Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hashgach Pratis – Introduction – what does it mean to be close to God?

I was not planning to get into the issue of Hasgacha yet as I am still deciphering miracles, but I am pushed into it as Tafkaa , Dude and others on GH have been building up a head of steam on my cryptic comments there. I will from time to time ask GH to post one of these pieces, when I deem it worthy of greater dissemination. After all he does have a well deserved large following. ( GH – just keep your personal rhetoric in check – I know it makes good reading but these guys, the “G…. “ do learn day and night, which deserves some respect.)

The subject is complicated and lengthy and I still don’t have a clear picture in my mind of how to proceed and organize the presentation, but I will jump into the fray (like Nachshon into the sea).Rambam at the end of the Moreh in 3::51 (BTW the last chapters starting 3:51 to the end are magnificent, easy to read, and should be reread often by anyone serious about his religion) lays out an idea of what status we should aspire to reach in our quest for self improvement. Rambam first gives a summary of what it means being close to God: (I use Friedlander – easy to copy – pretty inaccurate sometimes): (my highlights and brackets)

Those, however, who think of God, and frequently mention His name, without any correct notion of Him, but merely following some imagination, or some theory received from another person, are, in my opinion, like those who remain outside the palace and distant from it (palace is a metaphor for being close to God, He being in the inner chambers of a metaphorical palace (Beis Hamikdash as metaphor?)). They do not mention the name of God in truth, nor do they reflect on it. That which they imagine and mention does not correspond to any being in existence: it is a thing invented by their imagination, as has been shown by us in our discussion on the Divine Attributes (Part 1. chap. 1.). The true worship of God is only possible when correct notions of Him have previously been conceived. When you have arrived by way of intellectual research at a knowledge of God and His works, then commence to devote yourselves to Him, try to approach Him and strengthen the intellect, which is the link that joins you to Him. (Intellect not belief, mesorah or some other such notion – Rambam is quite explicit) …. Thus the Law distinctly states that the highest kind of worship to which we refer in this chapter, is only possible after the acquisition of the knowledge of God. For it is said," To love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut. xi. 13), and, as we have shown several times, man's love of God is identical with His knowledge of Him. The Divine service enjoined in these words must, accordingly, be preceded by the love of God. Our Sages have pointed out to us that it is a service in the heart, which explanation I understand to mean this: man concentrates all his thoughts on the First Intellect, and is absorbed in these thoughts as much as possible

Clearly metaphysical speculation and intellectual understanding is not for the “Perplexed” only – (note LY and others). As we will see later Hahgacha Pratis is dependent on and in reality means being close to God. Being close to God is a result of our choice, our free will. Hashgacha is therefore a function of man’s actions. This is the first glimpse into what the great Rishonim, Ibn Ezra, Rambam and Ramban meant that Hashgacha Pratis only is available to Tzadikkim. Next post will deal with how being close to God affects our actions.

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