Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Hayom Yom - Sivan 29 - Individual Divine Providence - Lessons from a Leaf!




השגחה פרטית


Dedicated Le'Iluy Nishmas

Nathan ben Moshe

“The service of man in accordance with the teachings of Chassidut, is for a person to accustom himself to see the matter of individual Divine Providence – how it is that in G-d's goodness, He renews the world and the creatures at each moment through His particular individual Divine Providence – that this, and only this, is the reality of the life force and existence of all living creatures.”


The Baal Shem Tov teaches the importance of understanding the concept of Hashgachah Pratit – individual Divine Providence. We should realise that in reality – this is everything about reality itself! There is nothing else in the world but G-d Himself. And although we may not be able to physically grab hold of G-d or see Him – the fact is that this is so, because He is everything. Much like a person staring at a huge mountain range ahead of him – but who places a tiny coin in front of his eye and then claims to those who think there is a huge mountain range – that it really cannot be all that big since he cannot see it at all! If just a small coin can obscure the HUGE mountain range, then it is an obvious sign that the mountain range is not all that big after all – let alone if one can imagine it could exist!

Nonetheless, we do this every time we turn away from seeing G-d. We fabricate in our minds with something just the size of a small coin – that because WE cannot see G-d, He obviously doesn’t exist. Yet, one who removes the coin from his eyes pulling it further and further away – actually begins to see the huge mountain range that is there all the time! G-d is certainly present, but we delude ourselves with petty things – as we go ahead and prove how G-d is not actually with us. It takes just a small movement to realise that G-d is and has been there all the time.

In fact, in Hebrew, the word for nature – “HaTeva” has the exact same numerical value for one of the names of G-d “Elokim”. Our sages teach us that this indicates to us that nature is G-d, and G-d is nature. There is no separation – no concept of a creation existing outside of G-d. It is all totally One!

Because G-d is everywhere, and there is nothing to contrast Him to, it becomes difficult to pinpoint just where He is, and where He is not (because He is actually everywhere!)

To those willing to accept this idea, there are still many who claim that even though He may well be here, perhaps He isn’t all that interested in our daily affairs. Certainly to such a High and Mighty Being… why should the lowly lives of creatures attending to mundane physical tasks make any difference to Him, and why should He care?!

There are undoubtedly a variety of philosophies that speak of whether G-d is present or not. Some say He is, some say He isn’t. Others say He’s just too Mighty to deal with us. He created the world, then disappointed with the lowliness of man – simply packed up His bags and went out for a holiday (perhaps at the Bahamas?!) And then there may be those who claim that He is a tyrant seeking His private pleasures by creating us and doing with us what He wants with His own free will. In fact, there are so many philosophies available that at the end of the day, we might see just how much real idol worship there may be in the world – from all those claiming to really understand G-dliness!

If this would be the only arguments available, we could still deal with the immature attitude held by many. But sadly, the arguments have filtered even to many of the great Kabbalists – who claim that G-d created the world by first removing Himself completely and then allowing creation to take place in a totally empty space. The Alter Rebbe points out clearly that these kabbalistic teachings are not to be taken literally (as with many other areas of physical kabbalistic concepts being discussed.) And that while it is true that G-d did indeed withdraw Himself from an area in order to make room for creations, He did not do so in a way that removed Himself from the universe, but rather only from our own eyes. Much like a one way mirror – where a person on one side claims that he sees only himself. But on the other side of the mirror stands someone who can clearly see what is happening on the other side of the mirror. There is indeed another side, and the mirror is not the end of the physical space.

Only, with G-d, He not only stands on the other side of the mirror, but on both sides together, and yet is completely concealed from everything and everybody – even the highest angels! G-d fills all of creation, and surrounds it all at once, on every physical and spiritual level. This means that there is nothing in the world which is not G-d Himself…

But there is much more to the mysterious occupation of G-d in the world. Not only is He absolutely everywhere at every moment in time, but He is constantly guiding every single thing to where it should be. There is nothing in this world that happens by chance. If it does look that way, it is because G-d has concealed Himself, and then concealed Himself again, so that nobody would be the wiser to know that He has even concealed Himself at all!

Yet G-d guides everything. Taking care of the most sublime angel, to the smallest, “ugliest” and most dirty gnat or worm which finds itself in the centre of the universe – there where nobody in the world could even think about – let alone take out the time to interest themselves in! G-d nourishes this being as well.

And all are equally as removed from G-d. For next to infinity, even the greatest is nothing. While the number 999 may be closer to 1000 than the number 1 – and may therefore be said to be greater, when it comes to infinity, the greatest being is as important and big as the smallest. There simply is no comparison available!

Perhaps these teachings are the most basic essentials of what it means to live life – to get through it, and to feel excited with every single thing that one is doing. After all, G-d is there all the time, watching, taking note, allowing things to happen, and making sure that everything is exactly as it should be. And if we cannot see it, it is a sign that perhaps the “silver” covering over our mirrors is too shiny and needs to be removed. To turn the mirror back into an ordinary piece of glass – to be able to actually see what is on the other side.

The Baal Shem Tov would teach that not only is the falling of a leaf from a tree part of individual Divine Providence, but more than this, even the path it takes as the wind blows it from one side to another also a part of the individual Divine Providence. If this is so for a leaf – which we may think of as being inferior to a human being… then how much more so can we be certain that each movement we make is set up and directed directly by G-d Himself?! And if we are to think that each thing in the world is just as important as the other – for next to infinity, everything is as nothing, then surely we can imagine ourselves to – at the very least – be as great as the leaf. And so too, G-d takes each one us by our hands… blowing us from one side of the world to another in every thing we do. And sometimes, the breeze seems to cool us down refreshing us and helping us along. And other times, the gust of wind may well feel like a tornado, whirling us around, ready to destroy us.

Yet, G-d is arranging His plan of creation just as He wishes it to be. These are His secrets. These things we cannot know just yet. But there is a purpose. At times, the purpose is for our very own selves, and at other times, the wind whisks us to other places, for the sake of others. Still, this too is G-d’s purpose. Perhaps we just need to learn to “go with the flow…”? Perhaps, G-d is in charge after all?!


The poem below is an especially beautiful one. It speaks of the mysterious journey of a leaf being blown by the wind. Apparently, it seems it’s all just coincidence, but maybe there is something more to it?!


The Yiddish song, “Di Bletele”, by Yom Tov Erlich z”l is based on a well known teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, and about how Divine Providence extends over every created entity. This translation was prepared by a resident of Tsfat for the album, Avraham Fried Sings Yiddish Gems.

A tree stands, tall and high,
Branches reaching for the sky;
A little leaf, without a sound,
Flutters down to the ground.

A tzaddik who is passing by
Stops and asks the little leaf, Why?
What made you drop from your abode
And lie here in the road?
Says little leaf, Don’t ask me,
I am not the authority
The twig I was on gave a sudden shake
It was more than I could take.

Twig, twig, O authority,
Perhaps you can explain to me
Why you gave a sudden shake,
More than the leaf could take?
Says the twig, Don’t ask me,
I am not the authority;
The wind gave a sudden whoosh
And blew the little leaf loose.

Wind, wind, O authority,
Perhaps you can explain to me,
Why you gave a sudden whoosh
And blew the little leaf loose?
Says the wind, Don’t ask me,
I am not the authority;
My angel told me what to do,
So with all my might I blew.

Angel, angel, O authority,
Perhaps you an explain to me,
Why you told the wind what to do,
And mightily it blew?
Says the angel, Don’t ask me,
I am not the authority;
The Creator of me and you
Told me what to do.

Creator, Creator, O Authority,
Perhaps you can explain to me,
Why the little leaf is shaken free
And falls down from its tree?
The Creator reveals His inner plan
And makes it known to man;
Take the little leaf in your hand,
And you will understand.

See the worm lying there,
He was suffering and in despair,
He was up there on the tree
Breathing heavily,
The rays of the sun were so intense
His discomfort was immense.
“Creator, mercy!” was his plea,
The sun is roasting me!

So I commanded the angel right away
To send the wind along its way
And the twig began to sway
And the little leaf was torn away,
And so the sequence was complete,
Shielding the worm from burning heat,
And from the tiny worm,

sleep was never so sweet….

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