Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ramban on Providence

R. Moshe Eisemann regularly publishes short books that are used as fundraising tools for the Kishiniev Yeshiva. I recently received his latest book, which is an (extremely thoughtful and eloquent) analysis of the Ramban's position on the nature of man and divine providence (link). I was pleasantly surprised by this book on a number of levels.

In a post last year (link), I quoted R. Moshe Sternbuch's citation of the Ramban (to Exodus 13:16) that it is heretical to believe other than that everything that happens in the world is miraculous. I quoted Dr. David Berger's analysis of the Ramban's view and his conclusion that, according to the Ramban, all reward and punishment are miraculous but there are still things in this world that occur based on happenstance (i.e. nature). R. Eisemann's conclusion is the same (he initially had a different approach but his daughter's questions convinced him otherwise). Page 94:

If Ramban accepts Targum's interpretation, it would simply mean that these people are occasionally left to the vagaries of nature. There will be times when what happens to them will be directly brought about through hashgachah either to reward or to punish. During the intervening times they are left to their own devices.
Interestingly, R. Eisemann asks how we -- average Jews -- are supposed to deal with the idea that God's continuous providence only applies to the most righteous (see this post). He suggests that we take it as an inspiration and encouragement to better ourselves so that we become worthy of God's providence. Page 96:
If what Ramban taught us sounds to our guilty ears like a form of caste system, that is not what the Ribono shel Olam wants us to feel. He hopes that, knowing that we have not measured up to the degree of deveikus which would place us among the "ins," we will fight long and hard to regain entry into His embrace. The degree to which we remain on the outside depends entirely upon ourselves. The Ribono shel Olam is waiting.
This is similar to R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik's response to a similar concern regarding the Rambam's approach to providence (Halakhic Man, p. 128):
The fundamental of providence is here transformed into a concrete commandment, an obligation incumbent upon man. Man is obliged to broaden the scope and strengthen the intensity of the individual providence that watches over him. Everything is dependent on him; it is all in his hands. When a person creates himself, ceases to be a mere species man, and becomes a man of God, then he has fulfilled that commandment which is implicit in the principle of providence.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More