Category Archives: Archives 5770

Elul 5770 – Is Everything That Happens Hashgacha Pratis?

Elul 5770
Is everything that happens Hashgacha Pratis?

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky,
I just got accepted to be the head counselor at a prestigious camp. Is that considered Hashgacha Pratis? Is EVERYTHING that happens in life Hashgacha Pratis? How does it really all work?

Thank you,
name withheld

Dear Friend,

There are a number of ways of viewing Hashem’s involvement in the world.

Let’s begin by saying that although Hashem can do anything, He chooses to play by certain rules in the world. So for example, Rebbi Akiva was asked “How can Hashem make it rain on Shabbos, isn’t that considered carrying according to the Torah?” He didn’t respond “Don’t be ridiculous, Hashem can do whatever He wants!” So it is clear that Hashem chooses to be bound by the laws of the Torah in this world. I say this introduction because when someone says Hashem can or can’t, they are speaking according to the rules that Hashem has chosen to run the world.

The Sefer HaChinuch is usually viewed as the normative approach. He explains that Hashem runs the world with hashgacha klalis for most things. For example, the leaves will fall off the trees in autumn (deciduous trees in certain climates, of course). Now which leaf will fall first and which one second is not under Divine control. The trees are pre-programmed and Hashem does not dictate which leaf gets to live longer.

This principle applies to Non-Jews as well. There are forces that have been built into nature and they control the world. So if there is a traffic jam, and a hundred Non-Jews get home late, that is just the way the world works.

When it comes to Jews however, Hashem is more of a micro-manager. Jews are subject to hashgacha pratis. Every detail of their lives are subject to HaKadosh Boruch Hu’s personal supervision.

There are other views on either side of the spectrum. The oft quoted Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh says in regard to Yosef that he was saved from the snakes and scorpions in the pit because he was a tzaddik. Otherwise he would be subject to Hashgacha klalis and would have been killed b’derech hateva. This is the text cited by the minimalists.

However, I heard from Reb Moshe Shapiro shlit”a that this view isn’t as simple as it seems. Anyone can receive hashgacha pratis. However Hashem works with the world midda kinegged midda. If you want to live in a world of teva, you will. However if you choose to live in a world of hashgacha pratis, then even according to the view of the Ohr HaChaim, you can. This is because of the relationship between hashgacha and bitachon, which iy”H we will speak about next month.

In Chassidic thought, they tend to the other extreme. Based on the Chazal that every blade of grass has a malach supervising it, they maintain that hashgacha pratis applies to everything – even which leaf will fall first.

So I would say it’s a safe bet that it was hashgacha pratis that you got the job. The harder question is why? But luckily for me, that wasn’t your question…

Have a good month!

Dovid Orlofsky

Tammuz 5770 – Learning About Evolution

1 Tammuz 5770
Evolution: Am I allowed to learn about evolution so that I can better answer questions which come up in Kiruv?

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky,
I am involved in a lot of kiruv – and find that discussions about evolution come up quite often. Am I aloud to study about evolution in depth – so I can be knowledgeable about it – and be able to explain the Torah ideas in contrast to it?

Thank you,
name withheld
Michlalah 06-07

The gemera in Sanhedrin discusses teaching about avoda zara so a person will know how to avoid it. When my son was little he told me he had a question – but he was afraid to ask it because maybe it is kefira. I said, “How will you know if you don’t ask!”

There is a value in Da ma lahashiv. The problem is knowing how to study the material without getting sucked into it. I have a Rabbi friend who was asked to read a book of kefira to give his reaction. He found the experience overwhelming – he didn’t know how to respond. I told him that was because he approached it uncritically – you assume that everyone will present their material honestly. Unfortunately, it is often not the case.

Many times students have confided that they write papers in university to reflect the views of the professors so they will get a better grade. When people teach their material in order to intimidate students into accepting their views, there is little room for intellectual honesty.

Evolution is a prime example. When someone questions evolution based on the scientific data they are subjected to abuse and name calling. It has become a religion among many academics – accepted on faith and beyond question.

So by all means, study it. But keep up your guard and critical analysis, because many of the problems with the theory (and it is after all only a theory) are amazing.
Hatzlacha in your efforts for Klal Yisroel!

All the best,
Dovid Orlofsky