Dear Rabbi Emanuel,
To be honest with you, I am quite disconnected from my faith (I still believe in God of course) and have no current interest in reconnecting. I pay Him/Her as little attention as is returned to me, but I hold no grudge, it is what it is and we are little people in a big world. He/She must be very busy with bigger and more important things, in my opinion. I do believe that, as we have a little piece of Him/Her we are blessed enough to fight and mold our own paths… then again, I give Him/Her very little (none really) credit for whatever achievements I reach (Me personally).
Anyway, thank you for including me in your update, I’ve been wanting to get back to you for some time and I thought it would be nice to just have a chat with you rather than talk about health issues and other mundane subjects.
Take care and looking forward to continuing the conversation with you!
My answer to Batyah
Thank you so much for your letter. I really enjoyed reading it and am so glad to respond and try to elaborate on some of your thoughts and doubts.
First and foremost, your connection with Her/Him (I mean God) is in the very root of your being, in your name. You know that your name means Daughter of God. Many Jewish literature sources relate to it as the name of Pharaoh’s daughter, the one that retrieved Moshe out of the Nile. I believe that there is a spiritual pilot light that is burning inside you, that will keep your spirituality on.
I am certain that your view of God and Faith is more common than not. I’d dare saying that it really doesn’t matter whether you are Christian (of any denomination) Jew or Muslim. And probably other faiths, that have more than one God.
Being a Rabbi, my frame of reference, though, is naturally Jewish. Yet, I will try to be as universal as I can.
Let’s call your description of God’s little focus on the individual and attention to big things as Divine Intervention. You can read how the various sects of religions relate to Divine Providence in so many differing ways. Further on, I may use both Divine Intervention and Divine Providence interchangeably (Hasgaḥa Pratit in Hebrew). Even Judaism holds a very wide range of views about it. One thought limit Divine Intervention and attributes most occurrences that we witness to natural order and random chance. Yet, it does recognize the existence of miracles and tries to limit it. On the other extreme, there is the thought that expands the Divine Intervention to EVERYTHING that happens in the world.
And then there is the whole spectrum of thoughts in between. For example, the Maimonides thinks that the Universe remains perpetually the same as it was at the Creation. Except for when things change by miracle, or by acts of Human Beings. Divine Providence applies to human beings and to a certain extent to other living creatures (including vegetation). Rabbi Soloveitchik teaches that the intensity of the Divine Providence depends of the efforts made by the Individual himself. You can read a not too bad explanation about the various views on Devine Providence in Judaism in Wikipedia.
I myself experienced so many things that I cannot explain in any other way but Divine Intervention. So, with my scientific way of thinking I accept it, even if I cannot explain or formulate it. I view Divine Providence in the acts of Human Beings, and living creatures (to a lesser extent). Let me give you two extreme examples to better demonstrate it.
Global Warming that changed our universe is the expression of Divine Providence due to our acts as Humanity. On the other extreme, you are about to get yourself a nice warm cup of coffee at Starbucks. Next to it, sits a homeless person, cold and feeling miserable, praying to God for a cup of coffee. When you order your coffee, you tell the barista: ‘make it two, please’; and you hand it to that person. For that person, your act was the manifestation of Divine Providence, answering his/her prayer.
You wrote ‘I do believe that, as we have a little piece of Him/Her we are blessed enough to fight and mold our own paths’. Indeed, with your words you express the same view that I have regarding Role of God in our lives. With that, you also acknowledge the contribution of other individuals in your achievements or the lack thereof.
That Divine Presence within us, our soul, IS what motivates us to do, to act in a certain way. To learn, to teach, to help, and sometimes do the opposite. I am certain that you contribute your achievements to those whom you learned from, to your friends that helped and to those you taught. Following that logic, you are grateful to the Divine Providence that guided them to help you achieve your success. The same Divine Providence that guided you to use your knowledge to help others.
I’d encourage you to read more about my views, only if you have the time. Do not feel obligated. I am always open to continue our conversation, as I do learn from you more than you know.
Does it make sense to you?
Thoughts and music inspired by Batyah’s Letter:
Dear Rabbi Emanuel,
I read with interest your conversation with Batyah, a conversation that provoked thoughts that I want to share with you.
Hashgaḥa Pratit may be a unifying idea in expressing Adonai’s existence that integrates both Divine Intervention and Providence. Yet, there may be a need to recognize the difference between the two, a variance that I feel does exist.
Divine Intervention for me is more an expression of guidance, direction. Divine Providence is a State of Being, Godliness, Nature, Creation, that provides protective and Spiritual Care. It helps us in preparing ourselves to accept future eventualities.
Divine Providence is where we hang all of our hopes during our relatively short travel in this existence. Its origins can be traced to a family member, or rooted in moments of solitude in despair. It eventually inspires us to hope for our own self-improvement and motivates us to work on it.
The more we travel along the paths of life, the more we conquer physical aspects of this world. We anchor our being to what we learn along the way, sometimes finding ourselves deviating from our original aspiration. That is where Divine Providence come in. It may redirect us towards a more fulfilling role, a new vocation or destiny that inspires us. Divine Providence helps us facing our dreaded mortality by granting the opportunity to see above and beyond our own limitations. We realize truths that the universe has experienced through time, where past, present and future definitions are yet to be rediscovered.
I am thankful for every day and try to make it count. I seek the opportunity to make a difference; not so much for myself but for the lives of others. With humble satisfaction, I accept grace in whatever form it may come and pass it on to others.
Rabbi Emanuel, you invited me to share my thoughts, however reserved my preferences may be, so here you are. Eventually, it is the music that I share with you that brings these thoughts to the surface.
Best of wishes,