From a talk by Rabbi Yaakov Meir Schechter of Jerusalem
Submitted by Rabbi Nosson Rossman
With warm wishes of “Mazal Tov” from the Breslov Center to Dina Rossman and the entire Rossman family on Dina’s Bas Mitzvah
“And Cain said to HaShem, ‘Is my punishment too great to bear? Behold, You have driven me out today from the face of the earth, and I will be hidden from Your face. I will be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and anyone that finds me will kill me.’ And HaShem said to him, ‘Therefore, Cain will not be slain for seven generations.’ “ (Bereishis 4:14-15, according to Rashi)
There is an unusual word in this verse, “Therefore.” How was HaShem’s answer a direct response to Cain’s complaint? The connection is unclear; surely it means to teach us something.
The answer is that Cain’s belief in HaShem’s hashgacha (Providence) was so great, and his recognition that only HaShem could protect him was so clear, that he actually “pulled” HaShem’s hashgacha and protection into his life. Cain turned to HaShem in his distress and sought His protection alone, THEREFORE, HaShem promised to protect him for seven generations by putting fear into the hearts of those who would harm him (see Ohr HaChaim on Bereishis 4:15).
This principle applies to each of us. To the degree that we believe that HaShem directs our lives, that is how much hashgacha and protection we receive. “HaShem is your shadow,” says the verse (Tehillim 121:5). Just as a shadow follows a person’s movements, so too, HaShem deals with us according to our actions and emotions. The more we realize that HaShem watches over each detail of creation, the more this realization empowers our lives. HaShem will then protect us from danger, and tend to our needs in the most amazing way (Sefer Baal Shem Tov, parshas Kedoshim).
The Apter Rov explains that the word for faith, emunah, is related to the word omen, which means a guide or mentor. When we have faith in HaShem’s constant protection, we actually “pull” that hashgacha into our lives.
The opposite is also true. If we deny HaShem’s hashgacha and believe that things happen to us “by accident,” then HaShem will direct our lives through the screen of nature and chance. Thus the verse says: “If you will not listen to Me, and walk oblivious to Me, then I will walk oblivious to you in fury” (Vayikra 26:27-28). When a person thinks that the world runs on it’s own, HaShem treats him accordingly. And in a world where everything is “accidental,” one encounters a lot of “fury”—that is, a lot of things can go wrong.
I heard a story that happened during The War. A Nazi soldier, on guard duty, caught hold of a passing Jew. “Your life is in my hands,” the Nazi taunted. “I can kill you in an instant, and no one can save you!”
This Jew, who had a deep belief in HaShem’s hashgacha, answered back, “My life is in G-d’s hands. If He does not want me to die, you will not be able to kill me.”
The Nazi was so outraged by this response that he started yelling at the Jew, demanding that he admit to the “truth”—“It is I who can kill you!”
But the Jew held firm to his belief. The Nazi yelled and argued with him for nearly an hour. Finally, his time on guard duty was over. He no longer had “authority” to kill this Jew, and was forced to leave.
It was this Jew’s very conviction that his life was in HaShem’s hands, and not the Nazi’s, that kept him from fear and saved his life. His belief drew down HaShem’s hashgacha, even in the dark and tragic period of The War.
Adapted from Leket Amorim vol. 1, by Rav Yaakov Meir Shechter, shlitaRetold by Rabbi Nosson Rossman, based on a translation by Rabbi Eliezer Shore