Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hashgacha Pratit vs. Bechira Chafshit

It seems to me that there are two main approaches when it comes to Hashem’s involvement in our lives and from each one has pros and cons. Note: I do not know the exact sources for these approaches, they are just what I have learned, unfortnately I do not remember from where from where. Let’s take a simple example situation to explain the two approaches: Reuven hits Shimon. How involved was Hashem in this action?

Approach #1 would say the following: Gam Zu L’Tova. Everything is good. Shimon deserved to be hit, and Reuven was just the messenger. If Reuven had not hit Shimon, someone else would have done the job. Hashem wanted Shimon to be punished for whatever bad deed it was that he did, so He actively intervened and made sure it happened. Therefore it was good for Shimon to suffer in this world so he would not have to suffer in the next world. (There are a lot of sources for this approach, the most recent place I read about it was an excellent book that I highly recomment called “The Garden of Emunah” by Rabbi Shlomo Arush.)

Approach #2 would say the following: It was a bad thing that Reuven hit Shimon. Shimon was innocent and did NOT deserved to be hit. The reason he was hit is because Hashem allows for there to be Bechira/free will in the world. Hashem did not want Shimon to be hit, but He in some sense removed himself and was passive, allowing Shimon to be hit, in order for humans to have free will.

Here’s my problem with approach #1: How can you possibly say that something that is bad is good? It might be OK in a small, simple example like the one mentioned above, but what about when it comes to something like the Holocaust or a tsunami or earthquake. How can you say that this is a good thing? A person dying is not a good thing. How can you say that Hashem wanted millions of Jews to suffer in the Holocaust?

Here’s my even bigger problem with approach #2: How can you say that something happened that Hashem does not want to happen? If Hashem didn’t want it to happen, it wouldn’t happen! He is G-d, He is omnipotent. Additionally, how is that fair to poor Shimon? Shimon was hurt all for the higher cause of allowing for free will? This is saying that Shimon did not deserve to be hit, but Hashem allowed it to happen. That bothers me greatly.

This is an important issue to resolve because we need to know how to react to things that happen in our lives. Someone insults you. Was this Hashem sending you a message or does it have no meaning at all because Hashem has taken a step back to allow for bechira?

Where do we go from here? Where is Hashem in all of this? Is he actively involved in bad things or is He passively allowing bad things to happen?

I don’t know if any sources say this (if you know of one, please let me know!), but what I believe is closer to approach number one. Certainly, Reuven hitting Shimon was a bad thing; you can’t say it was good. But it has a purpose. For some reason Shimon needed to be hit, although we will probably never know the reason. The earthquake in Haiti was horrible. Hashem is actively involved in our lives and in causing things to happen to us. Whatever happens to us in our lives is directly from Hashem and He wants it to happen. It’s not always good, but it has a purpose. I think that’s what Gam Zu L’Tova means. Not that it was good, but FOR the ultimate good. Looking at things on a case by case basis, Hashem does things that are bad, but they have a purpose and that purpose is the ultimate good.

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