Imagine you are walking down a dimly lit street. It’s the middle of February, late at night, and you’re in a part of town you don’t normally frequent. You look around—not a soul to be seen. “It’s mighty quiet,” you think to yourself. You tighten your coat and walk a bit quicker, listening to the loud click of your heels hitting the sidewalk. Suddenly, SCREECH! A car jerks to a stop, directly in front of you. Three thugs jump out. They surround you. One of them reaches into his pocket, pulls out a gun, and points it at your head.
You’ve never stared down the barrel of a gun before—at least not a real one.Suddenly, you realize that your life is in the hands of this punk. Whether you live or die is in the control of this drug-crazed kid who doesn’t care about you—or anything else for that matter.
Now, imagine that this little scenario has a happy ending, and somehow you make it home that evening, alive and unhurt. After the initial shock wears off, you find yourself face to face with a major philosophical problem. Since the time you’ve been a little kid, you’ve accepted that Hashem runs the world. You even remember being taught that on Rosh Hashanah, Hashem decrees who will live and who will die.
Yet what good is that decree when your life was clearly in the hands of that punk? In fact, what good is any judgment that Hashem sets when so many things just happen? People get sick. Drunk drivers plow into innocent pedestrians. Lone cancer cells invade healthy men.
Hashem is on the scene
The answer to this quandary is that if you accept that Hashem decrees who will live and who will die, then you accept that Hashem is there to carry out that decree. If you recognize that Hashem determines your destiny, then you recognize that Hashem is with you on the scene 24/7 to carry out His will.
This concept has dramatic ramifications. It means that Hashem is with you throughout your day—He’s there when you get out of bed in the morning and when you close your eyes at night, when you walk down the stairs and when you get behind the wheel of your car. All day, every day, morning and night—Hashem is there, watching, guarding, and orchestrating the events of your life.
While it is true that Hashem controls the constellations, the planets, and the stars—it’s far more relevant that He controls your life. Supervising, influencing, and directing all that happens. There are no happenstances, no random occurrences, no lucky rolls of the dice. Everything, everything, is directed by His will.
And, implicit in this is another major recognition. If on the previous Rosh Hashanah it was decided that your time is up, then there is nothing that you or anyone else can do to change that. It’s curtain time, game over. However, if the determination was that you should enjoy another year of life, there is also nothing that anyone can do to change that. Not powerful people. Not rich people. Not influential people. And not punks carrying big guns.
Either the kid will drop the gun, or it will misfire, or some cab driver will decide to turn down that street, or the entire NYC Fire Department will show up on a false alarm. There are many, many messengers that Hashem uses to do His bidding. But it is Hashem on the scene, carrying out His decree.
One of the reasons that we have such difficulties trusting in Hashem is that Hashem isn’t “here.” Perhaps Hashem is some thirteen billion light years away, up in the heavens. But when I am walking on a cold, dark street, late at night, I am alone. It is the three of them and me. So, naturally, I am afraid. Who wouldn’t be?
The ramifications of this are profound
This is the fourth level of emunah. Knowing that Hashem is here with me, throughout my day—when I learn, when I daven, when I eat, when I sleep. Hashem occupies every part of the universe and wherever there is physicality, there is Hashem.
If I fully understood this fear would be impossible. It would the equivalent to you and I walking down the street accompanied by the entire US Marine Corps, when some high school punk pulls out a switchblade and threatens us. Would it be possible to experience fear?
This concept is life changing. It affects every aspect of our existence, in ways far larger than we might realize. It brings us to a different understanding of life and our relationship with Hashem. It allows us to view situations, people and events in a vastly different manner.
And it is the basis of our entire belief system. Because, without this, nothing we believe in makes any sense.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.