Friday, May 13, 2005

On Divine Caring

There have been many times that I've been asked about my observance of the Mitzvos by people who are either not frum or not Jewish altogether. While I wouldn't say that I encourage questions, I never turn them away either - answering each with caring and thoughtfulness according to my ability.

Very often the questioners are respectful and truly seeking information to either satisfy come curiosity, learn something new or to better understand me and my community. However, there are also the occassional wise-alecks.

One question that I get from the latter type of person on occassion is "Do you really think that God really cares if you ?" The questioner assumes that an All-powerful God certainly has more important and lofty concerns than me (and by extension, the rest of humanity as individuals) and my little life. Why would a God who has the entire universe to observe care if you eat a bit of pork, or turn on the light on Shabbos?

One person expressed it thusly: "If I had the power to create lower life forms, such as bacteria, I wouldn't care what they actually did to each other." In other words, because he is so far above the bacteria and doesn't really care about it's behavior (assuming a bacteria would be capable of rational behavior, of course), so too, a God who is so far above us must not care about us.

The problem with the question, in my opinion, is that they are trying to "humanize" God by asking the question in the manner that they do. They sort of view God in the sense of "If I were God, would I care?" The flaw in their reasoning is that they wouldn't care what their bacteria do - but that's only because we, as humans, are so far above bacteria that we have no meaningful way to interact with them. We cannot "guide" them or tell them what to do because meaningful communication between man and bacteria is impossible. So, then envision God as the "human" in our analogy and us as the bacteria.

But, as the verse says in Isaiah: Ki Lo Machshevosai Macshevosaichem... (for My thoughts are not their thoughts). We can't envision God's thoughts as akin to ours. We may be incapable of dealing with our creations on an individual level, but God certainly can - because His ken is beyond ours. God can pay attention to massive superclusters of galaxies and to the smallest subatomic particles at the same time. God certainly can care about my individual life at the same time as He cares for every other living and non-living thing in the universe. God does care about my individual life - and as such, cares if I observe the Mitzvos as well.

The Wolf


Anonymous said...

The question is a loaded one. This is why the torah stresses that man was created b'tzelem elokim; it is not as difficult to comprehend one caring for that which was created in its image (hashem also relates to us in a father-child paradigm to highlight this).
Having said that is more easily understood; one does not love a child less because he has more children, and Hashem, who is infinite, is not limited in the attention he can grant each of us.
Moreover, the parent cares for the child not for his sake, but theirs.
These are approaches I have used in talking with these types of inquiries.

Olah Chadasha said...

Rambam, in Morah Nevuchim, has some great stuff to say about this topic. I highly suggest reading it. Aristotle and Plato also discusses it. Great stuff and a graet topic for conversation.

Anonymous said...

"God chooses to care"