Did God do it?
Steve: Hope all is well. This question is really a continuation of a question I asked a while back regarding "Duties of the Heart." and bitochan...it concerns hashgacha (God's Providence). Maybe my confusion regarding this area has to do with my definition of hashgacha Klalyos (nature) and hashgacha Pratyos (an individual's Providence). It is my understanding of the Rambam, that hashgacha Pratyos is dependent on the level of the person: the higher the level, the greater the extension of hashgacha Pratyos. Conversely, one who is not on a certain level, God may determine that he/she is not under hashgacha Pratyos (or could be and not be at varying times).
If my understanding on the above is correct, then this is where my confusion comes in.
Here's a perfect example of my non-clarity. Yesterday, I was listening to a lecture on Tefilla, Rabbi Chait has given. In it he says, that the first two brachot of shemoneh esrei deal with God and his relationship with the Avot (the mention of the avot means Gods hashgacha). My understanding from the lecture is that one of the benefits of tefilla is that it brings the person back to a rational state of mind, where he realizes that he must ask God that certain chance factors go his/her way so that they will have success. Because the shemoneh esrei, reiterates the proper perspective, that without hashgacha man could have no success....is that correct?
If the above is correct, then this is my confusion. Because the Rambam states that not everyone is under hashgacha Pratyos, in fact, very few people are, so actually, with that thinking, the tzaddik, who is under hashgacha Pratyos, is rational to rely on God and have bitochon, and should take no credit for his successes, but the lesser person, who may or may not be under hashgacha Pratyos, may be rational in taking pride in his successes, and it is irrational to have bitochon and rely on God, since I am not under hashgacha Pratyos. (I do know this cannot be correct, but am I making it clear why I am confused?)
Now, as I said in the beginning, maybe I am unclear of what is meant by hashgacha Klalyos and hashgacha Pratyos and that is the root of the issue. I think it is safe to say that God is aware of every action/thought of man (that is spoken of frequently in the liturgy) even the non-tzaddik, and God may produce meetings, circumstances, and things we may call "chance" factors--is this correct? Is this hashgacha Klalyos? This awareness and involvement in the life of man? If so, am I thinking correctly to assume that hashgacha Pratyos is really a kind of "protection" that God extends, not necessarily awareness/involvement. So if I am in the wrong place at the wrong time, then God, if He chooses, can extend hashgacha Pratyos and "protect" me, or He may choose not to extend hashgacha Pratyos, and I will face the natural consequences.
I realize that this is not very cogent, but I am hoping that I was clear enough for you to spot my dilemma.
Rabbi: Hashgacha Pratyos refers to Divine intervention, either the suspension of natural law (Noah's Flood), or the introduction of factors which nature would not have introduced, like boulders falling from the sky on the Jew's enemies in Joshua's time.
One not under Hashgacha Pratyos is not necessarily correct to take credit for his success since many factors outside of his own actions contribute to his success, as Rabbi Chait taught. Conversely, this very person may also suffer from Tsunamis since he has no protection...or he may escape, by chance.
God's orchestration of meetings, circumstances, and things we may call "chance" is not Hashgacha Klalyos (nature), but Hashgacha Pratyos, since He is altering what would have occurred, for the benefit of this high-level person.
Steve: I am still confused. The Rabbi's purpose for creating tefilla was not only for a tzaddik, correct?
Steve: If what Rabbi Chait is saying that one of the purposes of tefilla is to bring man back a rational state, in which he realizes that his successes are not due to him, but due to hashgacha, and we are asking God to make chance factors go our way, then I think you are saying that if God involves himself and initiates these chance factors to "go our way," then we are under Hashgacha Pratyos.
Steve: But what if we are not on the level to receive/be under Hashgacha Pratyos, then how can we have bitochon or trust in God? That seems irrational. It seems that we could be totally on our own against the forces of nature, and if we succeed, then it has to do with our actions and maybe the laws of nature...but not God's intervention or help (or maybe, since we have no way of knowing).
Rabbi: We never know for sure of God created a change to help us...unless it is an overt miracle. Yet, Tefila makes senses, as we do pray, because we understand we need God's help in large and small ways.
Steve: We said that we can never really know what comes from God and what doesn't. However, wouldn't it be wrong if we did not thank God for everything both "good" and "bad," neither, which we know with our limited perspective and sometimes distorted value systems? It is easy to see that if tomorrow I won the lottery for 10M dollars...I'd probably throw a gala kiddush in shul giving thanks to God for his good graces (BTW, we know from Koheles that this windfall could be a punishment, which could bring me away from the correct and worthwhile path, and we have all read stories of ruined lives and relationships that come after someone wins the lottery). Now, something "bad' is harder to thank God for and see as hashgacha, but what if a person loses his fortune...ultimately, this may lead to humility and a re-prioritizing of value, which may be for the ultimate good.
If we didn't thank God for the "bad" we maybe very shortsighted and this "bad" could be hashgacha and the supposed "good" could be chance or hashgacha in the form of a punishment.
Wouldn't it be wrong to benefit from something that came from God without giving him credit and thanking Him? If so, and we can never know if something came from God or not, maybe we must assume that it did and give thanks...thoughts?
Rabbi: We can thank God for the "possibility" that He did in fact cause a specific good in our lives: whether we win a lottery or obtain good health. And we should also thank God for punishments intended to correct us. But without an outright miracle, we cannot say for certain that God in fact performed any act. However, we can thank God for the universal laws that contribute to our success...for He created these.
But we must be careful not to cross the line where we say "all is Bashert"...wrongly assuming God is running every moment of our lives. In such a case, we forfeit responsibility, when we can in fact correct our errors. Baselessly assuming God delivered some evil in our lives, we attribute it to Him and not our own doings. This prevents us from seeking out our errors that could have prevented those very problems in the first place. For if God does all, and not us, then there is no free will, and no reward and punishment. But we know that God's system is in fact one of free will and reward and punishment. Hence, we must fully agree that all of our actions are determined by ourselves alone. We cause most of our pain as Maimonides teaches. (The "Guide", book III, chap. XI, XII) God is not micromanaging every act in our lives...also as Maimonides teaches (ibid, book III, chap. XVII) . But God does intervene with man, whether we grasp it or not...and this all depends on our perfection...as Maimonides taught. (ibid, book III, chap. XVIII)