When G‑d Turns His Face

Rambam1 explains that G‑d does not manifest individual Divine providence over inanimate matter, plants, and animals2 (nor does He grant such providence to the wicked). [The Mitteler Rebbe clarifies3 that] this does not represent a contradiction to the Baal Shem Tov’s axiom4 that all created beings are controlled by Divine providence that affects all the particular dimensions of their existence, for there are — in general — two types of Divine providence:5

a) Hashgachah Pnimis — Divine providence which is overtly manifest and is not hidden by the garments of nature. Rambam maintains that this type of providence is dependent on the manner in which a person clings to G‑d. Such providence is not granted to inanimate matter, plants, and animals, or to the wicked (in an individual manner. Instead, His providence involves the species as a whole);

b) Hashgachah Chitzonis — Divine providence which is concealed and hidden within the garments of nature. Such providence exists with regard to every created being (as the Baal Shem Tov taught).

Thus even Rambam would agree that Divine providence [controls the lives of] the wicked. It is just that it is expressed in an external manner i.e., enclothed in the garments of nature — and thus it is not obvious which factors stem from G‑d….

With regard to this, it is written: “I will conceal My face.” The intent is that only “My face,”6 the inner (pnimiyus) expression of His providence, is hidden. Thus a person can convince himself that his difficulties “find him,” that they are part of the natural order or a function of circumstance.7 In truth, however, every particular aspect [of his life] is being controlled by Divine providence….

Searching Beneath the Veil

When a Jew does not fulfill G‑d’s will, Divine providence controls his fate in an external manner (chitzoniyus), and thus [his destiny] is enclothed in the garments of nature, like the Divine providence which controls the fate of the gentiles. Nevertheless, there is a fundamental difference between the manner of enclothement and the providence that controls the fate of Jews and gentiles.

The gentiles’ source of nurture and life-energy is the external dimension [of G‑dliness], the name Elokim (א-להים, which is numerically equivalent to הטבע, “nature”). Thus their [destiny] is fundamentally controlled by the natural order. The providence that governs their fate stems primarily from G‑d’s name Elokim, i.e., from that level in G‑dliness which is enclothed in the natural order.8

The life-energy of the Jewish people, by contrast, [even those who do not carry out G‑d’s will,] stems fundamentally from G‑d’s name Havayah itself.9 This providence is on the level of pnimiyus and can be overtly appreciated.

Although the providence that controls the fate of the Jews who do not carry out G‑d’s will is concealed and enclothed in nature, the intent is not that the providence from the name Havayah departs from them. [On the contrary,] in whatever situation a Jew is found, he is [part of] “the people to whom Havayah is close”10 (as our Sages quote G‑d as saying: “Regardless, they are My children”11 ). [In this instance, however,] the providence which stems from the name Havayah is enclothed in the name Elokim.

This concept is also reflected in the phrase: “I shall conceal My face.” “My face,” i.e., the inner dimension of providence stemming from the name Havayah [is present and involved in every Jew’s life, but it] is concealed. Therefore a person who contemplates this can recognize that this inner dimension of Divine providence controls every aspect of all Jews’ lives, even those who do not perform His will. [Through meditation,] this providence can be overtly recognized12 (and the recognition causes [the unfolding of] His providence to become more apparent).

A Hidden Cue

On this basis, we can also comprehend [G‑d’s] purpose in “concealing [His] face,” and thus allowing a person to develop the misconception that the difficulties which he suffers are “visited upon him” and come on their own initiative, not from G‑d.

On the surface, [such a motif is problematic]. The intent of G‑d’s conduct is to spur a Jew to teshuvah. How is it possible, then, for “conceal[ing] My face” to inspire a Jew to turn to G‑d in teshuvah? At that time, (he does not feel that the suffering he undergoes comes through Divine providence). Instead, it appears that it is merely a matter of circumstance (and did not occur in order to motivate him to teshuvah).

This question can be resolved as follows: [As mentioned,] the concealment of G‑d’s face is only bechitzoniyus, on an external level. Bepnimiyus, from an inner perspective, G‑d is involved in every single facet of the person’s existence. Therefore, [the concealment] has the power to motivate a Jew to turn to G‑d in teshuvah.

Indeed, since the providence from the name Havayah involves (not a Jew’s revealed powers, for on that level His providence is not obvious because of the concealment), but his essential being, his essence will be sparked.13

As is well known,14 the teshuvah which comes from one’s awesome distance from G‑dliness affects the very essence of the soul, and therefore involves and brings about a change in every element of the person’s Divine service. When, by contrast, a tzaddik turns to G‑d in teshuvah, the effect on the totality of his Divine service is less. This merely contributes a dimension of perfection to his Divine service.

(Adapted from Sichos Shabbos Parshas Korach, 5732)