Universal Hashgachah Peratis (notes)

Back in 2002, Rav Yitzchok Zirkind zt”l (COLlive obituary) brought the last Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Igeres (Igeres haQodesh 1:93) to the attention of the gang at Avodah. I was motivated to summarize it on list, and I see the summary isn’t on this blog. So, here it is, now, in notes / outline form. I hope it makes sense to someone other than the note-taker.

May Rav Yitzchok Zirkind’s nashamah have an aliyah.

Rishonim in general held that hashgachah peratis (hereafter: HP), individualized and personalized Divine Providence, did not influence every event. Some held it had to be earned, and was not even the shaping inflence of every event in a person’s life. Others, that it was the cause of everything any person experiences. But I am unaware of a single rishon who espouses the view that every event — even those that only impact animals or inanimate objects — are subject to HP rather than simply caused by nature (teva, rendering such an event “tiv’i”) or randomness (“miqreh“). Or, for that matter, some else’s free will.

The Baal Shem Tov’s position is that everything is subject to hashgachah peratis (HP), even domeim, tzomei’ach and chai (DZC).

  1. Their very existence is through active Ratzon haBorei — existence itself is HP.
  2. Everything fits Kavanah ha’Elyonah be’inyan beri’ah.

On this, RMMS makes three he’aros (two in section א, one in ד):

  1. The Besh”t’s primary goal is to argue against Deism.
  2. ‘Ein Hashem el verei’av’ — bebeis einayim” is saying that yerei’av get a different kind of HP, not a more personal HP.
  3. Even though DZC are subject to HP and therefore suffer* by Kavanah ha’Elyonah, since they lack bechirah they lack sechar va’onesh, reward and punishment (SvO).

(* The sar of a domeim suffers when it’s prematurely destroyed, e.g. via bal tashchis.)

The Moreh 3:17 excludes DZC from HP, and in 3:18 the Rambam also excludes sichlim and mamarim — who are as ba’alei chai with regrard to HP. Later RMMS elaborates that this removal of HP is not onesh or seguli, but tiv’i — a natural consequence of his actions.

[I’m still unclear how a negative causal consequence of sin is different than punishment. ובחרת בחיים implies we are choosing outcome when we choose the action.]

Shomer Emunim (SE) starts by saying that nothing is without Kavanah and hashgachah, as it says, “vehalachti imechem beqeri“. But then he writes that DZC are subject to sarim who are appointed over the min as a whole. A sar has no authority over specific individuals. With one exception, if the fate of a human is impacted by the fact of an object than his HP would determine what happens to that object.

The Ramak in sefer Alimah starts presents the same dilemma as the SE.

RMMS resolves this by saying that even alleged miqreh is from HKBH. This fits the pasuq cited by the SE. This shitah doesn’t limit omniscience or omnipotence, but holds that Hashem chooses not to bestow HP on non-humans.

Tzarich inyan if the rasha‘s shift from HP to [Divinely caused] miqreh is seguli or tiv’i. The Ramac has hester panim listed as the 10th form of HP.

You might ask if everything exists for the sake of man, why doesn’t man’s HP affect everything? However, man need amin, not necessarily an individual. His fortune may be tied to the health of his own cow, but not to the health of some fish at the bottom of the sea.

The Ramban (Ber 18:19) says that the role of hashgachah in the olam hashafeil is lishmor hakelalim. Regular people can be left to miqreh until their eis pequdah, whereas chasidim get HP.

Derech haChaim takes issue with the Rambam. “Einecha pequchos al kol darchei benei adam.” Even if a person is filled with a ru’ach shetus like a beheimah, he still gets HP — albeit in the form of din.

QHY (Qehillas Ya’aqov?) breaks down the Ramban’s shitah into two parts: 1- Hashgachah bema’asav — which applies even to ovdei AZ; 2- Protection from miqreh — only for tzaddiqim.

QHY asks on this shitah from Yer’ Shevi’is 9:1, where RSBY says that a bird isn’t hunted down without Shamayim saying so. And from this bird he makes a qal vachomer to the fate of man. First, RMMS explains RSBY’s statement, given the hunter has HP. He holds the gemara‘s chiddush is because the bird is in a maqom sakanah, and the qal vachomer is to people even in such a maqom. Also: (1) The hunter could have gotten a similar bird instead of this individual; (2) If the he’arah were about HP for parnasah rather than the bird, the qal vachomer would have been phrased accordingly. So, the QHY concludes, the gemara implies HP for a ba’al chai — the hunted bird.

The Chinuch (169) assumes that the concept of HP even on non-human events is “rachoq harbeih min haseichel“. The Morah (3:17) calls this a position of some latter ge’onim, but they got the notion from the Metakallamun — it’s not found in Chazal.

However, RMMS points out that this isn’t necessarily shitas haBesh”t. This shitah is about gemul to a ba’al chai. The Besh”t rules out SvO for them. Is gemul the same thing — or only reimbursment for suffering. And if the latter, why chai and not tzomei’ach nor domeim?

RMMS concludes from the general silence that most held there was no question worth discussion.

The Besh”t’s premise that led to the conclusion what HP is universal, is also subject to a machloqes. Those who take tzimtzum literally would not say that the persistance of objects requires constant Divine Action. (I believe RMMS is contrasting this to the Tanya’s statement that tzimtzum is an illusion. However, I hadn’t realized the Besh”t said it first.)

That doesn’t mean that the others who argue with the Besh”t’s conclusion necessarily disagree with the premise. RMMS brings 4 proofs that they don’t need to, but simply didn’t clarify a shitah. The fourth is particularly important as it shows what RMMS holds HP means.

  1. They obviously don’t limit Omniscience. So, saying that Hashem doesn’t bestow HP on all DZC doesn’t imply a total detachment from them.
  2. The Besh”t chiddush with “devarekha nitzav” is that existence is renewed every moment. These rishonim don’t argue with the original creation, existence at the first moment. But that would mean that there is hashgachah in the birth of a chai, and the Rambam explicitly says there isn’t.
  3. People have bechirah in face of “devarekha nitzav” because that itself is the davar that Hashem wants for people. There is no greater question in saying Hashem wants the existence of DZCs that are subject to sar umazal.
  4. RMMS makes clear something I tried to keep clear from the beginning: that existence and HP are different things. The Besh”t is saying that one implies the other, NOT that the two are identical. HP is by definition about SvO, not mere existence.

So far RMMS.

Some of my own thoughts:

1- If HP is about SvO, then how did RMMS ask about whether gemul is part of reward and punishment. Once he said gemul is part of HP, wouldn’t it have to be of SvO as well?

2- What about the Rambam? Isn’t making HP a consequence of da’as Hasem make is a form of sechar, and vice versa? Does the Rambam believe in a separate onesh seguli that is HP in addition to the consequence of losing HP?

3- Note that this implies two very different approaches to min:

The Rambam has the min called “ben adam” as something you can be more or less a member of, based on how much yedi’ah they have (Moreh Nevuchim 3:18). He argues this from a general concept on the definition of min. And therefore while all benei adam get HP, a person who is only partially a ben adam will experience things that aren’t caused by HP.

Those who speak of a DZC being subject to the sar who does the hashgachah minis for that min see min as a more absolute thing.

This is a machloqes you find in philosophy as well. Unsurprisingly, the Rambam is following Aristotle: The individual is primary, the min is a group of individuals that have something in common.

The other side is Platonic Idealism. The min exists in a higher level than the actual members of the min (which are various shadows of it on a cave wall, in the famous metaphor).

Related to this debate is the role of shinui sheim (changing the name of something) in halakhah. For example, freezing orange juice is allowed on Shabbos, but freezing water is not because water and ice are different words. If people use different terms, they are different concepts in a way that “frozen organge juice” isn’t. Shinui sheim implies a third approach to min — that it’s “merely” a word, categories defined by labeling., with no real existence: Nominalism.

I tried to rule out this implication by saying that halakhah doesn’t concern itself with the thing-in-itself, but with how we relate to the object. (Since that’s how the object will impact our quest for deveiqus and sheleimus.) There’s no big chiddush in including the name we have for the object in our relationship to it.

RMMS writes that the idea of Universal HP is a chiddush of the Baal Shem Tov’s.

Rav Yaakov Feldman showed me an earlier source, the Ramchal, Derech Hashem 2:1.2, (The paragraph begins, “השגחתו ית’ על כל מדריגות הבריאה — His hashgachah is on all levels of existence…”)

Whereas R Chaim Friedlander (Sifsei Chaim, Pirqei Emunah ve-Hashgachah vol. 1, ma’amar 4) gives these three views:

  1. Rambam: HP is only to those who recognize and cling to Him. (Pp. 82-83.) [I don’t see that “cling to” in the Moreh Nevuchim. As I said above, the Rambam’s ideal person centers around their knowledge, yedi’ah, not emotion.]
  2. Ramac: HP applies to all people, and only applies to animal when it impacts people. (Pp. 83-87.) [Which also seems to be the view of R’ Aryeh Kaplan zt”l in Handbook of Jewish Thought vol. 2 19:7-8 pp. 288-289.]
  3. Gra: Individual providence applies to everything created. He quotes R’ Yonasan Eibeshutz and Radal who agree. (P. 87ff.)

So it would seem that of the sources I’ve dug up, universal HP was first written up by R’ Yonasan Eibshutz, then the Ramchal, the Baal Shem Tov, the Gra and Radal. By a century later, it is the dominant belief.

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