Thursday, December 30, 2010

G-D's Control of the Universe

In this week's Parsha, Vaera, the opening two verses show us that G-D introduced Himself to Moshe as Hashem (Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey) and not the name that was used for our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, of kEl-Shaddai. Why is this significant? The verses say (Shemos 6:2-3):

ב  וַיְדַבֵּר אֱלֹהִים, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה; וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, אֲנִי יְהוָה. 2 And God spoke unto Moses, and said unto him: 'I am Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey;
ג  וָאֵרָא, אֶל-אַבְרָהָם אֶל-יִצְחָק וְאֶל-יַעֲקֹב--בְּאֵל שַׁדָּי; וּשְׁמִי יְהוָה, לֹא נוֹדַעְתִּי לָהֶם. 3 and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name YHWH I made Me not known to them.

The first verse seems superfluous because Moshe already met G-D by the burning bush in last week's Parsha. There must be a deeper meaning here that G-D is coming to teach us about the character trait of Yud-hey-vav-hey that is different than the character trait of kEL- Shaddai. For the answer to this question we should turn to Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Emek Davar.

Rav Moshe Feinstein tells us the difference between G-D's guidance of the world through the character trait of kEL-Shaddai and Yud-hey-vav-hey. He says that the guidance of the world through the name of kEL-Shaddai is more natural, let me explain. The world, when it is guided through the character trait of kEL-Shaddai, operates in a manner where wicked people are able to succeed. However, G-D limits their power in order that they can not destroy the world, but G-D allows them to have autonomy. Basically, nature runs its course, for the most part, and then G-D steps in before a complete destruction can take place. G-D's intervention is unexplainable, but, for the most part, nature takes its course while G-D guides the world with the character traits outlined by the name of kEL-Shaddai. However, when G-D guides the world with the name of Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey then open miracles occur in a similar fashion to how the world was created, open miracles.

The Emek Davar also brings in this idea, but in a different fashion. He says that when G-D introduced Himself as Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey he was telling Moshe that it is G-D that is guiding the world. Moshe thought that the Egyptian enslavement of the Jews was nature, therefore, G-D told Moshe that it was not a natural process that the Jews were enslaved, G-D made it happen. According to the Netziv (The Emek Davar) G-D was teaching Moshe that his view of reality was skewed. G-D directly guides nature as well as supernatural events and there is nothing that occurs without His say so.

I think these views represented by the Netziv and Rav Moshe Feinstein represent the views of the Rambam and the Ramban. The Rambam was under the idea that G-D created the world with nature and nature is how the world works. Sometimes G-D intervenes, but the world, for the most part, runs through nature. However, the Ramban says that nature, in and of itself, is guided directly through G-D. This is the age old argument of Hashgacha Klalis (generalized attention) vs Hashgacha Pratis (specified attention). This view of the Rambam can be seen in many places like his commentary on the Mishna (specifically in Mishna Avos) and in the Moreh Nevuchim (The Guide for the Perplexed). The Ramban's views are apparent throughout many of his works, the commentary on the Torah and in the Toras Hashem Temimah. 

Rav Moshe's idea, which represents the Rambam's idea, teaches us something very important. Although the Universe is guided through nature, G-D intervenes when He feels it is necessary. Just like G-D created the world through miraculous means, so too he took the Jews out of Egypt through unnatural miracles. This revealed that G-D's power is supreme even though He usually lets the world run through nature. However, the Netziv, representing the Ramban, views the world and G-D's guidance of the world in an entirely different manner. The Ramban sees everything as a miracle, not just natural acts.

Whichever view a person finds more logical they should follow that view. Who is right? Is it the Rambam, who believes G-D created nature in order to guide the world and He only intervenes when absolutely necessary? Or perhaps the Ramban is correct and G-D guides every single aspect of the world personally?

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