THE TORAH'S CONCEPT OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE:
Our presentation has thus far dealt with the necessity of recognizing the existence of a transcendent intelligence that created the world through a system of extremely finely-tuned laws and constants. We quoted a number of distinguished scientists who argue that the manifestations of underlying purposeful fine-tuning are far too numerous and impressive to have occurred by chance.
But the discovery of the fine-tuning of the universe goes far beyond the foregone conclusion that the universe cannot be a chance happening. It seems to indicate that the laws and constants of physics were designed so that life could arise. This has caused some scientists to adopt "the Anthropic Principle" which states that Man, being the conscious observer capable of appreciating the awesomeness of the universe, is in fact its purpose.
The list of examples of the fine-tuning of the laws and constants of nature is so long that it has been compiled into an entire book on this topic. We refer to Professor Michael Rees's book entitled "Cosmic Coincidences." Likewise, Professor Frank Tipler's classic book on the topic, "The Anthropic Cosmological Principle," demonstrates how extensive this list is.
We thus found ourselves faced with an extremely large set of startling facts that seem to point to the existence of an All Powerful Being (i.e. God) with a special interest in the emergence and survival of human-like creatures.
We have not dealt at all with the possible proposition of this Being's involvement in human affairs. This proposition states that this Being (God) is the Director of History and is involved on a personal level in the life of each and every individual human soul.
The first proposition of God as Creator of the universe is alluded to in the Bible by the name Elokim. Elokim is the sole name that is used throughout the entire Creation narrative (the first chapter of Genesis). Elokim connotes that God runs His world according to the rule of law (i.e. the laws and constants of nature). The second proposition of God as Director of History is alluded to in the Torah by the name YHVH (usually spoken of as Hashem). According to traditional sources, these names represent different ways we experience and perceive God in His relationship with the world.
"In the beginning, Elokim created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). As the great medieval commentator Ramban (Nachmanides, 1194-1270) writes, the meaning of name Elokim is "Master over all forces." Ramban continues, "For the word itself is a compound construction. 'El' means Ruling Power or Master Power and 'Him' [like the Hebrew 'Hema,' meaning 'These'] alludes to all the forces [i.e. laws and constants that God created with which to run His universe]. 'Elokim' thus means 'Master Power over all forces.'"
Now, after having been informed about the fine-tuning of the universe, we can appreciate the expression "Master over all forces" even more. Remember Sir Fred Hoyle's statement, "A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintendent has monkeyed with the physics as well as the chemistry and the biology of nature, and there are no blind forces in nature to speak of." That is, the facts imply that the universe is the product of a Mind that could control simultaneously everything from the constants of physics to the designing of DNA molecules and finally the human brain, nervous system, eye, etc. In fact, Hoyle is reiterating what Ramban said over 700 years ago. Modern man perhaps needs Hoyle to appreciate the depth of Ramban's statement: Elokim = Master over all the forces [of nature] = the Superintendent.
Hashem's Involvement in Human Affairs
"Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, 'This is what YHVH, God of the Hebrews, declares: Let My people go, so they can sacrifice to Me in the desert.' Pharaoh replied, 'Who is YHVH that I should obey Him and let Israel go? I do not recognize YHVH. Nor will I let Israel go'" (Exodus 5:1-2).
Ramban explains: "Pharaoh was very wise. He knew Elokim and acknowledged His existence, as he (or his predecessor) said to Joseph, ‘Since Elokim has informed you of all this...’ (Genesis 41:39), and ‘Can another man be found who has the spirit of Elokim in him as this man does?’ (41:38). He did not, however, recognize the Unique Name [YHVH]."
Pharaoh had no trouble with the first concept of God. Belief or knowledge of a "Creator" caused no cognitive dissonance in him. The second concept of God as Director of History, embodied in the name YHVH, did bother him. Because Pharaoh did not have this second concept of God, he reacted to Moses' demand to release the Jewish people from bondage as pure fantasy, inconceivably absurd.
That is, he was willing to admit the existence of a Higher Power as long as it remained impersonal and "out there." He balked, however, when faced with the existence of a God who was involved in human affairs, who commanded the world into existence for a reason that transcended mere physical existence. That kind of God was, for him, a threat. Consequently, like the main character in the Breakfast of Champions, when faced with this, he experienced acute cognitive dissonance.
It is this idea that Pharaoh fights tooth-and-nail. It somehow threatens his claim to power. Pharaoh's false assumption is that God wants to usurp man's free will. His cognitive dissonance is so loud that he can't see the flaw in his reasoning. The truth is that God's providential care and concern for man is not a threat to his autonomy. On the contrary, man’s greatness lies in his ability to consciously bond with his Creator and align himself with His Will. But this is too profound for Pharaoh and his magicians to fathom.
Perception of a Single Unified Reality
The verse is stating that, as a result of the experience of the Exodus and the Revelation at Sinai, Israel attained direct empirical knowledge of a fact that would eventually be shared by all mankind. However, the verse itself is in the past tense: "Atah horeta ladaat," i.e. You (Israel) have already been shown, and you can now know through your own direct experience, that "YHVH" (the Master and Director of History) "Hu HaElokim" (is the Same One who is responsible for having brought the cosmos into existence and continues to sustain it at every moment). The One who created the world is the One who supervises human history.
Providence in History
following two quotes are from world renowned historians. Both
have added profoundly personal remarks at the conclusion of
their respective works on the history of the Jewish people:
Johnson is one of the most distinguished historians of our
generation. A History of the Jews is only one of his many
serious works. He concludes:
Pratit in the Life of the Individual
These three verses embody three levels through which we perceive Hashem, namely, in nature, in history, and in our personal lives. The first verse (Builder of Jerusalem) is the level of Hashem’s involvement that we perceive in history. The second (He heals the broken-heart) involves perceiving Hashem on the most personal level at which each and every one of us can experience His providence acting in our own lives. The third (He counts the number of stars) is the level we perceive in the fine-tuning of the cosmos. Man begins by perceiving God in nature and/or in history. Sandwiched in between these two, he eventually discovers God in his own life...