Saturday, March 04, 2006

Does God interfere in the world?

“If you told a man who is one of those who deem themselves the Sages of Israel (in other words Gedolim) that the deity sends an angel, who enters the womb of a woman and forms the fetus there, he would be pleased with this assertion and would accept it and would regard it as a manifestation of greatness and power on the part of the deity, and also of His wisdom, may He be exalted. Nevertheless he would also believe at the same time that the angel is a body formed of burning fire and that his size is equal to that of a third part of the world. He would regard all this possible with respect to God” These are the words of Rambam in Moreh 2:6 and this seems to be the opinion of most of the yeshivish/chasidish world nowadays. Anyone thinking differently is considered suspect in his Hashkafos. The question is if by denying God’s direct involvement in everything that happens at all times we are taking something away from His omnipotence? Putting it another way, has God willed the world into existence at the beginning, set the rules of nature into place and does not interfere in them at all? Or, because He is so powerful and smart he can multitask and personally make everything happen as in the example?

Rambam believes that accepting the idea of the supposed “Sages of Israel” is demeaning to God. “It is as if he said that the thing that is changed , is changed because of a deficiency in it that should be made good or because some excess that is not needed and should be got rid of. Now the works of the deity are perfect, and with regard to them there is no possibility of an excess or a deficiency. Accordingly they are of necessity permanently established as they are, for there is no possibility of something calling for a change in them.” Moreh 2:28. God’s greatness is that He Created the world not in a temporal beginning, time being a measure of physical change and therefore created too, with everything in place for it to run itself forever without the need for Him to interfere.
Furthermore when the first instant began all the future of the universe and its content ad infinitum was/is known to God. Past, present and future do not apply to Him. And here we are faced with the conundrum that if all is preset and has to happen where is man’s freedom of choice? The answer is that God’s knowledge is different and is only called such by us for lack of a different concept. The fact that He knows the outcome does not interfere with our freedom to make wrong or right decisions. This idea affects many areas of religion, Hashgacha, prayer, reward and punishment, and I will discuss this further in future posts.


  1. David G: Shavua Tov.
    Two points - 1. Our bodies, including our brains are physical entities, and therefore are predetermined. 2. Even if we can choose to do what we want, we can not change what it is that we want.

  2. JF :
    Re 1. that is correct and falls under the same conundrum with the same answer.
    Re 2. I need to think about that.Both part one of your sentence and part two.