Based on the shiurim of Rav Dovid Siegel
It Was Meant to Be . . . Or Was It? A Middos
"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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
End of Part I
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