The Zionist Conspiracy
Monday, March 19, 2007
Tragedy, Answers, And Hashgachah Pratis
Three religiously observant Jews - a 31 year old women and a 16 year old girl who battled cancer, and a 52 year old man who for decades suffered from chronic illnesses - recently passed away. These are the tragedies I've been privy to; of course there are many others that we've all heard about. The emotional pain of these losses almost inevitably leads to theological questions by other religious Jews who knew them and who recited tehilim and begged God to cure them.
The concept of hashgachah pratis, that nothing occurs by chance or coincidence, and that everything that happens is part of God's plan, has become mainstream in the Orthodox Jewish world, and is sometimes invoked to answer the most difficult questions.
Alas, hashgachah pratis sometimes causes otherwise reasonably rational people to contrive all kinds of bizarre explanations for the unexplainable. After 9/11, there were silly stories about "miracles" involving people who survived. As for those who didn't - including some who had no reason to be in the World Trade Center or on their doomed flight - well, their gruesome death came about because "their time was up." When tragedy strikes, we hear things like "he's in heaven now" or that collectively we are at a low spiritual level and that God therefore took the victim from this world.
Thirteen years after the bar mitzvah of his son Ariel zt'l, Robert Avrech writes:
Every day, every hour, our son's cruel absence gnaws away at me. I avoid
I do not object to the concept of hashgachah pratis, but I do object to its misuse by "amateur theologians" purporting to comfort those in mourning. Because as Robert reminds us, sometimes there are no answers at all.