"The Way of G-d"
Part 2: “Divine Providence”
Ch. 1: “Divine Providence in General”
We humans are unique because of our free will and our inherent ability to
achieve perfection or not to, and because we're active, vital agents in this
universe rather than passive ones 1. So the sort of Divine
supervision touching on us is necessarily unique, too.
All of our activities are overseen and all of their consequences --
everything we do and everything that comes about as a result is scrutinized,
and G-d reacts to each one of us in light of all that 2, measure
for measure 3.
That's not true of other beings. They're reactive rather than active agents
and merely exist to maintain their species in ways set out by their roots
4. So they're supervised in ways appropriate to that.
But since we humans are indeed active and we affect things on our own, we're
each explicitly overseen 5 in light of our actions. But we'll
expand on this later 6.
1. We discussed free will at length above. See note 2 to 1:3:1 for
2. Indeed G-d interacts with us, rather than just oversees or
supervises us as He does other species as we'll see. Because we are His
"partners" in the universe (see Breishit Rabbah 11:6).
See Ch. 3 of this section below for more on this as well 4:9:3, and Ma'amar
HaIkkurim, "B'Hashgacha" and "B'Torah uMitzvot".
3. See 4:8:4 below as well as Da'at Tevunot 48, Klach Pitchei Chochma
94, and Messilat Yesharim Ch. 4.
That's generally understood to mean parallel and equivalent recompense, with
an arithmetically equal reaction to each action, tit for tat. But it may
simply refer to a generally fitting and appropriate though not exact
reaction to goodness or wrongfulness.
See 2:2:3-4 and 4:8:4 below on reward and punishment. Also see Shabbat 105b,
Nedarim 32a, and Sanhedrin 90a as well as Sefer HaIkkurim 4:9 and Moreh
4. That's to say that G-d merely oversees the actions and
experiences of other species and the consequences of them on a broad, more
They often-enough play more vital -- albeit passive -- roles in the course
of things, but that's only so as to move things along according to G-d's
plans aside from keeping their species going. See Ma'amar HaIkkurim,
5. And judged.
6. The difference between G-d's supervision of humans as opposed to
other entities can be likened to how a teacher relates to an outstanding
student as opposed to how he acts toward more pedestrian students.
The outstanding student (i.e., humankind) enjoys the teacher’s special
attention and he’s allotted certain special privileges. The teacher watches
over him and reacts to him proudly, almost dotingly; he duly notes and
rewards the student’s contributions to the class, and the teacher may even
parry from time to time with the good student. Should the bright student
somehow test his teacher’s mettle and go too far, that would be noted too,
and the “star” student would then suffer the consequences of that.
The pedestrian students (i.e., other species) are certainly observed in
class and encouraged to do what they do best, but because they neither shine
nor significantly contribute to the quality of the class, they’re observed
only enough to see to it that they get what they can from the class, in
order to maintain order and progress. But they’re still-and-all not doted over.
7. See Ch. 3 below.
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason
Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various
locations on the Web.