Friday, December 12, 2008

On Disappointment and Destiny

This shabbos, I was looking forward to going somewhere, but had to cancel my plans Friday morning due to inclement weather.

A friend who was supposed to join me this weekend said to me, “I'm not sure if it’s right for me to be upset, since there is nothing else that I could have done, and apparently I wasn’t meant to go—but I was really looking forward to going.”

This comment made me think. My disappointment was unmitigated by such sensibilities. It never occurred to me that I oughtn’t feel upset about the necessitated cancellation because I clearly “wasn’t meant to go.” Of course, I quickly acclimated myself to the adjustment, and did not manifest my disappointment in outward action, but internally I felt justified in a certain sense of loss (not in any significant way, mind you, but in a perfectly normal, proportional sense). It wouldn’t cross my mind to say, “Clearly, God did not will me to be there this shabbos, so I should feel just as satisfied with the change of plans as I felt beforehand.” My friend, however, apparently believed that in some way feeling upset was not right, because this turn of events was Divinely ordained.

What do our respective reactions say about the way that we view God’s hand in our lives? The person who responds with, “Clearly, this is God’s plan,” assumes a certain amount of hashgacha over every event in our lives. My reaction of, “Aw, shucks. Bad weather is so annoying,” removes God’s specific intentions from the equation and blames teva (natural law).

Obviously, within Jewish sources there are differing views on hashgacha, and each reaction reflects a legitimate position. Mine would reflect a more rationalistic, Maimonidean approach—which makes sense, considering that my high school heavily pushed Rambam’s approach to most everything. However, I do have difficulty with a wholly Maimonidean position (to sum up inadequately: God does not intervene on behalf of individuals unless they are tzadikim). I have many issues with this view, but they are outside the scope of this post.

If I had to express my own opinion, I would say that I believe that Hashem does have hashgacha over certain aspects of our lives, but not others. I cannot determine where I draw the line—in fact, my whole perspective is extremely muddled—but I suppose it’s fair to assume that I blame ice storms on teva rather than Divine intervention. Yet I can’t help but hope that Hashem has some sort of ultimate plan in mind for me, as I struggle over grad schools and career plans and my uncertain future.

Who knows? Perhaps staying in school this shabbos will somehow shape my destiny. I’ll keep you posted.


Erachet said...

Duh it'll change your destiny. Me, you, and D2 are gonna party it up, man! Besides - something is brewing. Why else would all these random people all of a sudden be staying in?

Dum dum dummmmm.....! :P

Ezzie said...

Of course, I quickly acclimated myself to the adjustment, and did not manifest my disappointment in outward action, but internally I felt justified in a certain sense of loss (not in any significant way, mind you, but it a perfectly normal, proportional sense).

That seems about right. In a way I'd think a person can do both: Yes, this is teva, and it's normal to be a bit upset, but at the same time, take advantage of whatever opportunities are presented to you - the "hashgacha" part. (In a way, like Erachet wrote above.)

Somehow the post made me think of the drasha I heard today on the Parsha, or aspects of it, anyway: Yaakov seems to be contradictory in the Parsha - going back over a river at night to get "pachim ketanim", which are seemingly unimportant material objects, and yet later in the Parsha is offered substantial gifts from Esav, but turns them down because he is "blessed with everything he needs".

I was wondering at the time why didn't he just attribute the losses to God not wanting him to have those things, that he doesn't need them, along the same lines as he says later?

*Perhaps* one could argue that Yaakov had this balance of hashgacha and reality; you accept what you have in life, but still don't just attribute everything to said hashgacha.

Northern Light said...

You've hit on an issue that confronts me alot, too...and I'm usually unsure exactly which way I should take turns of events. My inclination is to assume Hashem is actively involved with me every moment, and when stuck in a snowstorm or behind a slow-go in a checkout line think of Galinda in Wicked: "These things are sent to try---- us!"