Dov: I still have questions regarding "Duties of the Heart," (Gate Four) These two statements cause me the most trouble: "No one or no thing can harm or benefit a person without God's consent." This seems to be touting the belief in God's direct hashgacha in all the minutia of a person's life. The other statement is this: "all of man's actions are pre-determined."
Is Bachya talking of the tzaddik, which would align with the Rambam's view? (We would have to assume this, since Bachya does not make this distinctions in Duties). Bachya says that the acknowledgment of the above fact, leads to peace of mind, the removal of jealousy and allows others to feel only trust and lovingkindness to the person who internalizes this concept.
Rabbi: "Nothing can harm or benefit a person without God's consent" can be understood that God "allows" but not "wills" what occurs. If so, then it too is part of His "general" will that misfortunes may occur. But a perfected person accepts those misfortunes, as did King David, when he said that "God told him [Doeg] to curse me". This means King David used that event for his perfection "as if" God willed it. Meaning, as God decreed all men have free will, and at times some men will use it to curse others, King David operated based on that reality, and appreciated God's decree of free will – not that he appreciated Doeg's curse. King David always saw God behind the scenes of all events. His attachment to this ultimate reality allowed him to care less about the specific curse of Doeg.
Dov: The way that I understand R' Bachya (in the area let's say of parnasa) is the following: Man needs to make an effort, but that effort is not the cause, in the true sense. God determines how much money a person will earn, and God is the cause. The intermediary things like the person's effort and the particular means employed do not have the power to be the cause. R' Bachya gives the example of the water wheel, which is driven distantly by the animal. That does not mean that man can just lie around at home and the money will just come to him. God commanded man that he be involved in the world (working), but man will not earn more by employing a certain means or doing illegal things. This is the illusion of man that he is the (real) cause, or the particular job is the cause of his earnings. By having the philosophy that God is the cause of his earnings, he will praise and have bitachon in God. He exerts effort because God commanded him to work, but he will not place his trust in his abilities or a particular means he is utilizing (a certain job or person) to be the ultimate reason he earns a certain amount.
Rabbi: Correct: man must not view people, places and things as the ultimate causes of his fortunes and happiness. For if one lives properly, God will provide in all cases. My thinking is as follows:
1) God created each and every person. Thus, He desires that we each exist.
2) We know God is just, as He created us to require food to live; to ingest food and dispel waste. And He created the very food with which to do so.
3) He granted mankind intelligence and He gave us His Torah in which we are to engage that intellect. In His Torah He promises success to those who follow Him.
4) As we follow His word and adhere to natural law (working for our needs) He will help us overcome all hurdles.
5) Under all circumstances, our faith in His abilities never wanes, as we know He controls all.
Due to these considerations, if we adhere to His Torah, we can accept all that occurs, for we know we are acting as He desires. He sees all, and He will assist us in all areas. We don't feel upset when we lose a large account, since it is not 'that' client that provides us with success, but it is God. We don't get attached to specifics, but we are attached to a path of life which we know meets with success. We are never worried.
R' Bachya does not say all of man's actions are pre-determined, to mean we have no free will. This cannot be so, we have free will. He says that our "fate" is predetermined; all that occurs is under God's eye. Nothing can occur that He doesn't wish to occur to us. So all that occurs outside our abilities, is wholeheartedly accepted by those who adhere to Torah. This is because they are confident in God's promises.