Hashgacha Within The Embers
Part of the most recent update from the firelines by Prof. Menachem Kellner of University of Haifa may be a good illustration of the old saw that anyone who believes all the stories about the Besht is a fool, but anyone who believes none of them is a kofer:
Now comes a story almost too good to be true. The Rabbi of Nir Etzion (my friend, colleague and also doctoral student) told me that the fire approached the village on several occasions on Shabbat, from different directions, and each time it stopped at the eruv (=legal fiction “fence” which enables observant Jews to carry in public areas on the Sabbath)! Nir Etzion was spared direct fire damage, but the nearby youth village of Yemin Orde (named after Orde Wingate) suffered great damage and he hopes to be able to help them recover. One of our good friends has grandchildren living there (they are teachers in the school) and their home is still standing, but only barely: collapsed roof, massive water damage – and they are among the lucky ones!
The story, if true, is an example of what we have experienced throughout history. Even at times that we were engulfed in the flames of charon af, we were able to see inexplicable signs of hashgacha peratis at work. That always provided hope from among the embers.
The story is significant in yet another way. My friend Menachem Kellner and I see eye to eye on many important matters. Two areas in which we do not agree at all happen to be two areas closest to his heart: how to approach Rambam, and what Orthodox Jews must believe. It is a testimony to his tolerance and general cheerfulness that he puts up with me. More importantly, in a time of bears dueling on YouTube about emunah, we have become aware of a hardening of antipodal positions. Some on the more conservative side look with suspicion or disdain upon people at the other end of the skepticism/emunah peshutah spectrum. (These feelings are paralleled on the other side, but for different reasons.) Do the “frum maskilim” really believe in HKBH the way we do? Are they so mired in their devotion to laws of nature, predictability, and reason that they have room left for the Hand of the Divine doing the unpredictable?
The answer, of course, is that bnei Yisrael are ma’aminim bnei ma’aminim. Even when we differ in important principles adherence to the bedrock demands of halacha, much of that emunah in HKBH and His providential attention to our needs is alive and well across a wide swath of Orthodox Jews. Yehi ratzon that the tragedy, as so often happens, will bring at least some of us closer together.