Lev Aharon Library
Parashas Bo: What Really is "Hashgacha Pratit"?
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Parashas Bo: What Really is "Hashgacha Pratit"?
Parashat Bo: What Really is "Hashgacha Pratit"?
One of the fundamental lessons from yetzias Mitzrayim is the Emunah that Hashem is the Kol Yachol, which is one of the 13 Ikrei Emunah. So which of the Ikrim does yetzias Mitzrayim teach us?
There is the Emunah that Hashem created the world, and then there is the conviction that He is constantly running it, maintaining it, and guiding every event from the beginning of time. Parshas Bereishis teaches us that Hashem created the world. Yetzias Mitzrayim teaches us the aspect of Emunah that Hashem is the ultimate Manhig, Who is the cause of every aspect of its continued existence.
The Rishonim add that there are 2 types of hashgachah – hashgachah klalis, the general running of the world, and hashgachah pratis, oversight of individuals. R’ Hutner ztz’’l used to say that hashgachah klalis means that most people accept that Hashem runs the big picture, but they don’t really have in mind that He is involved in every aspect of their own individual lives. So which aspect of hashgachah does yetzias Mitzrayim teach us – general or individual?
There is a common misconception that hashgachah klalis is the way in which Hashem runs the world for the goyim, and that hashgachah pratis is the extra intervention with which Hashem runs the lives of klal Yisrael. That is untrue. Yetzias Mitzrayim taught us that Hashem runs the lives of every individual – Jewish or otherwise – with intricate detail.
In fact, the Brisker Rav points out that the first Ani Maamin states this explicitly – Ani maamin be’emunah sheleimah shehaBorei Yisbarach Shemo Hu borei umanhig lechal haberu’im.
Additionally, the passuk in Shemos says specifically that one of the purposes of the Makkos was so that the Mitzriyim should know that Hashem is behind everything – lema’an yedu Mitzrayim.
The Alter of Kelm explains that the Makkos were designed to inflict enough pain on the Mitzriyim to torment them, but not enough to kill them. They were delivered with precision to teach Mitzrayim that He does things with exactitude.
The Meshech Chochmah says that Pharaoh was unmoved by Makkas Dam, because it didn’t affect his household. Why was he exempt? The other Egyptians had to pay the Jews handsomely for their water, but Pharaoh had already paid for his water – when his daughter rescued Moshe as a baby from the Nile, and he raised him in his own household like a prince. That is an exquisite display of the intricate and precise cheshbonos with which Hashem conducts events in this world.
When the Asarah Harugei Malchus were being executed, there was a tumult of protest in Shamayim. The Malachim asked Hashem, zu Torah vezu secharah? Hashem responded by warning them that if they asked any more questions, He would return the world to tohu vavohu. Hashem wasn’t saying that there was no answer. The Vilna Gaon explains that that was the answer. The answer was ‘let’s turn the world upside down and start again from the beginning. Let’s go step-by-step from the beginning and I’ll show you My precise cheshbon.’
Mortals trying to understand the reasons for events on this world is like a one-time guest in shul for Shabbos trying to understand the reasons why people got aliyos on one particular week.
We say in Nishmas, Elokei harishonim v’acharonim. What does this mean? When a person does something, he can’t be expected to take into account anything besides what is in front of him, but when Hashem makes cheshbonos, they take into the account the context of eternity.
So if the goyim have hashgachah pratis, what is it that klal Yisrael has that no one else has?
R’ Chatzkel Levenstein says that klal Yisrael has an extra shemirah. There are 3 levels of hashgachah pratis that we have. The first one is based on the passuk of shomer peso’im Hashem – protection for people who don’t have tremendous zechusim. The second level is based on the passuk of shomer mitzvah lo yeida davar ra – protection for someone who does a mitzvah. This is the concept of shaliach mitzvah einan nezakin. The third level is raglei chasidav yishmor. These righteous people get VIP protection because they are so close to Hashem, be’armon shel Melech.
R’ Yerucham has a different explanation for the special status of hashgachah that klal Yisrael has. The hashgachah for klal Yisrael is not oversight from a lofty distance. It’s connection with Hashem, Who is involved in every aspect of our lives, big and small.
I was zocheh to see R’ Shneur Kotler, ztz’’l, when I was in 9th grade. My parents arranged for me to go to Eretz Yisrael over July and August without realising that in that particular year, Elul already started in August. When they realised, they insisted that I come back early, in time for Elul zman, but I was a bit frightened to fly back on my own, so my uncle promised my parents that they would arrange for someone heimish to accompany me on my flight back. We were thrilled to hear that R’ Shneur Kotler would be on the flight, confident that this meant everything would go smoothly.
I arrived at the airport, but saw no sign of R’ Shneur, only a group of teenagers going to a moshav. Just as we were boarding, we saw R’ Shneur, and my mother introduced me to R’ Shneur, explaining that I was frightened of flying and would be grateful for his oversight. R’ Shneur assured her that he would look after me. He told me we would sit together and, true to his word, was on alert the entire time to make sure I had everything I needed. That’s hashgachah pratis. Hashem takes us by the hand and looks out for us all the time.
The Alter from Slabodka explains that Pharaoh never did teshuvah, even with all the Makkos, because Hashem hardened his heart so he wouldn’t have an inclination to teshuvah. Rashi explains that this means Hashem gave Pharaoh the stamina to withstand the Makkos, because He didn’t want Pharaoh to do teshuvah from pain.
The Seforno says that Hashem gave him the strength to withstand the pain of the Makkos so that Pharaoh should come to teshuvah from the realisation of Hashem’s kindness, rather than coming to it because he couldn’t tolerate the pain anymore. Every tzarah that Hashem sends has an opportunity for us to see His kindness.
The Alter from Novardok says that it’s not enough to recognise that we have tzaros for our own good. The real thing is to be able to recognise the good and the kindness in the actual tzarah.
The Alter from Novardok once missed a train because he came late. When his talmidim pointed this out, he said ‘I didn’t come late for the train. I came early for the next one.’ Rather than accepting something that can be perceived as bad, he was perceiving the events as good.
R’ Shmuel Hoimener was known as the Chafetz Chaim of Yerushalayim. He once walked into the beis medrash and announced that he had broken his hand. The people there looked at his hand, but it didn’t look unusual and didn’t have any sort of cast on it. He explained that the door to his house had broken, but it was really a great chessed because he had really deserved to break his hand, but in His kindness, Hashem had only inflicted damage on the door of his house instead.
The Baal Shem had a daughter called Udel, who was much beloved to him. Someone once came to the Baal Shem and poured out his woes. The Baal Shem responded with the assurance that Hashem will help him. Udel, overhearing this, asked her father ‘but who will help him until Hashem helps him?’
The Baal Shem was very struck by this, and responded that indeed, until Hashem helps him, Hashem will help him. To them, the concept of help from Above was very real and they therefore wanted to know what would be until then.
When Moshe asked, lamah hare’osa l’am hazeh, Hashem responded ki ani Hashem. R’ Meir Soleveitchik explains that Hashem was saying that what looks like ra is really middas harachamim.
Hashgachah pratis means personal oversight. The Sifsei Chaim suffered tremendous physical pain when he was sick, but he refused to take painkillers. He explained that when he was in such pain, he felt able to communicate with Hashem and felt His closeness – and he didn’t want to lose that closeness by reducing the pain. He felt that personal connection of hashgachah pratis that a Jew is zocheh to.
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