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.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Mystic say Karma and reincarnation. Nature created rats, ducks, etc. and karma provides the souls that were evil humans previously. It is the reason there are rich and poor. If there is no reincarnation, is G-d unjust? Is there some sort of galactic universal force that punishes people?
Ill write a review of Bart D. Ehrman’s book where he gives the many reasons for bad things in this world reasons in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. I will do so this week.
Maimonides, like any follower of the Jewish faith, believed in miracles, and refers to them many times in his writings. This is true in his monumental Mishnah Torah, which I gather you think was not what he really believed; It is also true in his Guide to the Perplexed.
I would appreciate if you could to direct me to a source wherein Maimonides writes that he does not believe in miracles.
In chapter 71 of the first part of his Guide, he argues for Creation and against the eternity of the universe, which latter belief would be incompatible with miracles in his view.
I refer you to Pines’ translation of the Guide, as well as to page 276 Isadore Twersky’s Maimonides Reader,
The Bible, the Talmud, the Siddur, all speak of God;s miracles,as did Maimonides, so how can a believing Jew deny the concept of miracles?
Good question Moishe. Actually, Maimonides did not believe in miracles. Nachmanides, the mystic, in contrast, believed in open and secret miracles, those like in ancient Egypt and those happening even today. There are lots of ideas that are untrue that religious leaders teach the general population. They do so because of various reasons. An example is that God becomes angry when people act improperly. Actually, God has no human emotions. Another is that God answers every prayer, when it is obvious that prayers go unanswered. But the general public need to believe it to feel good and feel safe and have God to rely on. The Greek Plato called these untruths “noble lies.” Maimonides, who used them often in his Guide of the Perplexed, called them “essential truths,” untruths which are essential to teach the general public. I will publish an essay today or tomorrow with an example.
Hi Moishe. Maimonides, in my view, clearly did not believe in supernatural miracles that violate the laws of nature. Such a view would imply that G-d intervenes and Maimonides is a deist.
I agree. We see no indication of God changing natural law.
Rabbi Dovid Sapirman, the author of Tranquility and Travail, do you highly suggest getting this book?
I do not think it is worth while reading this book. I disagree with the rabbi’s Haredi views. I agree with Maimonides that God created the world to function according to the laws of nature that God created or formed and God does not interfere with these laws by performing miracles.