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What Is Hashgacha?

What Is Hashgacha?

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(hāsh-gā-ḥāh) השגחה root: שגח
Related words: supervision, oversee

What It Is

Generally translated as providence, in theological terms, hashgacha means that G‑d not only knows what is going on down here, but is engaged in supervising it as well. Hashgacha is a kind of two-way interplay between Creator and creation, whereby each one responds and interacts with the other. A form of the word first appears in Psalms: “From His dwelling place He oversees all the inhabitants of the earth.”1

Hashgacha is a key distinction between Jewish and pagan cosmologies. The pagan generally also believes in one supreme deity, however, that deity is considered too supreme and exalted to stoop down to supervision of this lowly world. Pagan philosophers such as Aristotle considered G‑d’s wisdom to be engaged only in the ideal, atemporal worlds beyond our own. The narratives of the Torah and its declaration that the one supreme G‑d is the G‑d over all the forces of nature places it in direct confrontation with this way of thinking.

Two Approaches

Although, without exception, classical Jewish thinkers acknowledge G‑d’s thorough dominion and omniscience “from the horns of the wild oxen to the tiniest louse,”2 nevertheless, two distinct approaches to His hashgacha can be discerned within classic Jewish texts:

From the plain meaning of scriptural, talmudic and midrashic texts emerges a view of G‑d intimately involved in every detail of His works, providing even “to the fledgling raven that for which it cries.”3

The philosophers of Judaism, however, saw G‑d in a more passive role. To them, the degree of divine supervision corresponds directly to one’s transcendence of earthly matters. A tzaddik is wrapped up in G‑d’s supervision in every detail of his life, whereas a coarse, materialistic person is cast into a world of haphazard, natural causes along with animals and flora. In this lower realm, the philosophers see hashgacha applying only insofar as an event affects the divine plan. Yet, even according to this view, “chance circumstance has its source in Him, for everything stems from Him and is controlled by His supervision.”4

The Baal Shem Tov is credited with the reintroduction of the idea of hashgacha pratit—detailed divine supervision of every occurrence and every creature. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, one of the foremost early proponents of chassidic thought, articulated a rational basis for this view, linking hashgacha to another vital theme in Jewish thought, continuous creation.

Where It Takes You

Faith in the Creator’s hashgacha provides the basis for bitachon. Just through your belief in His hashgacha you raise yourself to a level at which G‑d is intimately involved in your life, in an open, beneficial way.

One who believes in hashgacha pratit finds G‑d in all that s/he sees and hears. Every facet of life becomes another opportunity to connect with the Infinite, and thereby another cause for celebration.

Talmud, Avodah Zarah 3b.
Joseph Ergas, Shomer Emunim.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Rabbi Tzvi Freeman (author) February 8, 2011

Re: Links Best suggestion: Get some one-on-one learning through JNet dot org. Or call up Rabbi Schmukler, our man in Albuquerque, and ask him if he can spend some time studying with you.

Books are great, but real learning is through dialogue with those more experienced. Reply

Anonymous Albuquerque, nm February 7, 2011

Links Thank you Rabbi Freeman. I read the translation that you included in your response but, as you might expect, I have more questions and more studying to do. One question is how is Divine Providence reconciled with evil? I would also like to study more about sovev kol almin vs. memale kol almin. Both were alluded to in the linked article. I also wanted to thank you for your Daily Dose e-mail every morning. It's a great way to get a deep and thoughtful message in a few short words. Reply

Anonymous midwest, ok February 7, 2011

Whst Is heaven What is heaven ? Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman February 7, 2011

Re: Linking hashgacha to continuous creation There is a link there within the article, if you click the words "continuous creation."

The classic work on this is Shaar Hayichud Veha-emunah, the 2nd book of Tanya. We have several expositions of that here on our site.

If you're looking for something more intense, there is a letter from the Rebbe to Rabbi Rivkin of Torah V'daas, explaining the various opinions and dealing with some of the open questions. That's printed in the back of Likutei Sichot, vol. 8. There is a translation here on our site. Reply

Anonymous Albuquerque, NM February 7, 2011

Linking hashgacha to continuous creation Can you please provide more information (books, etc.) on where we can find the linking? You wrote, "Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, one of the foremost early proponents of chassidic thought, articulated a rational basis for this view, linking hashgacha to another vital theme in Jewish thought, continuous creation. Reply

Ruth Housman marshfield hills, ma January 27, 2011

"rungs" of Jacob's Ladder We are all climbing Jacob's ladder, a ladder that is deeply about movement towards the conscious WILL of the Divine, namely the increasing use of compassion in making judgments of all kinds. We move again towards merger from merger at birth.

Our views change with reference to what is happening, but G_d supervises the movement of us all, and is intensely involved in the directionality of tikkun olam, at all levels. It's about relativity.

It can be said G_d knows what we're going to do, because G_d is directing this symphony and we are both instruments and players. The conscious choice would be the higher ground at all levels. We rise in such consciousness on the learning curve.

We are not puppets. We each are presented challenges and learning opportunities along that climb.

There is a solution to the dilemma of free will vs determinism that is the inevitable outcome of all such discussions.

Yeats: You cannot tell the dancer from the dance. Reply

Bill Kelley Tifton, GA. USA January 27, 2011

G_d's involvement with us This kind of a relationship really does require us to want it before we can have access to it. I can easily tell you from my experience, especially since my bride of 42 years faced really bad cancer 4 years ago and then the fight to battle it for 3 years before dying. I have striven to hold myself close to G_d and G_d close to me since I was a little child. Especially during this last 4 years have I been blessed with much fruit. Before she died The Lord told me that I would not be alone-HE would be with me. Done! At the cemetary He put words into my mouth that told our grandchildren that Grandma was up in Heaven telling Him about them. At her first anniversary, G_d told me that she was now having her First Birthday Party for Grandma in Heaven, which I had put on 2 icecream cakes for our grandchildren. G_d has lifted all of us up to His Living and Loving presence. I have not just accepted His Love, I have actively grasped it and keep it in my heart. I am able to Live and Love. Reply

The landscape of classic Jewish thought is painted with a finite set of themes and motifs...
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