Many years ago, when I was serving as a bar/bat mitzvah instructor, a student told me that she was “bored” by just “reciting.” She wanted to “think about something.” So, I asked her why Torah begins (in Hebrew) with the letter “Beit”(B)?
That evening, I got a vehemently angry call from her father, demanding to know why I was wasting his daughter’s time with “mindless” questions.
Saying that it was because “beit” was also the first letter of the word “brachah” (blessing) only sounded infantile. Nor was it any use to point out that this was a famous rabbinic teaching.
I was unsuccessful in expressing to that parent and student that the teaching itself grows out of a profound principle of Rabbi Akiva’s – every facet of Torah is intentionally placed there by G-d, and can teach us something about how G-d sees the world. There are no accidents. This demonstrates the enormously profound concept of “hashgachah protis” – Divine Providence. There is absolutely nothing accidental or random anywhere, or in anything.
But the rabbis’ purpose wasn’t only to teach an abstract, impersonal theory. They intended us to view and lead our own lives in light of this teaching.
To see G-d’s “management” of all things – even the most mundane details of our lives – is to reach a certain level of spiritual “normality.” It means that our perception and understanding then correspond, to whatever extent, with objective reality and truth: G-d does manage all things. The challenge – and the great possibility – for us as human beings, is to come to recognize it in an intimate, personal way.
The world was “round” long before Christopher Columbus demonstrated it! Columbus showed us the world as it really is – not as we’d imagined or misunderstood it to be. He didn’t “add” something to our understanding of our world. He corrected a misperception that was almost universal.
Likewise, to find that G-d is managing every detail of our lives doesn’t “add” something to our awareness; it corrects our misperception that the world runs by itself; that “accidents” happen; that anything happens to us independently of G-d’s involvement.
Long taught as a kind of “creed,” this is simply something that better informs us about the overall “environment” in which we live and act. Really, it’s just a simple fact. Sugar is sweet; salt is – well, salty; G-d manages every event in creation, from the grandest to the most minute.
Believe or don’t believe; the sun is shining anyway.