Divine providence

By Rabbi Levi Simon
Chabad of Greater Dayton

Rabbi Levi Simon

A story is told about Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of the Chasidic movement. One day as Rabbi Yisrael was walking through the forest with his students, he pointed out a leaf that had just blown off of a tree floating down to rest on the sun-parched dirt road. Rabbi Yisrael told his students that this leaf falling off the tree at this particular time and landing in this specific place was orchestrated by God.

He asked his students to lift the leaf off the ground and there was a worm dying in the summer heat; the fallen leaf had given it back its life, providing comfort and protection from the sun.

He was teaching his students the concept of hashgacha pratis, Divine providence. God’s providence governs every minute creation, a fallen leaf that has been tossed over and over by the wind. To move it from one place to another, a storm breaks out, shaking heaven and earth in the middle of a warm sunny day and brings to fulfillment the Divine providence that governs this small stray leaf.

Each blade of grass is created uniquely with a godly energy, each leaf on each tree has a purpose to being created.

This approach of the Baal Shem Tov is rooted in Tanach and Talmud: “He covers the heaven with clouds; He prepares rain for the earth, and makes grass grow upon the mountains. He gives the animal its food, and to the young ravens which cry to Him (Psalm 147:8-9).”

“A bird is not snared unless there is a decree from heaven (Jerusalem Talmud, Shevi’it 9:1).”

Events on earth as well as those that take place on a cosmic level happen for a purpose. But what does this knowledge of God and His doings have to do with us?

The Mishnah (Sanhedrin 4:5) teaches us an attitude on how we must view the world around us: “Every one is obligated to say, ‘It is for my sake the world was created.” Everything that is in our world we must use for a good purpose and everything that occurs we must take a lesson from and make ourselves and the world better.

Every situation in which God has placed us has a purpose to give us an opportunity to reveal what we are needed for. And when one appreciates this, he will be able to live a happier and more fruitful life. He will not be burdened by worry and fear, for he will realize that at every moment, his needs are being cared for by God Himself.

The end of summer is a time when the structures of our daily time management are relaxed, our children are home. Let us not take this summer vacation time for granted but let us realize that it is a time to utilize, to increase our Jewish learning and mitzvot (commandments) thereby fulfilling our purpose and accomplish what God desires of us.

This will bring God’s blessings into our lives and our homes and bring the world closer to the Era of Redemption.

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