Sunday, February 01, 2009

Must we believe that there is השגחה פרטית on animals?

R' Nasan Enshin is a kannoi (he doesn't vote in the elections etc.) who writes a weekly column in the Mishpacha magazine in Hebrew. This week he made the following point. He said that in the past Rishonim held points of view that today are considered heretical. He gave the example that a few (his language) Rishonim held that there is no השגחה פרטית on animals. He then compares anyone who believes that today to someone who would eat chicken with milk. He says that someone who believes today that there is no השגחה פרטית on animals believes in דעות כוזבות (illegitimate, false views).

IMHO the comparison he makes is completely invalid and it is perfectly legitimate to believe that there is no השגחה פרטית on animals.

He states that a few Rishonim held this view. Actually, I believe that the majority of Rishonim held this view including some of the greatest, the Rambam and the Ramban. I don't know of any Rishonim who explicitly argue with the Rambam and the Ramban.

The Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 169 writes the following:

There are sects among mankind who maintain that Divine providence controls all the matters of this world… that when a leaf falls from a tree, He decreed that it would fall…. This approach is far-removed from the intellect.

In other words according to R' Enshin anyone who doesn't believe what the Chinuch called far-removed from the intellect is an apikorsus. Anyone who doesn't believe that everything that happens (even the most insignificant thing like a leaf falling from a tree) is decreed from heaven is an apikorsus.

This kind of statement boggles the mind. Most of the Rishonim including both the Rambam and the Ramban hold like the Chinuch. They state explicitly that except for exceptional tzadikkim everyone is exposed to (chance) מקרה. The amount of hashgocha a person has is directly related to how close they are to Hashem. The average person is very much exposed to chance (the forces of nature etc.).

The opinion that R' Enshin is quoting is based on the Ari, the Baal Shem Tov and others. However, the fact is that many Acharonim after the Ari and the Besht agreed with the Rishonim.

The Meshech Chochma( Shemos 13:9)writes:

Divine Providence is manifest for each Jew according to his spiritual level as the Rambam explains in Moreh Nevuchim (3:18): Divine Providence is not equal for everyone but rather is proportional to their spiritual level. Consequently the Divine Providence for the prophets is extremely powerful each according to their level of prophecy. The Divine Providence for the pious and saintly is according to their level of perfection. In contrast the fools and the rebels lacking spirituality are in essence in the same category as animals... This concept that Divine Providence is proportional to spiritual level is one of foundations of Judaism...

The Meshech Chochma died less then a hundred years ago, yet he still held like the Rambam and the Chinuch.

There is one more very important point. There can be no psak here. This is a hashkafic issue and not a halachic one and therefore it is not נתפס in psak. The Rambam writes in 3 places in the Perush Hamishnayos (Sanhedrin 10,3, Sotah 3,3, Shavuos 4,1) and in the Sefer Hamitzvos lo taaseh 133 that there is no psak on hashkafa which is not relevant to halacha. The last point is a crucial one, namely the Rambam is talking where there is no practical difference in halacha. Here is a quote from one of the Rambam's (Sotah 3,3 the language is almost the same in all of them)

וכבר אמרתי פעמים רבות כשיש מח' בין החכמים בסברת אמונה אין תכליתו מעשה מן המעשים שאין אומרים שם הלכה כפלוני

As I already wrote many times when there is a dispute between the chachamim on a matter of faith that has no relevance to action we don't say the hakacha is like ploni

Whether there is hashgoch pratis on animals is a perfect example of what the Rambam is talking about. There is no נפקא מינא להלכה and therefore there can be no psak. To compare it to chicken and milk is absolutely wrong. Chicken and milk is a מחלוקת התנאים on a halachic issue where there was a clear psak in the Gemara. השגחה פרטית is a hashkafic issue where there never was a psak and there never will be a psak.

1 comment:

ZB said...

I agree with your points. But it seems from the Slifkin episode and from the article you quoted that the majority of (at least) Israeli charaidim to not hold of this Rambam. They feel that there is no nafka mina between psak in hashkofa and halacha, especially if there can be halachic ramifications of a "wrong" or "heretical" hashkafa.