Rabbi Dovid Sapirman, the author of Tranquility and Travail, is a Haredi rabbi. Many Haredi Jews are very conservative and have more fundamental ideas than other Jews. One of Rabbi Sapirman’s views, which many non-Haredi Jews do accept is that God is involved with matters here on earth, and that God knows the details of what is happening to people and helps people when they need help. This is called “Divine Providence.” This is not the way that ibn Ezra (1089-c.1167), Maimonides (1138-1204), Gersonides (1288-1344), and others understood this concept. They were convinced that God knows the laws of nature that God created or formed, but God does not know the details of life on earth.

In his commentary to Genesis 18:21, ibn Ezra writes: “for it is the truth that the All (namely, God) knows every particular (only) in a general manner, but not in a particular manner.” See also his commentary to Exodus 23:25, 26. In other words, God knows the laws of nature, but does not know how humans and animals are using it.

This is the view of Maimonides in his Guide of the Perplexed 3:17: divine providence only extends to the level of the species. God does not help people. “I hold that divine providence is related and closely connected with the [human] intellect, because [what we call providence] can only proceed from an intelligent being.” This is also the view of Aristotle. In a word, people cannot depend on divine help. God created humans with intelligence. Intelligence is the divine providence. People can help themselves by using their intelligence. The smarter a person is and the more that people use their brains the better the chances they will be able to help themselves.

Gersonides, in S. Feldman, The War of the Lord, JPS, 1987, vol. II, pp. 139-209, and Gersonides’ Commentary on Job, chapters 11 and 42, also understood that divine providence exists, but it doesn’t work the way most people think it works. Divine providence is the use of the human intellect that God gave to humans. If people face problems and use their thinking to resolve the problem, they are using divine providence.

Non-Maimonideans have problems that flow from their idea that God is involved in this world. If this is so, why do good men and women suffer? Why doesn’t God help them? This is an age-old question called theodicy. While most non-Maimonidean thinkers are convinced that we have no solution to the problem, Rabbi Sapirman offer his analysis of the problem and his solution in the book Tranquility and Travail.