Is God Running My Life, or am I?

Moshe Ben-Chaim

A theory suggests that literally "all" that we experience our entire lives, is by Divine design...God ensured it had to happen. For example, this theory claims that if John verbally abuses Abe, it was necessary that Abe be abused, and at that moment. Perhaps it was not decreed that John do the yelling (for this would oppose "free will") but for some perfection or "grand design", God deemed it that Abe receive verbal abuse at that moment from someone. Books currently in print espouse this philosophy...books by well-known Rabbis. But are we to accept this view since it is in print, or authored by a Rabbi? If so, what if a second Rabbi teaches the opposite? How are we to operate then? 

What is our objective as the only rational creature God placed on Earth? If we simply repeat a view, we are akin to a parrot, to which no intelligence or virtue might be attributed. Thereby, we deny God's plan of gifting us intelligence. So let's think...

A person who repeats any given position as his own – whether found in books or authored by Rabbis – attempts to defend that position. For why else would a person repeat a view as his own, unless in its defense? 

Agreed? step...

Must an act of defense (i.e., defending a notion) be reasonable? Of course; for any argument or defense must follow reason in order that it be a sound argument...a sound truth. And truth is all about what we seek.

Now the tough question: how do we determine what is true, and what is false? 

The dictionary says truth means "conformity with fact or reality". Truth equates with what is real. The world is real, so we say "It is true that the world exists". Objects are real, as are laws that govern all objects. These are truths too. Therefore, anything at all – other than what we perceive – cannot be called "true". Rather, things that we do not perceive are called "imaginations".  Imagination is the corrupt method of idolatry. For although idolaters do not witness the "powers" of stone gods others claim they possess, they accept the teachings of their culture...they accept that stone gods are powerful.

If the external, physical universe – reality – does not conform to the beliefs of idolaters, why do they hold on to their unproven views? There is only one other area from which any view may originate: human imagination. And what fuels our imagination? It is our desires. 

We notice that the views of idolaters and anyone for that matter, which are not supported by fact, share a certain character. These baseless beliefs cater to some wish. Primarily, man seeks security about his future, happiness, he desires wealth, shelter, food, love, fame, friends, approval, and longevity.

Idolaters tend to fear their unknown futures more than others. This explains why many idolatrous practices promise a secure future, or set dates or prescribe odd actions that ensure one's security. In the long range, they fear the afterlife, so they consult the dead. Short range, they fear failure at business and relationships, so they read horoscopes and hire palm readers. In all cases, their fears allow them to blindly accept a baseless lie regarding their futures. Their emotional need overpowers their recognition of reality. 

But in the shortest range – the present – we find our case with which we commenced, that all our experiences are not accidental, but occur based on God's grand plan. However, we have no corroboration in reality that this is so. 

But as Jews, we know we have one other source that we fully recognize teaches absolute truth: God's Torah. We can look here as well to determine what reality is. But we must be very careful not to confuse God's words, with the words of the Rabbis. To be clear, we are not discussing Halacha (how to observe commands) but we are discussing the universe: what is real and what is false regarding how it operates. Now, as all men err, as we find the greatest Rabbis disputing each other and admitting error – clearly, both men cannot be correct when embroiled in contradiction. Therefore, to determine what is absolute reality, for now, let us confine ourselves to God's words alone.

God warns us not to verbally abuse others (Lev. 25:17).  Now, had John not abused Abe (above), John would be following what we know as 100% true to be God's real wish. That is, God wishes we follow His commands; He commanded us not to verbally abuse others. Thus, when John does NOT abuse Abe, only then is God's will being carrying out. 
Thereby, we refute the original theory: Abe's receipt of verbal abuse is NOT God's will. It actually opposes God's will. We conclude that since God desires John NOT to abuse Abe, it is NOT true that Abe must experience that abuse as God's grand plan. So if reality does not support the original theory of a "grand plan" that Abe be abused, and furthermore, the Torah rejects it, how did such a theory come to be? We already answered this above regarding idolaters. Man projects his wishes onto reality, regardless of finding any corroboration. Man desires security in the present, so he feels good when believing (without proof) that all he experiences is for "some reason" had to happen. He feels guided, and not left to steering his life alone. This theory also caters to a powerful sense of ego, since he is so important that God must intercede at each moment in his life. But the primary motivation that people accept this theory is as we said at first: man follows his internal wishes more than external reality, like idolaters. So one must be careful not to parallel any idolatrous element.

Another problem with this theory is regarding Reward and Punishment, which is undoubtedly God's system. If all events have to take place, how do I view results of my on actions? If something good or bad occurs due to my sins, and I opine that this result "must be God's plan", then I do not take responsibility for what I did, since God wanted it to occur. This is a view that violates Torah fundamentals. The person will not seek repentance for his sins, since his sins – he feels – produced results that "God desired". On this point, some Chassidic views take the already heretical, pantheistic view of God (i.e., He is literally "in" everything) to a new metaphysical corruption and suggest God is even found "in" sin. Their inability to accept God as metaphysical compels them to insert God into every cubic inch of space – heresy – and into all things, including sin. They feel this is a praise of God, when in fact, they forfeit the Afterlife with such views.

Additionally, this week's Parsha Kitetze warns against the "possibility" of violating crossbreeding if one plants diverse seeds too close together. (Deut. 22:9) Think about this: How can one suggest as above, that all events that we experience "must" occur, while God says some events "might" occur? Clearly, nature operates, there are chance events, and all we experience is NOT predetermined. We might cause crossbreeding, and then again...we might not. But because of the possibility, we must not plant diverse seeds too close.
Natural law exists, as Maimonides teaches. Nature also causes human feelings to operate a certain way, and we can hurt others with our speech. We are therefore warned against doing so. We must comply with human "nature". The point is that all is not decreed by God. Nature is a system. It is this very independently-functioning design that impresses us in all corners of the universe. If however we say God is actively willling every leaf to fall from every tree and every drop of rain to fall a certain distance, etc., etc., ad infinitum...then there is no design, as it is God, and not nature. We discredit God has having the ability to create this independent, natural system.

Of course, we fully accept God's ability to (and history of) intervening with man. But when and where He does so today is a tremendous science. One cannot simply talk about God and how He acts, without years of study. Similarly, we cannot talk about any science without years of study.

So if we find ourselves parroting what a Rabbi or scientist said, and we have not studied what they have, it is worthless to say "I agree with his position". Furthermore, it is wrong to agree with anything, when reason and reality indicates otherwise.