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27 Teves 5764 - January 21, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
It Was Meant to Be . . . Or Was It? A Middos Workshop

Based on the shiurim of Rav Dovid Siegel

Part I

"It was bashert!"

"Don't worry. It was all meant to be."

"It wasn't in your hands."

As believing Jews, we know that so much of what happens to us is min haShomayim -- Divine Providence straight from Hashem. At the same time, we are held accountable for our actions. How do we accept responsibility for the decisions we make, while forfeiting control over the paths that our lives take?

We can begin to understand this complex subject with Chazal's statement that before a child is born, Hashem decrees whether the child will be rich or poor, intelligent or dull, etc. But Hashem does not determine whether the person will be a tzaddik or a rosho. The choice is up to the person himself.

In fact, Chazal also say, "Everything is in the hands of Hashem except fear of Heaven." Fear of Heaven may be freely defined as freedom of choice, because choosing to do the right thing stems from yiras Shomayim.

On this first level we realize that our personal potential and limitations are actually set by Hashem, but how we activate them depends on our freedom of choice.

Now this idea brings to mind a greater point of concern. If we have the ability to choose between right and wrong, does this mean that one could actually do things contrary to Hashem's will? In other words, do things happen in this world even when they are not meant to be?

The obvious answer is no, because such a notion would imply that Hashem's ability is limited, chas vesholom. Since we know that Hashem runs the world according to His master plan, how do we reconcile these two ideas?

Hashem's Revelation Despite Our Choice

There is a perplexing midrash in Bereishis Rabboh that discusses Hashem's interest in and appreciation for this world. The midrash expounds upon the verse in the beginning of the Torah that states, "and darkness on the face of the depths." Chazal explain that this refers to the deeds of the wicked, while the creation of light refers to the deeds of the righteous.

Chazal ask further: Since Hashem arranged for both light and darkness, how do we know whose deeds interest Hashem more, those of the wicked or those of the righteous? To answer the question, Chazal refer us back to the text, "and Hashem saw that light was good," indicating that Hashem prefers the deeds of the righteous over those of the wicked.

This midrash is quite puzzling. Why would Hashem prefer the acts of the wicked, actions that are in direct violation of His will? How can one possibly appreciate something that is contrary to his essential will and interest?

In Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto's sefer Daas Tevunos, he explains the hidden message of this midrash. He reminds us that the entire universe and everything happening in it is designed to reveal Hashem's kovod. He explains that in Hashem's infinite wisdom, He arranged for His glory to be revealed in two distinct ways, one more direct than the other.

The rosho believes that he is going against the will of Hashem, and that he is ruining Hashem's plans. However, in truth, the rosho can neither spoil Hashem's plan nor decrease Hashem's honor. When all is said and done, the wicked will receive their just punishment and the righteous their earned reward. Ultimately, the payment of both of them will bring about tremendous revelation of kovod Shomayim. Although it may seem that Hashem does not defend His honor, at the end of time He will clarify this matter and deliver the appropriate consequences to those who did not uphold His honor.

This means that Hashem's glory will ultimately be revealed, irrespective of the rosho's efforts. Ramchal adds that the wickedness of the rosho will eventually serve as the perfect catalyst for Hashem's glory. As we say in the Aleinu prayer, " . . . lehafnos eilecho kol rish'ei oretz," to turn towards you, Hashem, all the wicked of the world. In the time of Moshiach, Hashem's truth will be so evident that even the most adamant rosho will submit to Hashem's authority, and convert and embrace Torah observance.

Ramchal explains the midrash's question about who reveals more of Hashem's glory in the following manner: Since the deeds of the tzaddik and the rosho will eventually reveal Hashem's glory, both paths seem to be equally appreciated by Hashem. Chazal answer that Hashem has a greater appreciation for one who is essentially good over one who is essentially bad but will develop into someone good.

Now, let us not misinterpret this concept. Does Hashem want a rosho to do wrong? No! Yet, once the rosho has sinned, does Hashem continue His Divine plan? Absolutely.

It is definitely rotzon Shomayim for us to choose. However, despite the fact that we have the power to choose right or wrong, the result of our choice is also rotzon Shomayim, regardless of the path we choose. In other words, Hashem navigates His plan to reveal His glory even as we make our decisions.

We now discover a second dimension in the matter of bechiroh and Hashgochoh (free will and Divine Providence). Although we are given the ability to make our own choices, Hashem's master plan ensures that every side of our decision fulfills His will. Even our wrong decisions contribute to His glory and will ultimately fulfill His purpose for creation.

Hashgochoh in Nature?

Another area of confusion in Hashem's Hashgochoh is the phenomenon of teva-nature. Let us begin by defining teva. Hashem has arranged His world to generally follow a natural pattern, even while He remains continuously involved. In other words, just as Hashem initially ordered the ground to produce herbage and trees, He continues to command this to happen. There are actually ten different dimensions of teva or ten different manifestations of Hashem's involvement in the world. These ten levels are recorded in Bereishis as the ten utterances of creation.

Hashem runs His world through these natural principles. For example, the tenth utterance is that food should sustain all live beings in their respective ways. In essence, every time we eat and are nourished by food, we are experiencing the fulfillment of one of Hashem's ongoing decrees, that food should sustain us.

In essence, teva is a tremendous revelation of Hashem's wisdom, as is evidenced by the equal gematrias of the words "hateva" and "Elokim."

For example, to someone who never learned the laws of horticulture, observing the planting of a seed, its disintegration and ultimate fruition seems incredible. Indeed, it is! We are simply so accustomed to this "natural" phenomenon that we fail to see it as a miracle.

Science will never amply explain all of teva, because its focus is too narrow. Science focuses on the "what," but not the "Who." Avrohom Ovinu was capable of studying this world and discovering the "Who behind the scenes." Eventually, he understood the entire universe because he linked the "what" with the "Who." He composed the famous Sefer Yetziroh that comprises the perfect formula of combining Hashem's Names to create live beings. Famous Amoraim used this formula to create animals for a feast, and, allegedly, great tzadikim used this formula to create golems. Obviously, this is beyond the capability of scientists, because they do not relate nature to its Source.

"Teva" means to be sunk. For those who are not focused on the miraculous reality of nature, Hashem's Name is sunk inside nature. But those who link the what with the Who are privileged to discover Hashem's incredible power in every dimension of His creation.

A yeshiva student once approached the Steipler Gaon zt"l and questioned the appropriateness of interrupting his busy Torah study schedule to restore his body to optimal condition. The Steipler responded that Hashem's greatest interest is to run His world through teva, that everything should operate in a natural flowing manner. The Steipler explained that miracles are the exception to the rule. Hashem's general mode of operation is through teva. The Steipler therefore concluded, "What greater mitzvah could one do than preserving Hashem's basic interest in creation?"

End of Part I

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