Is God a show off?

This is a guest column by Rabbi Da-vid Rosenthal, from Aish Minnesota.
Do you ever have those moments when you feel like you’re Jim Carrey in the Truman show? You know, things in your life seem to be orchestrated just a little too perfectly? I’m not necessarily talking about times when everything goes right, or goes the way you want; just instances when you feel direct input from Above, like it’s a setup of some kind.
Some people call it “fate”.
Judaism refers to this phenomenon as Hashgacha Pratis, or Divine Providence (I personally like to think of it as “Hashem’s guidance of our daily lives”).
Nice idea, but where do we see that in the Torah?
This past week’s parsha is a bit of a multimedia experience. It’s here we encounter the first 6 plagues brought against Egypt. One has to ask oneself when reading all the descriptions of the calamities, wasn’t it a bit of overkill on G-d’s part? If we’re talking about an All-Powerful Creator, it’s not like He can’t just take the Jewish people out whenever he wanted. He doesn’t exactly need the permission of Pharoah, or anyone for that matter. So what’s with the big “light and sound show”? Is G-d showing off or something?
The answer lies in the verses themselves. “So that you all should know that I am G-d in the midst of the land”. The purpose behind all the grandiose miracles and wonders was to teach the world at large a supremely important lesson – one that is applicable to this very day.
Many people look around at the ridiculously complex design found in nature and can’t help but admit that there must have been some force behind it all. However, acknowledging there was a Creator has very little impact on ones day to day life. It’s similar in a way to admitting that for every building, there must have been an architect. Not exactly life altering information.
But when we see G-d’s involvement in our day to day life – that’s when things start to get interesting.
One of the major messages of the miracles in Egypt was G-d’s supreme involvement in the lives of the Jewish people. Hashem was – so to speak – screaming from the rooftops that not only was He the Creator of the world, but that He was also intimately involved in the running of the world. He took an interest in the goings-on down here. This was particularly demonstrated in the way the plagues afflicted only the Egyptians, while their next-door neighbours – the Jews – went along unscathed.
This then was the content of the theatrics. G-d isn’t some old fogey who set up the universe and then took a back seat, having little or no relevance to our meanderings on this Earth. Not only does He care, but He’s even willing to overturn the laws of nature to save us. This was the motivation behind the myriad of plagues. It was a giant “Powerpoint Presentation” of the way G-d relates to the world:
Yes, there’s a G-d.
He controls all of nature
He cares about our lives and is directly involved in their guidance.
The ramifications of this idea are far reaching. According to Judaism, there is nothing in this world that happens to us by chance. From the person sitting next to you on the bus this morning, to how sunburnt you got at the beach, Hashem controls it all, and is directing the script down to the last minute detail.
Consequently, there is no time in your day which isn’t meant to be a learning/growing experience. If you’re not tuned into this idea, and things are just random, you miss out on so much. But if you’re always on the look out wondering “How am I meant to grow from this circumstance?” “What is G-d trying to teach me now?”, then you’re a different person. Your life becomes so much richer, so much fuller.
“Fate” isn’t some haphazard ball of chance, where sometimes you “get lucky”. Rather, it’s a carefully scripted movie, and you’re the main character. So much opportunity, but also responsibility.
(Photo: jaffrey, grace & eliza)