"…and the little owl and the fish owl and the long-eared owl…." (Lev. 11:17)

Our Rabbis [quoted by Rashi] have explained that this [the fish owl] is [a bird] that draws fish from the water.

When Rabbi Yochanan saw a fish owl he exclaimed, "Your justice is carried out even in the depths of the sea." (Psalms 36:7, Chulin 63a)

G‑d judges even the fish of the sea and arranges that the fish owl should catch those deserving punishment. [Rashi, on the above quote from the Talmud]

The belief in Divine Providence is a fundamental precept of Judaism….

The belief in Divine Providence is a fundamental precept of Judaism. However, traditionally there has been some disagreement as to the extent of G‑d's involvement in the intricacies and minutiae of nature. According to some Jewish philosophers, G‑d merely supervises the special survival of the vegetative and animal life forms. His individual and direct involvement and supervision, however, is limited to human beings.

The Baal Shem Tov, however, taught that there is no such thing as coincidence at all. Every single one of the myriad minutiae constantly happening in our world is pre-planned and executed, in essence forming the ultimate choreographed ballet of existence. Every leaf turning in the wind, taught the Baal Shem Tov, is doing so by design; it may very well be on its way to a specific location to provide shade for a lowly worm.

This novel approach had its share of detractors. "Show us a source," cried the doubters. And, indeed, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, an adherent to the Baal Shem Tov's teachings, did: possibly the most compelling among them is the above passage in the Talmud, which states unequivocally that the specific fish to be eaten by the fish owl is pre-ordained and chosen.

The true source of all life is concealed from our perception by the forces of nature….

Taking a inner-dimensional approach, we may find reference to this discussion in Rashi's comment. An examination of the Hebrew word for "nature", "teva", reveals a relationship between it and the verb "to sink" or "to drown" - in Hebrew, "litbo'a". This implies that the divine vitality that is the true source of all life is concealed from our perception by the forces of nature that G‑d set into effect, just as sunken treasure is concealed by the waters of the sea. G‑d is intimately involved in everything that takes place, but that involvement is hidden from us, drowned by the physical reality that surrounds us.

However, in his comment on our verse from the Torah, Rashi teaches that it is this statement (and generally the recognition of G‑d's intimate involvement in the minutiae of life that it entails) that "draws fish from the water" - reveals the true state if reality and awakens us to the truth hidden beneath the "waters" of nature.

[Adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Likutei Sichot
Copyright 2001 chabad of california / www.lachumash.org]