Hashem’s “Hidden Face” and learning how to live under His “Divine Providence”
A ma’amar from HaRav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a, Maran’s zt”l grandson(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds United Kingdom)
It states in this week’s Parashah, “I will send an angel before you to safeguard you on the way, and bring you to the place that I have prepared. Be careful in his presence and heed his voice. Do not rebel against him, since My name is with him. He will not pardon your disobedience” (Shemot 23:20-21).
In these pessukim is hidden a great secret in Hashem’s leadership of Am Yisrael. However, we will analyse this according to the straightforward meaning. Who is the angel mentioned here in the passuk. Why is Hashem sending an angel and not leading Am Yisrael Himself?
Rashi z”l explains, “Here they were informed that they were destined to sin [at the incident of the Golden Calf] and that the Shechinah would [then] say to them, ‘for I will not ascend in your midst’ (ibid. 33:33). Meaning, Hashem informed Am Yisrael that they are going to sin in the future and due to those sins they won’t merit for Hashem to lead them Himself, rather He will send an “angel”, a spiritual angel or a great person, that will lead them.
Rabbeinu the Ramban (Rav Moshe ben Nachman z”l 1194-1270) further explains that in truth this occurred during the days of Yehoshua bin Nun, after Moshe passed away. As it states, “It happened when Yehoshua was in Yericho that he raised his eyes and saw behold! - a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand” (Yehoshua 5:13), that “man” was the angel for Hashem. An angel sent from Hashem to stand for Am Yisrael in their battles. Yet all the days of Moshe there was no angel established for Am Yisrael but as it was Hashem Himself who went before them, until Moshe passed away and then a certain decline began, and Am Yisrael began to be led by an angel.
This matter is a great principle in all of Hashem’s leadership of the world throughout the generations. In the case before us we are dealing with different leaderships, which are immediately distinguishable. In Moshe’s days, Am Yisrael were led by Hashem, and during Yehoshua’s days, through an angel. However, in truth, as long as Am Yisrael will stand in a higher level, so they will merit to be under Hashem’s Providence in a more revealed manner. And all the while that Am Yisrael, G-d forbid, decline in their level, so is increased the “hidden face”, to the extent that it is difficult to clearly determine Hashem’s leadership of the world.
An example for this is as follows. In the days of Chizkiyahu king of Yehudah (circa 716/15-687/86 BCE), all of Am Yisrael were studying Torah, they were literally tzaddikim and Hasidim. Therefore, when Sancheiriv’s (705-681 BCE) army came to battle against Yehudah, Hashem made a great miracle and all of Sancheiriv’s army died in one night. As it states, “And it was that [very] night: An angel of Hashem went out and struck down 185,000 [people] of the Assyrian camp. The rest arose [early] in the morning and behold - they were all dead corpses!” (Melachim II, 19:35).
However, the maters are not only stated regarding Am Yisrael as a whole. For in truth there have been people of special virtue in every generation, through which they merited to be under Divine Providence in a visible way and with great light by Hashem Yitbarach. For example, Rebbi Chaninah ben Dosa who said to his daughter, “the One who said that oil should kindle, He shall tell the vinegar to light” (Ta’anit 25a), and likewise Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai, and many otherers from the periods of Tanaim and Amoraim!
Indeed, so it was literally until the previous generation, that in our time the hasid Rebbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira z”l (1989-1984) lived, and his son Rebbi Meir Abuhatzeira z”l (1917-1983), that worked real miracles and wonders. This was due to their d’veikut (deep connection) with Hashem Yitbarach, through hard work of complete asceticism from matters of this world and investing their energy in Torah and yirat shamayim, until they merited to literally the level of angels, and through this they merited to Hashem’s revelation of His Providence over them.
In the Gemara (Moed Katan 18a) a story is told about a pregnant woman who walked on a (finger or toe) nail that had been cut off, which can cause a woman to miscarry. This was a tangible reality at the time of Chazal, with many other “segulot” which were known to everyone. Through this many supernatural matters were noticeable amongst people. In contrast in our day we don’t see any effect in any segulot. The gaon the Chazon Ish (Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz z”l 1878-1953) said about this, “Do you known what is ‘a concealed face’? ‘A concealed face’ is even that a [toe or finger] nail [that has been cut from a hand or foot] doesn’t cause harm!”
Meaning that in our generations the sins have surpassed all boundaries, the materialism in the world continues to strengthen. When the materialism strengthens then all the spiritual strengths, good and bad, disappear. In the previous generations they all believed that there are hidden powers in the world, as a result, they were also able to trust in Hashem more easily, to believe that everything is from Hashem’s hand. But in our time, for every regular mater people are accustomed to give an “explanation”. Understandably, an explanation is not the real reason why something happened, but rather it explains well why something happened from a natural perspective. When the mindset is like this that everything has just a “natural explanation”, this develops something akin to a mirror image, so that Divine Providence is revealed under “coverings” that are natural!
I once came to comfort some mourners in a doctor’s home, whose father had passed away. Sitting there were the doctor’s friends, who were also doctors, who sought to comfort him. Indeed as soon as they entered, they asked the mourning doctor, “What did he suffer from?” And he explained to them that his father had the following ailments and recently there was this and this development. And so he explained and explained in professional language, until it ended up with the demise of his father’s life.
Let us consider. The real truth is that from heaven they decreed that the doctor’s father would pass away. Heaven decreed that he would become ill, until he eventually died. All the circumstances that led to his death, are a direct result of the spiritual decree from above. The illnesses and medical problems which he endured, were in no way the true reason for his passing!
But in our times, nearly everyone is used to speak like this because we have become indoctrinated and used to thinking that everything has a natural explanation. In this way the whole world becomes more materialistic, more “natural”, but in truth, people are becoming more distant from their inner selves and from the core of the world. Therefore we experience in our generations a great “hidden face”, but with this we must remember, that for each and every one of us, whether a man or a woman, has the power in their intellect and world view, through getting stronger in Torah and mitzvot, getting stronger in trust in Hashem Yitbarach, and so then will Hashem’s leadership towards them be revealed both on an individual way and in a general way. As it states, “…but as for one who trusts in Hashem, kindness surrounds him” (Tehillim 32:10).
B’ezrat Hashem may we quickly merit to a revelation of Hashem’s honour in the world, for then Hashem will sprinkle holy water on his people, and the whole world will recognise and fathom Hashem’s Providence in the world, and Hashem will be the King over the entire planet! [See Yechezkel 36:25, Tefillat Aleinu and Zechariah 14:9.]
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