Tuesday, December 30, 2014

rabeinu bachyei: two types of hashgacha

In the past weeks we’ve discussed the famous statement of the Ohr haChaim that a ba’al bechira, a person who has free choice, can cause harm to someone even if he/she doesn’t deserve it.  How is this possible – doesn’t Hashem’s hashgacha control everything that happens? 

Rabeinu Bachyei in Parshas VaYeira (Braishis 18:19) writes that Hashem’s hashgacha on animals is hashgacha klalis – it is only to the extent necessary to preserve the species, but does not govern each individual animal.  Only humans have hashgacha pratis on the individual.  He then further divides hashgacha prartis on people into two parts or levels: 1) Hashem’s knowledge of events – this applies to all people; 2) Hashem protecting the individual from harm – this level of hashgacha is earned only by the most righteous (see Michtav m’Eliyahu vol 5 who uses this distinction to resolve a number of contradictory statements in Rishonim regarding hashgacha pratis).
We can use R’ Bachyei’s chiluk to formulate the Ohr haChaim’s point and make it a bit more understandable (and this is basically the same idea the L. Rebbe suggested that we discussed in this post): Hashem of course is aware of every event that happens to a person (hashgacha type # 1).  However, unless you are a big tzadik, Hashem will not interfere with events that unfold (hashgacha type #2) to get you out of hot water, especially hot water that comes about when dealing with a ba’al bechira.
When I bounced this topic off my wife she reminded me of the gemara that says that the principle that shluchei mitzvah do not come to harm does not apply when there is a clear and present danger at hand.  We learn this from the fact that Shmuel haNavi, sent as a shliach by Hashem to anoint David, was afraid lest Shaul hear about it and try to kill him.  According to the Ohr haChaim, how is this a proof?  Perhaps a shliach mitzvah is protected through Hashem’s hashgacha, but when it comes to a ba’al bechira, e.g. Shaul haMelech, all bets are off?

Perhaps this very point is what the gemara means by “bari hezeika,” there being a clear and present danger -- it was precisely the ability of Shaul to do as he pleased as a ba’al bechira which made the situation so dangerous.  The problem is, if this is true, it means “bari hezeika” has a very high bar, as many other situations that are truly dangerous still do not measure up to the danger of confronting a ba'al bechira. 

UPDATE: would it be possible to say that Shaul was not a ba'al bechira because "lev melachim b'yad Hashem?"  Does that apply where Shaul would be acting in his personal interest and not in his role as king?

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