Online Adult Jewish learning
Foundation V: What Forces Control My Life?
In Lectures Two and Three, we will explore G‑d's relationship with Creation, and mankind in particular.
We will take as our starting point Nachmanides' (1195–1270, Spain-Israel) introduction to the Book of Job, where he provides a concise, yet powerful, explanation of several fundamental principles of Divine Providence.
Nachmanides (Introduction to the Book of Job)
Nachmanides begins with two comprehensive doctrines of Jewish belief:
Nachmanides emphasizes the importance of these two doctrines.
Continuing in his introduction, Nachmanides reiterates the first doctrine of Jewish belief – G‑d's omniscience:
What is the basis for our belief in G‑d's omniscience?
Nachmanides then reiterates the second doctrine of Jewish belief – Divine Providence:
After discussing Providence, Nachmanides introduces prophetic communication, through which G‑d's standard for human behavior is conveyed, and the consequences of their observance and violation:
Having concluded his presentation of the two doctrines, Nachmanides provides the reasoning behind his assumptions.
Nachmanides introduces the following sequence of principles that focus on man's centrality within Creation.
The remainder of this lecture will be devoted to the following two topics:
In Lecture Three, we will examine what principles are in operation when G‑d implements His system of reward and punishment.
The remainder of this lecture will be presented in the course.
 Introduction to Nachmanides' writings: The following excerpt is characteristic of Nachmanides' writing style, in which the author introduces a topic briefly before explaining it in greater depth later on in the essay or even in his other works.
 Nachmanides will later extend this principle to G*d's comprehensive knowledge of all created beings, including heavenly creatures.
 As will become clear in this lecture and the next, Nachmanides defines Divine Providence in two ways:
· G*d maintains supreme control over created existence, and,
· G*d oversees a reward and punishment system for human moral behavior.
 Nachmanides refers to a particular feature of Providence, whereby G*d intervenes in the natural order of events (“nature”). He does this so as to protect righteous individuals or groups of people from injury. This will be discussed in Lecture Three.
 In Lecture One (“Selected Explanations of Anthropomorphism”), we learnt that according to Rabbi Sa'adiah's explanation of the term, G*d's “eyes” refers to Divine Providence. G*d oversees the actions of man.
 This statement confirms the principle of Divine knowledge of human affairs.
 This statement confirms the principle of Divine reward and punishment for human moral behavior.
 According to Rabbi Hillel Altshuler (author of the Metzudos Dovid commentary to the books of the Prophets), the word “doing” refers to the ripple effect of people's (good and bad) behavior. For example, one person's good or bad behavior often influences other people to act in the same way. Therefore, at least to some degree, the righteous person or sinner deserves to have a share in the reward or punishment of those who he influenced.
 That is, G*d was not coerced into creating the universe, either by any external force or by some innate deficiency or need that compelled Him to establish Creation.
 This means that the universe is associated with G*d by virtue of His having created it from nothingness.
 This means that our wondrous universe testifies to G*d's greatness. By contemplating the universe, we are able to achieve a heightened appreciation of its wonders, and praise its Creator.
 Talmudic Sources (Tractate Sanhedrin 56b) teach that an earlier moral code of seven mitzvot was prophetically communicated to Adam at the dawn of history, and later, to Noah, following the Great Flood. These universally binding mitzvot, known as the Seven Noahide Laws, consist of a single positive mitzvah (to establish a court system), and six negative prohibitions (murder, theft, idolatry, certain sexual relationships, removing flesh from a live animal, and blasphemy).