Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ramban: Avraham's Heightened Level of Divine Providence

Rav Leibowitz

In explaining why He will tell Avraham about the fate of Sedom, Hashem states regarding Avraham, "For I have known him." 

What does it mean that Hashem "knows" Avraham? 

The Ramban  (Bereshis 18:19) explains that this refers to an extra special level of divine providence afforded Avraham.  Generally, Hashem's providence governs the world in broad strokes.  Therefore, man is occasionally left to the mercy of nature.  However, for pious individuals, Hashem governs their lives with an additional level of protection.  Along these lines we read in Tehillim 33, "עין  ה' אל יראיו"- "The eye of Hashem is set upon those who fear Him." 

These words of the Ramban - which associate Avraham with the pious individuals who merit a heightened level of divine providence - are more appreciated in light of an important teachings based on a verse in Tehillim.  

The verse in Tehilim 121 describes Hashem as man's shadow - ה' צלך על יד ימינך.  R. Chayim of Volozhin explains (Nefesh ha-Chayim 1:7) that like a shadow, Hashem responds directly to our behavior.[1]  To the degree that we are conscious of Him, He is focused on us. Hence, the Rambam writes in Moreh Nevuchim that when one is completely and absolutely focused on Hashem, he is protected from the forces of nature and chance. 

Accordingly, we can suggest that Avraham merited this extra special level of providence due to his consciousness of Hashem and awareness of His presence.  In fact, the Rambam writes in the end of Moreh Nevuchim that this was the unique divine service of the Avos.  Even while they were involved in mundane activity, such as working the fields or tending their flocks, their minds were completely focused on Hashem.  

As the paradigm for complete focus on Hashem and utter devotion to divine service, the Avos also serve as the model for the pious individuals who merit a heightened level of divine providence.

Hashem should help us keep our lives and consciousness focused on Hashem, and through this merit heightened levels of siyata de-shmaya (divine assistance) and Heavenly protection.   

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