Casting Lots

Regardless of what one believes about Creation and the origin of the species, we have evolution since then. In order to even entertain the possibility of evolution as the origin of the species, one would have to understand that “random mutation” is not random, but Divinely guided. So that in addition to the filtering effects of “survival of the fittest” on the results of those mutations, G-d, by loading the genetic dice, entirely guaranteed His Will was manifest in the result.

Which raises the more general question as to whether the Believer’s lexicon even has meaning for the word “random”. Is anything truly random? How far does Providence extend — Only to those who know Him (Rambam)? Only to those who merit it? Only to humans? Or, as became mainstream thought in the Orthodox community since the idea was first introduced by the Gra and the Baal Shem Tov, that every event in history is providential? And if we do take the last stance, what does “random” mean? What does a statistician study?

Purim is an oddly named holiday. It comes from Haman’s means of selecting a date for his planned genocide. “Hipil pur hu hagoral — he cast a pur, that is a goral” (Esther 3:7). “Pur” is a Persian word meaning “lot”. Purim, the Lottery Holiday, actually represents, though, the presence of G-d’s Hand in events. The Persian conception of lots is actually the reverse of the holiday’s entire message!

More on target is the Hebrew word “goral“. When the land of Israel was divided in Yehoshua’s day between the tribes, a “goral” is used to determine Hashem’s Will. A goral is a means of opening up the options within nature, making no one outcome more miraculous than the other, to allow us to see Hashem’s choice without miracles. A kind of prophetic event.

Add to this the irony of “Purim Sameiach“.  Ben Zoma says the wealthy person is one who is “sameiach bechelqo — happy with his portion”. He is someone who knows his portion is planned, a goral given by G-d, not happenstance. “Everything that happens to me is in the Hands of the One Who made me.” “This too is for the good.”

A pur was cast before Haman, but in truth the pur was a goral.

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  1. If I undertand what I’ve learned correctly then from God’s point of view there is nothing random. As He sits outside of history and created all of it for a purpose then everything that happens within time is preplanned and expected.
    From our perspective, however, there are events we perceive as random as we are not privy to the big picture. But this randomness is only our perspective and our faith demands we accept that there is nothing truly random.

  2. Garnel,

    Randomness isn’t the only potential alternative to Divine Plan, there are also events that are caused by free will. When Rabbi Aqiva posits “hakol tzafui vehareshus nesunah — all is foreseen and [yet] choice is given”, does that mean only from our perspetive, but from that of Divine Timeless free will doesn’t really exist?

    I took the opposite approach. Divine Timeless means that it is not true that “everything that happens within time is preplanned and expected”. Simply because “pre-” and “expectation” only have meaning within time. Hashem doesn’t know now what I will choose tomorrow. He does Know, but that knowledge has no “now”. I dealt with this in its own post.

    However, speaking about Omniscience rather than Atemporality…

    I originally outlined my thoughts here, but since expanded my explanation and turned it into its own blog entry.

  1. March 13, 2012 – י״ט באדר תשע״ב

    […] “Casting Lots” I tried to use the relationship between the field of statistics and Divine Providence as a […]

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