything involved, no matter how it may seem at the moment.

For example, a stranger walks into an operating theater and sees a masked gang “attacking” a person using sharp knives in calculating ways. He is profoundly disturbed and leaves the theater looking for someone to rescue the unfortunate fellow.

Five minutes later, a medical resident walks into the theater, sees virtually the same situation, and comes to a completely different conclusion. The resident may not understand what the surgical team is doing. Nevertheless, he knows that the lead surgeon has the patient’s best interests, if not his very survival, at heart.

If you find looking at things from the perspective of Above to below challenging, you are not alone. The Talmud records that once, Rabbi Joshua ben Levi joined Elijah the Prophet on his journeys. The two men visited the home of an elderly husband and wife who had an old milk cow. Poor as they were, the couple shared what they had with their guests.

Later, Elijah the Prophet and Rabbi Joshua ben Levi rose to leave. However before departing, Elijah the Prophet prayed to   G-d and the cow died. Rabbi Joshua ben Levi was incensed. “Why,” he questioned, “did the couple have to lose their only source of milk?” He demanded an explanation and received this answer: the time had come for the wife to pass away. Through his prayer, Elijah the Prophet interceded and death was decreed upon the cow, instead.

From the perspective of Heaven, the couple had sustained the lives of others, so their lives were sustained. They were rewarded measure for measure. From the perspective of our world below, however, it appears that their good deed was ignored and they suffered the loss of their cow.

In fact, the Talmud records dozens of instances in which the righteous have questioned the ways of G-d. Ultimately, they realized that our perspective is limited by time and our view of reality. G-d, however, is above time and beyond our understanding. You can be sure that:

a) G-d is good.

b) G-d is aware of every act or deed that a person performs.

c) Whether in this life or the next, every deed will be counted.

d) With the revelation of Moshiach, we will come to recognize the Divine Spirit that exists behind every event.

 

An excerpt from the book “Judaism From Above The Clouds.”

Leibel Estrin has been writing about Jewish topics for four decades. He is working as a Jewish chaplain for the Aleph Institute. Leibel has recently published a work on Jewish perspectives and values entitled “Judaism From Above The Clouds.” To read more of Leibel’s writings and to purchase his book click here

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