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Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim 3:18 and Ramban in his commentary to Iyov (do not remember exactly where) as well as on Parashas Vayeiroh (Bereishis 18:19) say that for the majority of humanity, including the majority of Jews, there is no Hashgacha Pratis. It only exists for special people who live more Godly lives. It would seem that everything else happens due to nature and both ramban and rambam in the aforementioned sources say something that amounts to 'everyone else is left to מקרה'. In God's unfathomable wisdom, he is capable of having created nature in such a way that only one thing in the history of existence would change from the way it is with the current version of nature. If so, how was God's original decision of how to fix nature not just a big Hasgacha Pratis?

  • Who says that the initial creation factored in the particulars of everyone who would live later? – mevaqesh Jun 23 '16 at 0:15
  • @mevaqesh God lives outside of time and knows what will happen – Moshe Steinberg Jun 23 '16 at 0:17
  • Isn't this just a semantic game? Call it Hashgacha Blubliblablu if you want, as long as we know what it means. – Double AA Jun 23 '16 at 3:04
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    @Double AA I'm not exactly sure what you mean but perhaps this will help. In the view of these rishonim, some people get hashgacha pratis and others are subject to the rules of nature, not designed specifically for them. My question is that the design of the rules of nature could have been chosen in any way and that which they were set this way as opposed to any other is tantamount to hashgacha pratis, whilst these rishonim say we are just subject to nature as opposed to hashgacha pratis. Maybe my question could be expressed as 'according to these rishonim, isn't it just a semantics game?' – Moshe Steinberg Jun 23 '16 at 9:25
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    By the way, it's not clear the Rambam says the majority are excluded. It could be the minority. And looking at it carefully, I think he takes it as proportional -- the amount of individualized providence one receives is proportional to their humanity which is defined by their knowledge of G-d and how He runs the world. – Micha Berger Jun 23 '16 at 19:51
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Ramban's opinion about nature, no Random.

The word nature evolved with time. When Ramban was talking about nature, he meant by this word the philosophical meaning. The philosophic concept was widespread at the time. A different use of the word today may lead an uninformed reader to misconception. Nature is a word used to describe an independent world mechanism. See bellow the last Ramban commentary on Parashat Bo.

ומן הנסים הגדולים המפורסמים אדם מודה בנסים הנסתרים שהם יסוד התורה כלה, שאין לאדם חלק בתורת משה רבינו עד שנאמין בכל דברינו ומקרינו שכלם נסים אין בהם טבע ומנהגו של עולם, בין ברבים בין ביחיד, אלא אם יעשה המצות יצליחנו שכרו

On the basis of great and wel known miracles, man have to take account of hidden miracles. He has no part in Torat Moshe our teacher until he believes that every event of the live, are miracles. There is not Nature or world custom, for individuals as for human groups. If he will make mitsvot, G-d will give it success.

{He terms this non-randomness of events in human history as "nes". In this context this means that they are correspondent to human activity; not that they violate the laws of nature.}

ואם יעבור עליהם יכריתנו ענשו, הכל בגזרת עליון כאשר הזכרתי כבר (בראשית יז א, ולעיל ו ב)

and if he broke the laws, he will be punished by cut off. Each accidental event is a decision "from The Top".

ויתפרסמו הנסים הנסתרים בענין הרבים כאשר יבא ביעודי התורה בענין הברכות והקללות, כמו שאמר הכתוב (דברים כט יג כד) ואמרו כל הגוים על מה עשה ה' ככה לארץ הזאת, ואמרו על אשר עזבו את ברית ה' אלהי אבותם, ‏

Hidden miracles will becoming well-known, regarding multitudes, as blessing and oath in Torah, as stated "All nations shall say, Why has the Lord done thus to this land? What does the heat of this great anger mean? ", "Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt;"

שיתפרסם הדבר לכל האומות שהוא מאת ה' בעונשם. ואמר בקיום וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה' נקרא עליך ויראו ממך. ועוד אפרש זה בעזרת השם (ויקרא כו יא): (הרמב"ן) ‏

I will be known to every nation that punishment of Jewish People is from G-d. It is the same for reward. The verse says: "All peoples of the earth will see that the name of G-d is called for you"

Ramban does not deny the existence of natural law, but rather deny the idea that natural law operates in such deterministic way that does not allow for reward and punishment. Rather, he asserts that the world functions in a way that rewards the good and punishes the bad. This is sometimes (rarely) accomplished through God's tampering with the natural order, but is generally accomplished through the laws of nature themselves.

The central contention of this Ramban is that every event is righteousnes of G-d, with a great accuracy for punishments and rewards. The mishna in Sota (1, 7-9) stated "In the measure with which a man measures it is meted out to him.". the depth of judgment in relation to reward and punishment. so perfectly described in Mesilat Yesharim (chapter 4) (here for English Translation).

What does that mean that G-d knows one man in Torah? The concept of Hashgacha as protection.

Ramban's comment Bereshit 19:

והנכון בעיני שהיא ידיעה בו ממש ירמוז כי ידיעת השם שהיא השגחתו בעולם השפל היא לשמור הכללים. ‏

The explanation that makes more sense for me is that "knowledge" concerning G-d is defined as "protection" toward lowly world, to ensure the integrity of groups (sets, species).

וגם בני האדם מונחים בו למקרים עד בא עת פקודתם ‏

Humans too, are subjects to the hazards (natural accidents, not random), until their last day.

אבל בחסידיו ישום אליו לבו לדעת אותו בפרט להיות שמירתו דבקה בו תמיד לא תפרד הידיעה והזכירה ממנו כלל. ‏

In the opposite, with regard to its devoted, he is being particularly benevolent". This means that He or she ensures an uninterrupted custody.

כטעם לא יגרע מצדיק עיניו (איוב לו ז) ובאו מזה פסוקים רבים כדכתיב (תהלים לג יח) הנה עין ה' אל יראיו וזולת זה ‏

as the verse (Job 36, 7) "He withdraws not his eyes from the righteous". Many verses concern this issue (Psalms 33, 17) "Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him".

This is the Hashgacha of Hashem in the intent of the More Nevuchim (III, 51) and Ramban Vayera is a Divine protection, as stories in Gemara that Mal'ach Hamavet (Angel of the Death) needs to make a noise, distracting the tsadik from attachment to G-d and interrupting the Divine protection it to kill it.

The Shem Tov commentary III, 51 summarizes different measures aimed at protecting human beings (listed by increasing order following the degree of perfection of a man):

  1. The active intellect gives a good idea to protect himself against danger;
  2. The active intellect gives him advice in a dream;
  3. The man would not be separated from G-d, except for basic needs activities. Just at the time when it will leave G-d for a material thing, bad events may happen.
  4. Prophets, which remain attached to G-d even when they are occupied with them body. nothing bad will happen to them. .

An equivocal reference to the word Hashgacha:

For me the Sefer Hachinuch in Mitsva 169, Tum'at Metsora, summarized very clearly many other views and included the common view of Ramban and Rambam above treated. You can observe that he used the word Hashgacha alternatively for two different meanings in the text bellow (show my note between brackets in the paragraph about humankind):

וכל ענין הסגרין אלו יורה השגחתו ברוך הוא על כל דרכי האדם אחת לאחת. ולפי שהדעות רבות בהשגחת האל על כל ברואיו, יבואו בה הרבה פסוקים במקרא והרבה מצות להורות על הענין מהיותו פנה גדולה בתורתנו. ‏

The problem of Hesger Metsora shows the monitoring of the Holy blessed be He to each behavior of man. There are several opinions about this monitoring, broadly detailed in verses and linked with several Mitsvot. This is a big issue of our Law.

שיש כתות בני אדם יחשבו כי השגחת השם יתברך על כל המינין בפרט בין אנשים או כל שאר בעלי חיים, ‏

Some groups think that the monitoring is the same for every species, human and non human being.

ויש מהן כתות יחשבו כי השגחת השם ברוך הוא על כל עניני העולם בין בעלי חיים או כל שאר דברים, כלומר שלא יתנועע דבר אחד קטן בעולם הזה רק בחפצו ברוך הוא ובגזרתו עד שיחשבו כי בנפל עלה אחד מן האילן הוא גזר עליו שיפל, ואי אפשר שיתאחר או יקדם זמן נפילתה אפילו רגע, וזה דעת רחוק הרבה מן השכל ‏

Other groups think that every being, animal, or not, are monitored. Nothing does move, little as big, in the world, without His will, blessed be He, without His decision. If a leaf falls from the tree, this results from His decision that it falls. It was impossible that it fallen after or before this. This view is far from the Reason.

. ויש כתות רעות יחשבו שלא ישים השגחתו ברוך הוא כלל בכל עניני העולם השפל, בין באנשים או בשאר בעלי חיים, והוא דעת הכופרים, רע ומר. ‏

There are groups which think that He does not monitor anything in this lowly world, no humans and no animals. This is the opinion of heretics, bad and bitter.

ואנחנו בעלי הדעת האמיתים לפי מה ששמעתי נשים השגחתו ברוך הוא על כל מיני בעלי חיים בכלל, שכל מין מן המינים הנבראים בעולם, יתקיים לעולם, לא יכלה ויאבד כלו, כי בהשגחתו ימצא קיום לכל דבר.

But us, we believe, following what I have learned, we see the monitoring for each species {not individual} of animals, that this species will remain for ever {Hashgacha = protection, as I explained above}, do not be exterminated. Because his protection is for the maintain of everything.

ובמין האדם נאמין כי השגחתו ברוך הוא על כל אחד ואחד בפרט, והוא המבין אל כל מעשיהם (תהלים לג טו). וכן קבלנו מגדולינו, וגם נמצא על זה הרבה כתובים יורו כי הענין כן. ‏

Regarding humankind, we believe that the (protection)/[monitoring] {here we see a "shift in meaning". The author is not wrong, he explain that regarding humankind Hashgacha is spitted in two parts, protection, which is not for all, and reward-punishment, for each. Differently, about other beings that have no free will, this double definition is not relevant} is to each individual separately, He knows (and understand) each of their behavior. We received this teaching from our great teachers. We can found many verses which go in this direction.

ולכן הזהירתנו התורה כי בהגיע אל האדם החלי הרע, והוא הצרעת, שלא יקחנו דרך מקרה, רק יחשב מיד כי עונותיו גרמו וירחיק מחברת בני אדם כאדם המרחק מרע מעשיו, ויתחבר אל המכפר המרפא שבר החטא ויראה אליו נגעו, ובעצתו ובדבריו ובפשפוש מעשיו יוסר מעליו הנגע, כי האל ברוך הוא שמשגיח עליו תמיד יראה מעשה תשובתו וירפאהו, וזהו ענין ההסגרין כמו שאמרנו.

So, Torah is reminding us that the occurrence of some illness, the leper, does not be considered as an accident. He should think immediately that his sins caused this. He need to leave the human society as a man which runs away from its own bad conducts....

Conclusion:

The word "Hashgacha" has a double meaning which don't be confused: 1.- protection, 2.- All event in the live of the individual or the group happened following equity as reward or punishment. The current common language employ the second. More Nevuchim (III, 51), Ramban Vayera spoke about the first. Ramban parashat Bo and Mesilat Yesharim above cited talk about the second.


  • I have asked Rabbis about how to deal with what seems to be a big contradiction with how Ramban deals with this issue of Hashgacha pratis. It certainly seems to be implied from the above source that everyone has personal hashgacha. However, I pointed out in my question the ramban in Vayeira: ירמוז כי ידיעת השם שהיא השגחתו בעולם השפל היא לשמור הכללים וגם בני האדם מונחים בו למקרים עד בא עת פקודתם אבל בחסידיו ישום אליו לבו לדעת אותו בפרט להיות שמירתו דבקה בו תמיד לא תפרד הידיעה והזכירה ממנו כלל כטעם לא יגרע מצדיק עיניו and he says similarly in איוב פרק לז too – Moshe Steinberg Jun 23 '16 at 12:30
  • @MosheSteinberg, there are a number of quotes from the Rambam that require careful study to be woven together. I am more in agreement with R/Dr David Berger's (no relation) take at zootorah.com/assets/media/MiraclesNahmanides.pdf I also found R' Gil Student's review of R. Moshe Eisemann's position at torahmusings.com/2006/08/ramban-on-providence – Micha Berger Jun 23 '16 at 19:49
  • Okay I edited the beginning. If I misunderstood anything just edit it back. I still cant in good conscience revoke the downvote since it remains hard to read. Too hard for me to even understand to edit. – mevaqesh Jun 26 '16 at 17:00
  • I hope that now the text is more readable. I do my best to improve English language. – kouty Jun 30 '16 at 18:45

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