I have been thinking a lot about hashgacha pratis (divine providence) recently – a combination of Purim and current events round the world.
First a small hashgacha pratis story that happened to me recently. People love to share these stories, but while it’s obviously important to see the Hand of Hashem in everyday life, sometimes the stories which people tell are so insignificant – “I cut my finger and you know, only that morning, I’d gone out and bought plasters” – that one wonders if maybe they need to get out more. Although, once I cut my hand quite badly and my friend the doctor was standing right next to me and was able to patch it up much better than I would have done….
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I went out to pick up some children from school. I knew I had taken my phone with me, but when I went to get out of the car, it wasn’t there. I checked the car – not there. I was resigned to the fact that it must have fallen out of my pocket on the drive at home, and hoping that no-one had walked past and taken it, when suddenly I heard it ringing… from under the car! A mother from a different rota, who had never called me before or since, was phoning – just in time to save me from driving over my phone when I pulled away from the kerb.
This story is quite cute. The sort of stories which surface after a disaster/terrorist attack/car crash – I would have been there, but… I stayed in shul to learn/went to visit an old lady etc are often powerful and impressive. However, they are only meaningful in the context of a similar number of stories of people who would not normally have been in that place, but were there that day because they went to shul early/came home specially to visit an old lady…
I began writing this post yesterday morning, but didn’t finish it before the bomb attack in Jerusalem. Today my daughters told me that the brother of two girls in their school was standing at that bus stop yesterday, as he often does. Suddenly he decided to go in a taxi instead, which apparently he never does. Two minutes after he left, the bomb exploded. This is balanced out by the story of why the lady who was killed, Mary Jean Gardner, was there at the time. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, she was staying in the Home for Bible Translators in Mevaseret Zion, and normally travelled on a private bus to and from the Hebrew University. Yesterday she had a day off and went into town to meet a friend who had just arrived in Jerusalem – so she’s the one who was doing something worthwhile, but didn’t have a good outcome.
I am not sure what to make of any of these stories. I am sure that we have an omniscient, omnipotent and beneficent God. This means that everything that happens to a person must ultimately be the best thing for them, even if it doesn’t seem so at the time – Chana Jenny Weisberg over at JewishMom.com gives a lovely presentation of the carpet mashal – that we are looking at the back of a carpet and can only see a jumble of threads, but the real picture on the other side is clear and beautiful.
Without this belief, the world is a random and pretty gloomy place – my husband quoted Rav Hirsch on this last Shabbos. The conclusion is that this is not a Jewish way to think – nothing happens randomly, our responsibility is to acknowledge this, draw a message for self improvement from a tragedy and carry on, living our lives and doing mitzvos b’simcha.