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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Va'era

Hashgachah: Divine Supervision of the World

I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Ya'akov as Kel Shad dai, but I did not make Myself known to them with My Name "Hashem". (Shmos 6:3) Adapted from Shiurei Da'as by R. Yehudah Leib Bloch cited in my Sefer Trust Me!

We know that all aspects of Creation - whether natural or miraculous - were formed with tremendous planning and wisdom, and that the entire order of Creation was arranged in consonance with this wisdom. We also know that the Almighty's supervision of our lower physical world is manifested through different channels, with miracles being performed either through the name Shad-dai or through the Tetragrammaton (which is commonly represented by the title "Hashem"). [We cannot perceive Hashem Himself. Rather, all we know about Him is how He reveals Himself to the world. He is known by different names depending upon the nature of these revelations.]

From the outset of Creation, G-d interrelated with the world exclusively through the name Shad-dai. It was only with the Exodus of the Jewish People from Egypt that He began to manifest Himself through the name "Hashem," which is a less bounded revelation of His essence.

"I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Ya'akov as Kel Shad-dai, but I did not make Myself known to them with My Name "Hashem". (Shmos 6:3). Rashi explains: "I was not known to them by My attribute of truth, through which My name is called Hashem." Each aspect of existence has a certain boundary that limits its power and action, and all the miracles performed on behalf of the Patriarchs were restricted by the limitations that define this plane of existence. When the Almighty performs miracles according to these strictures, He is referred to as "Shad-dai." In the Talmud (Chagigah 12a), Chazal explain the significance of this name:

R. Yehudah said in the name of Rav: "When the Almighty created the world, it kept on expanding like two balls of yarn, until He admonished it to stop..." as Reish Lakish said: "What is the meaning of that which is written: 'I am Kel Shad-dai' [Bereishis 35:11]? I am He who said to the world, 'Dai! - Enough!'"

Thus we see that the world, which the Almighty brought into existence using the name Shad-dai, was created with inherent restraints. As a result, all the forces of nature operate in accordance with the strictures imposed upon them by this name. Fire, for example, can only burn certain materials; there are certain things upon which it has no effect. This is because its power is limited according to the confines that were set for it by the Creator. We tend to think that this is a manifestation of the laws of nature which regulate every aspect of this the lower realm. Really, it has its roots in the upper celestial spheres. Fire's power to burn stems from that upper source of these laws and we refer to fire's limits as "a law of nature." Nevertheless, we sometimes find individuals whose material being cannot be burned. This is because they attain such an exalted level of spiritual strength that their beings transcend the boundaries of nature and fire is unable to affect them. Thus it was with Avraham Avinu, when Nimrod cast him into the fiery furnace and he miraculously emerged unburnt. We see from this that when the Almighty operates through the name Shad-dai, miracles are dependent on the spiritual level a person has reached.

In contrast, the miracles that marked the Exodus from Egypt were unrelated to the spiritual level that characterized the Jewish People at that time. The Zohar (Terumah 170b) recounts that before the Almighty split the sea to save the Jews, the patron angel of Egypt objected that they were unworthy of being saved: "These [the Jewish People] are idol worshipers, and these [the Egyptians] are idol worshipers!" The Midrash (Shmos Rabbah 24:1) similarly relates that the angel in charge of the sea became incensed and sought to drown the Jewish People. This was because, according to natural law, they should have drowned along with the Egyptians being their spiritual level was not exalted enough to override the sea's accusation.

How could the Jewish People be saved given the fact that they were not worthy? The answer to this is that, beginning with Yetzias Mitzrayim, G-d manifested Himself in His higher form of "Hashem". His choice of Am Yisroel as the Chosen People (עם הנבחר) was an expression of His ultimate desire, and was the primary goal of Creation. In order for this goal to be fulfilled, the Jews had to perform the ultimate test of emunah: passing through an impenetrable sea to dry land. Obviously, the entire system of Creation is based upon His essential desire and goal, which is the root of all of Creation. Therefore, all the forces of nature were temporarily suspended to achieve this objective.

It is important to understand that Divine Providence effected by the Almighty through His name "Hashem" is not outside the realm of Creation. Rather this name reflects a form of supervision that is incorporated into the intrinsic nature of Creation. Hashem Himself is outside of Creation and there is no name for Him as such. We can have no comprehension of the ultimate nature of His existence, being we are bound within the strictures of Creation. The highest aspect of His existence to which we can connect is His manifestation of Himself through the name "Hashem," which indicates the fundamental essence of Creation which is the root of all existence. We find this idea expressed in Kabbalistic literature, where the name "Hashem" is referred to as the "crown" that rests atop all the spheres and the root of all of Creation. Because the Divine supervision which springs from the name "Hashem" is on a higher plane than all the Heavenly powers and Heavenly spheres, every aspect of their existence is dependent upon this name. Fundamental changes are effected in these Heavenly forces based upon the will expressed by the name "Hashem." We see here the underlying basis of the forces of nature, and we recognize therein the Creator who brought everything into existence

A Consistent Body of Laws

In order to illustrate this idea more clearly, let us compare this to an earthly kingdom. Even in an absolute monarchy, the king governs according to a basic set of rules. There is a consistent body of laws that enables the country to function smoothly, and the king governs his subjects within the framework of these statutes. Ultimately, however, the king is not bound by the force of these laws. Sometimes, extraordinary circumstances arise which dictate that the legal system must be abrogated for the good of the country. When such a situation arises, the king will temporarily suspend the law and act according to the need of the moment.

The same is true with the universe in general. The Almighty determined that it would be beneficial to formulate a fixed and continuous body of law for His Creation, which would operate according to the direction set by His holy names and the Heavenly spheres. These laws direct the workings of Creation in a specified and limited fashion and never overstep the boundaries that were set for it. As we have explained above, this level of supervision is expressed by the name "Shad-dai" which indicates limitation and boundaries. Occasionally, however, the goal of Creation has a requirement that could conflict with this system of governance if things were allowed to run according to their natural course. When this occurs, the Almighty "breaks" the boundaries of the system and governs directly according to His desire, which is the fundamental source of all of Creation.

This is not to say that by doing so He compromises the standard mechanism that He initially established. In order to understand why this is so, let us return to our example of an earthly monarch. When a wise ruler initially sets up a system of government, he considers the various circumstances that might cause the laws of the land to interfere with his vision of how he wants the country to be ruled. Therefore, when he establishes the country's constitution, he includes in it a provision that allows him to abrogate any law when the situation warrants it. If it is necessary, he can declare a state of emergency which suspends the constitution and grants him unlimited powers, and this possibility is set forth in the constitutional basis of the country's laws. Thus, even though this form of rule is in opposition to the established legal code, it is firmly anchored in the basic statutes of the country and does not contravene the rule of law.

Similarly, when the Almighty created His world, He first considered each principle of Creation and all of its various details. He determined from the outset that it was proper to establish certain provisions that would allow for the boundaries of natural law to be overturned. The supervision indicated by the name "Hashem" utilizes a specific set of laws that contravene the fixed statutes of Creation.

The Wrong Number - A message of Love

The following is from She'al Avicha v'Yagedcha by R. Sholom Schwadron, vol. 2, p. 299.

A noted Torah scholar with whom Rav Sholom was acquainted once related an amazing story about Divine Providence. He suffers from a certain illness that can be quite dangerous and requires immediate medical attention in the event of an attack. One Friday night, he felt an attack coming on. With great difficulty, he managed to pick up the telephone and call his doctor, whom he assumed was at his house. When the doctor heard what was happening, he assured the man that he was coming to see him right away.

However, before the doctor hung up, he asked the patient, "How did you know that I was at this number?" It turned out that the physician wasn't at his home at all, but at another patient's house.

Incredible! Divine Providence caused this man to dial the "wrong" number - of the home where the doctor "just happened" to be at the time. If he had dialed the right number, the results would have been fatal.

This may be an inspiring story, but it raises a serious question as well. If the Almighty wanted the man to survive, why didn't He just arrange that the man would be spared an attack in the first place? The answer is really quite simple. If things had gone on as usual and the man hadn't suffered an attack, he never would have known how precious he was in G-d's eyes. By arranging for him to be saved by a miracle, the Almighty demonstrated how much He loved him. This is the essential lesson to be garnered from this story.

The same message emerges from another remarkable incident which took place during the battle for Jerusalem in 1948. (Actually, it is two stories, for a similar incident took place in the neighborhoods of Shechunas Achve and Batei Naiman.)

The Jordanian forces were bombarding the Holy City with artillery fire. Suddenly, a shell hit a gas tank, causing a tremendous explosion. However, immediately after the first shell hit, a second one fell on a nearby water tank. The tank burst, and the gushing water extinguished the fire caused by the first shell!

It's clear that the Almighty could have arranged things so that the first shell would never have hit the gas tank. However, He wanted to show the people there how much He loved them. Therefore, He arranged for the two shells to fall near each other so that the first one would start a fire and the second one would put it out!

Wishing Everyone A Gut Shabbos!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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