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