Dear Rachel,

A good friend of mine told me that I get myself into trouble because I don’t notice warning signs. But I don’t think that’s true. Anyway, aren’t we told that everything is in Heaven’s hands besides the fear of Heaven?

Believer in Karma

Dear Believer,

Yes, it’s true that everything is in Heaven’s handsFear of Heaven includes making your best efforts besides the fear of Heaven. But fear of Heaven means keeping the Torah’s commandments, which include making your best efforts, acting wisely, making smart choices and seeing the consequences of your actions.

There are two ways in which we need to be aware of the ramifications of our actions and choices: how our actions affect our lives and those of others; and how the actions of others affect our lives.

A person can’t ignore a notice from the bank and then not understand why the bank closes their account. A parent can’t abuse their children and then expect them to a have a relationship with them when they’re old. A person can’t take a job at a company with a high and frequent turnover, and then be surprised that they’re out of a job. A person can’t continue dating someone who’s cheating on them and then expect them to be faithful in marriage. A person can’t share juicy gossip with their best friend and be surprised when they become the subject of their best friend’s next piece of juicy gossip.

You’ll notice that all the above scenarios involve things prohibited by the Torah; they all involve fear of Heaven, as well as common sense. We have an obligation to protect ourselves. One of the ways we do this is being responsible, and making good choices and steering clear of people who make bad ones.

If you don’t notice the red lights, or are so easygoing and forgiving that you find it hard to see dangers in the road ahead, ask someone more in sync with reality to help you steer clear of potholes. If 10 people who care about you tell you someone or something is bad news, then don’t discount what they’re telling you.

On the other hand, if you’ve made every effort to be healthy, to be responsible with your money, to surround yourself with upstanding people, to do your job properly and invest in healthy relationships and something happens, then you’ve done your best, and this is indeed a Divine decree. But don’t just blame G‑d for the fallout and messes when you ignore telltale signs or good advice. Pay attention to where you are sabotaging your own best interests.

People who have no vested interest see things more objectively than we do. The same way we go to an optometrist to correct our physical vision, we need to seek out mentors and advisors, rabbis and life coaches to help guide us so that we keep to the best path to reach our physical and spiritual destination.

Wishing you a wealth of good choices,