Moshe Klausner

God Controls Everything. Right?

Since October 7, the Jewish people worldwide have faced increased anti semitism, threats, and most recently in the US, an arms embargo and encampments calling for Jihad. Several countries have just rewarded the Palestinians, who overwhelmingly support Hamas and the Genocide of the Jewish people, by declaring statehood status for Palestine. 

What should be the “Jewish response” to such events?  Should we fight tooth and nail against these blood libels, rewards for terrorism, and global alienation of the Jewish people and the Jewish state, or should we be complacent, knowing that in the end, God will take care of us?

On the one hand, Jews believe that God controls everything in the world. So as good Jews maybe we should place our efforts in prayer. But in reality does He choose to control everything?

Many people quote the famous passuk in Vaetchanan (Deuteronomy 4:35) where God tells the Jewish people אין עוד מלבדו- There is nobody else but Him.  If we simply have belief in God that he will take of everything, does that absolve one of making effort?  

There are schools of thought in the Jewish world that believe that yes, indeed, if you REALLY believe that God will take care of everything, then there is no need to exert your energy, and commensurate with your faith is the inverse amount of work one needs to put forth.

Assuming that train of thought is correct, its practical application would be very difficult, if not impossible, as most people would have difficulty to honestly judge themselves as having that level of faith. Secondly, and maybe more difficult to discern, is someone who WANTS to believe that God will take care of everything, knowing (or thinking) that if I just have more faith then I won’t need to put in more effort.

There are many sources in Jewish literature that point to a different understanding. That God will not “take care” of the issue if we are complacent and let events take their natural course.

At the end of the Book of Iyov (40:7), Iyov wants to understand why bad things happen to good people.

God tells Iyov that without the ability of having the strong conquer the weak, or the bad being able to attack the good, the world would not reflect God’s might. The world would only consist of lowly bugs and worms.  Instead, God created strong animals that can express God’s power, and despite their strength, the lowly animals still continue to exist. That circle of life is a powerful expression of both God’s power and his benevolence to all creatures.

The Malbim explains that this same phenomenon applies to mankind. God created people with the ability to do great things, as well as horrible things. That strength and ability of man highlights the power that God invested in us, and is an expression of His own power. If man could only do good, the world would be lacking in its ultimate potential.  What does show God’s greatness is the fact that despite the reality of tremendous evil that can be present in the world, God gave us a drive to do good to overcome and destroy the evil in our midst.

In a healthy society, the evil will be crushed. In a rotten society, evil will flourish. It is up to us how to respond to the evil that surrounds us. 

Our job is to create that change and not stand on the side as a bystander. 

God gave us a choice how we will respond to evil. That is OUR choice. The fact that God is all powerful wont be “enough” to uproot evil, as God intentionally leaves that choice up to us.

The Malbim himself in Dvarim on the Passuk on אין עוד מלבדו explains it to mean that unlike the idolaters who believe God does not take an active role in the world following creation, Judaism teaches that God is involved. This does not mean, however, that God is actively involved in each situation for a specific desired outcome. According to the Malbim, God left that for us. 

The famous Gemara in Sanhedrin 98a quoting Isaiah 60:22, explains the words of בעתה אחישנה (lit. In its time I will hurry it), to mean that the redemption can come about quickly if we merit it, or it can be delayed if we do not merit it. 

This clearly shows how our actions can affect our reality. If we are worthy, if we take action to bring the redemption, it will come quickly. If we are complacent, it will be delayed. The choices, and results, are ours to make. 

Similarly, when Yaakov mentions himself fighting his enemies (Genesis 48:22), he says that he defeated them with his “sword and arrows”. 

The Targum Onkelos famously translates those words to mean “my prayers and my cries”.

Many people explain the Targum to mean that it is more important to pray that it is to fight. In fact many nowadays try to avoid fighting in the army at any cost or to get involved in other advocacy movements, and prefer to say extra tehillim instead. 

However a more careful look into this passuk reveals a very different reality 

Yaakov DID fight. Personally. Yet what ultimately saved him according to the Targum were his prayers. That is, when one is in danger, that person must fight AND pray. 

In Divrei Hayamim (I Chronicles 5:20), we are told that the tribe of Reuven fought and won the war against the children of Hagar, since God listened to the soldiers’ prayers. 

In modern times, this means the soldiers on the front lines are the ones who can bring salvation through their fighting and prayers, and if they do both, God will help them and listen to THEIR prayers. This also means when we see people in America and world wide calling for Jihad, we need to vocally stand up, both as individuals and as a unified society. 

When the US declares an arms embargo on Israel to hamper their efforts against Hamas, despite providing zero evidence of any war crimes committed, God leaves the response to us. How will the world respond? How will the Jewish people as a society respond to that evil? Unfortunately, there has yet to be a unified response or rally in response to these unfathomable events. 

When God tells David to choose between different punishments that the Jewish people would receive (II Shmuel 24:14), David said the famous words that are said in the tachanun prayer: “let us fall into the hand of God (with a God-driven plauge) and not fall into the hands of man (punishment via war).

David understood that God gives man the ability to harm, without His intervention, and therefore David preferred to be punished directly by God, in which his prayers had the potential to be more effective.

The refrain of “Its all up to Hashem”, or “we just need to have more bitachon and faith” can unfortunately be used as a cop-out from taking responsibility for what needs to be done.

The Jewish people find themselves in a very difficult situation, both in Israel and abroad. Let us all have the outlook that our actions will be that which facilitates and creates the change needed, with God’s help.

About the Author
Moshe Klausner lives in Ramat Bet Shemesh, originally from New Jersey. He is a father to three active boys. He is a Speech Pathologist by profession, working locally in Bet Shemesh and at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, specializing in voice disorders. He also lains each Shabbos at shul. He loves Torah, Israel, and the Jewish people.
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