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Does the phrase b'ezras Hashem make sense philosophically and if so, what does it mean?

B'ezras Hashem implies to me that a person can do things himself, but Hashem helps. In what sense is it true that we have a sort of independent ability to do things? How does that interplay with God's ''help''?

(It seems to me that b'ezras Hashem is used as a replacement for 'hopefully' or the like when 'frum' people talk, but that is a side point.)

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    It's not just "frum speak." ה' לי בעוזרי etc. – b a Apr 2 '18 at 9:26
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    מלך עוזר ומושיע ומגן – Dov F Apr 2 '18 at 12:21
  • Sorta reminds me of "bli neder I promise to..." ;) – ezra Apr 2 '18 at 12:55
  • maybe it means "I place myself in the context/presence of Hashem"... – rosends Apr 2 '18 at 13:07
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    @MosheSteinberg I was just pointing out that the construction could be seen to be parallel to the phrase "ezrat nashim" -- the enclosure for the women. – rosends Apr 2 '18 at 14:17
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There are two similar expressions: אם ירצה ה (אי"ה - if G-d so Desires / Wills) and בעזרת ה (בע"ה - with G-d's Help). It seems from your question that you have no problem with the former, אי"ה, as it leaves the future in G-d's "Hands" with no other factors under discussion.

Saying "בע"ה", however, brings up issues of bechirah chofshis (free will) and hashgachah peratis (personalized Divine Providence). See the question "Free choice versus the Will of G-d". (My own answer is here.) I think it is there that you will find answers to the fundamental dilemma underlying your question.

But the bottom line is "אין סומכין על הנס -- we do not rely on miracles", and even the resolutions of free will vs providence that give providence the most expansive role acknowledge that there is a role for human effort. That success and failure are in G-d's "Hands", but it is still fair to also acknowledge that we're talking about success or failure of our efforts.

בע"ה is thus a good counterfoil for taking too much credit for those successes. While leaving אי"ה a great attitude to take when the situation leaves us little to do, we don't run such risks. We can still avoiding losing hope by placing our trust in Him.

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The idea behind this custom is that even when we go about our mundane daily tasks, G‑d should always be on our minds, our tongues and our pens. This is in line with the verse in Psalms “I have placed the L‑rd before me constantly; because [He is] at my right hand, I will not falter,”(Psalms 16:8) and the verse in Proverbs “Know Him in all your ways, and He will direct your paths.”(Proverbs 3:6) The habit of peppering our ordinary conversation with thankful mentions of G‑d was even displayed by our forefather Jacob. According to the Midrash, when he masqueraded as his unruly brother as a ruse to have his father, Isaac, bless him, Jacob almost blew his cover by repeatedly mentioning G‑d in his conversation with his blind father.(Chabad.org)

  • Welcome to MiYodeya Yosef. Hope to see you around! – mbloch Apr 3 '18 at 4:33
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    This post seems to be speaking past the question rather than answering it. You're answering why people pepper their speech with mentions of God. The question was how it makes sense to refer to His help, as if we were primary and He secondary. – msh210 Apr 3 '18 at 7:23

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