Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Machlokes Does Not Truly Exist
The following is a translation of Maamar 41 of Pirkei Avodah U'Machshava in the 5th Volume of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, beginning on page 208. It is a fundamental yesod which sheds light on all machlokes'n whether it be Rambam/Baal Shem Tov, Rav Yosef Chaim Sonenfeld/Rav Kook, Eipschutz/Emden, Baal HaTanya/GR"A, Rebbe Nachman/Shpoler Zeidi, etc. etc. etc. It is so fundamental that I wanted to translate the whole Maamar directly (only 4 pages):
Hashgacha (Providence) - General and Specific
The machlokes (dispute) of the Rishonim and Acharonim (medieval & later scholars) with regard to Hashem's specific Providence is well known. Some hold that there is specific providence for every created and formed thing and over every single detail, even the most minute. In contrast, there are those that hold that specific providence only exists for mankind. However, other created things do not have specific providence, only general providence, i.e. only toward the perpetuation of the species. For example, if there are 1,000 donkeys in the world and it is decreed that two hundred of them shall die, it makes no differnce which ones die. It will be two hundred without any calculation (unless they have owners, in which case it would make a difference to a human being).
It is Clear That There is Total Hashgacha Pratis
First, one must understand that it is impossible for there to be an opinion that there not be Hashgacha Pratis on any created thing, because if were the case, these would not be in the hands of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, but only in the hands of "nature." But who created this "nature" that we speak of? Hashem! It comes out, then that nature is Elokim (As is known from the Kuzari [that the gematria of "Hateva," nature, is Elokim]). It comes out then, that whether we define this as Hashgacha Pratis by Hashem or whether we define it as left to the designs of nature, the bottom line is that everything is Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and that nature is also Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Everything is directed by Hashem. Not only this, but if we would assume that, in truth, there is no cause at all as to which donkey should die, then why, in truth, does one donkey die and not another? If there is no reason, why couldn't it just as easily be the opposite? We must say that there is a cause because nothing happens in creation without some cause. Therefore, we must understand those Rishonim and Acharonim who hold that all non-people are supervised by Hashgacha Klalis (General Providence).
Truth, its Borders and Limits
Before we explain the topic of Hashgacha, we must first explain a general Yesod (foundation) in our general way of understanding things; an extremely vital one for anyone who wants to understand kedusha (holiness). Everyone knows that 1+2=3. Who set this? By external apearances, we would immediately say that this is reality! However, from a deeper perspective we must understand that this reality that 1+2=3 is indeed reality, but it is a reality that Hashem created. Hakadosh Baruch Hu could have also created it that 1+2 would equal 4! This appears to us to be lacking in any logic. However, this is because we were created within the confines of Creation, and we can only perceive a reality that fits the truth of our Creation. However, Hakadosh Baruch Hu is infinite, and in the infinite, there are no limitations. It is possible that 1+2 would equal 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. etc. There is no end to the possibilities. We learn from here that whenever we speak [of reality or truth], we are not speaking of absolute truth, of infinite truth. Rather, we are speaking of a truth that we can comprehend.
Another Example to Assist in Understanding the Matter
Let us give another example of how the truth that we live with is a relative truth for created beings, and not infinite, absolute truth.
Moshe Rabbeinu said to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, "שְׁלַח-נָא, בְּיַד-תִּשְׁלָח," "Send the one whom You usually send" (Shmos 4:13). The Ramban explains that Moshe thought that he was the worst of all people. How could it be that Moshe Rabbeinu thought that he was the worst of all? The answer s very simple. We define everything by our definitions. It appears to us that two meters is greater than one meter. However,, in truth, according to infinite truth, it could be the opposite, that one meter is greater. Therefore, when a person comes to calculate whether he is greater than his friend, even if according to true human measures he is a greater Tzadik and more of a Talmid Chacham, etc. etc., thevertheless, it could be that he could be on a lower level than his friend.
The Deeper Reality of Purim
This is the secret of Purim's "לא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי," "not knowing the difference between 'cursed is Haman' and 'blessed is Mordechai." (Megillah 7b) In truth, they are both the same, but only on the level of "לא ידע," "not knowing," since on the level of "knowing," we cannot understand this. (This is not carried out on a practical level however, since according to halacha one must conduct himself according to Shulchan Aruch, since that is Hashem's will, v'dai l'maivin.)
We have given two examples, but the person of understanding will see that everything that we "understand" could also be the opposite. We do not discuss the true reality according to the perspective of The Infinite. Rather, we always talk about a perception of the truth according to our own limitations, according to our own bounded comprehension. If Chazal said that "such and such does not exist," this does not mean that it, in true reality, does not exist. Rather, [it means] that in our limited world, no such thing exists. All of their [Chazal's] words were only said according to our understanding, and not according to reality according to the perspective of The Infinite.
The Explanation of Those Rishonim Who Say That There is No Hashgacha Pratis
Now we can understand and comprehend the opinion of those Rishonim and Acharonim who hold that there is only Hashgacha Pratis on mankind. Their words can be understood in the following way: Certainly, there is hashgacha pratis on every created thing. However, we cannot ever comprehend this. With regard to human beings, we can understand a little of why one specific person dies and not another. This could be because of his sins in this gilgul (incarnation) or another one, or the like. But with regard to animals and other created things, we cannot understand at all why this specific animal should die and not another. We cannot recognize any essential, inner difference between one animal and another. And therefore, we we cannot understand why this one needs to live and this one needs to die. This is what they mean by asserting that there is no Hashgacha Pratis. Meaning: We cannot comprehend Hashgacha Pratis (according to what we said earlier that Chazal spoke about a level which we understand and not from the perspective of the true methods of Hashem).
Much Wisdom is Required in Order to Understand the Place and Limits of Every Statement of Chazal
We clarified earlier that Chazal spoke according to the level of human understanding. Let us define this more clearly.
"Reuven's" perception of reality is different from that of "Shimon." So too by other people, Neshamos are destinct from one another. In general, they are divide into 4 parts. There are those whose neshamos are rooted in the world of Atzilus (the highest world)," [some originate from] Briah, [others from] Yetzira and [others from] Asiya [our world, the lowest]. Therefore, sometimes [Chazal] speak according to the aspect of Atzilus, sometimes from Briah, etc. etc. And once in a long while, they speak according to the asepect of The Infinite. Great wisdom is required in order to understand each statement of Chazal according to the aspect to which ist is relevant. Mistakes in distinguishing create contradictions bvetween statements of Chazal. All contradictions are rooted in this, since every statement [of Chazal] is speaking about a different level and aspect. This is the secret of "אלו ואלו דברי אלהים חיים," "these and these are the words of the Living G-d." (Eiruvin 13b) Every opinion is correct. However, each one is true according to its level and the aspect about which it is speaking, and no more. The root of dispute is based in the lack of understanding that all of their words are true on their level alone. However, no more than this. The tikun for dispute is through clarifying everything's place and limits. They are all true in their place.
(Picture courtesy of Eichlers)
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