Fundamentals of the Jewish Faith
Chapter Six: Divine Providence (Part 1)
Perhaps the most daunting thought of all is that we could actually be
fully and essentially alone in life -- and not just for a bit, or for this
one lifetime, but always, forever and ultimately.
To be sure, we all need time away once in a while: hours, days or weeks to
be alone with our own thoughts to set things straight and go on
reinvigorated. But the idea that we’re all essentially alone, like strands
of hair floating about in the great cosmic dust somewhere off in the
distance and thus of no ultimate consequence, is utterly unsettling. And
while it’s not spoken of in such terms, it seems clear that the great
preponderance of what many of us do is somehow a deeply unconscious
reaction to the thought of such aloneness. (It explains many childhood
nightmares for example, adolescent excesses, adult bravado, and more.)
But the Jewish Tradition declares resolutely that we’re not at all alone.
For G-d’s presence surrounds and infuses us wherever we are, and can be
found in every corner of our being. And not only is He with us, but the
truth of the matter is that He also and always interacts with us, to our
great relief. For the thought that He might only be “sitting” there,
indifferent and mute to our joys and sorrows, and not joining in, is worse
yet than the idea that He’s nowhere to be found.
Take heart, though, because as Ramchal put it, “G-d is constantly
interacting with His creations”.
But not only does Ramchal assure us that we’re always linked to G-d, he
likewise makes the point that G-d is also always “sustaining and
governing” us moment by moment, and forever steering humankind toward “the
purpose for which (we) were created”.
Now, that brings us back to a number of ideas we’d already come upon. For
we’d learned earlier on that the reason why we were created in fact was to
draw close to G-d (see Ch. 3). And we saw that we do that by associating
with holiness as much as possible and avoiding unholiness (ibid.). We’d
also come to see that we’re free to opt for holiness or not to, which
brings us back to the Divine merit-system and to free choice (see Ch. 4).
In any event, one of Ramchal’s points here is that while we’re free to
choose to draw close to G-d or not, He is all the same nudging us in that
direction all the time.
But Ramchal’s statement also makes another point, which is that our
connection to G-d hinges on our freely willed interactions with Him. For,
given that we’re free to choose our actions, thoughts, and words; since
those choices occupy the greater part of our waking hours; and since G-d’s
interactions with us mirror our interactions with Him (see Ch. 4), it
follows then that He interacts with each one of us differently each and
every moment, either drawing closer or withdrawing. (That’s also a
comforting or daunting thought, depending on the sort of person one is of
We’re also told that G-d likewise interacts with other beings who aren’t
free to opt for closeness to Him (i.e., inanimate objects, animals, or
angels), but that His connection to them is different accordingly. We’ll
explore that next.
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason
Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various
locations on the Web.