COVID-19 has turned our world upside down. The transformation has been compared to throwbacks to the Great Depression and World War II. How do we view such cataclysmic events – does world history unfold randomly or is there a G-d with a plan supervising not only humanity at large, but even each individual? Is there a difference in times of relative calm and stability when life seems to run its own course?

The Jewish High Holidays – Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur – the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement, are appropriate times to explore whether or not there is Divine involvement in our world.

How Would You Respond?

Background Cases

Case A

Poker forces you to realize that, no matter your skill, luck is a powerful friend and foe, both at the table and away from it. Sure, we control our decisions, the things that make up the usness of life. But there’s no skill in being dealt the winning hand, just as there is no skill in our birth — and that single fact is a governing factor in how our lives will play out…

There’s nothing quite like that game of cards to consolidate one central lesson: Chance is just chance. It is neither good nor bad. Without us to supply meaning, it’s simple noise. The cards don’t know or care who you are. They have no concept of fairness. They are just dealt — and we are left to deal with the fallout, to interpret the noise. And so, the most we can do is learn to set aside what we can do nothing about and, instead, focus on controlling what we can. (Maria Konnikova, Poker Taught Me How to Deal With the Hand of Fate, New York Times, June 19, 2020.)

Case B

Specific individual Divine providence is a system of Divine governance that reflects the very close relationship between G-d’s providence and the creations of His world. When G-d governs with specific individual Divine providence, He is directly involved with the most minute details of an individual’s life. In the system, G-d’s hashgacha (supervision) is not limited to what impacts an individual physically, but extends to all events that occur in his presence. The fact that an individual observes specific events, or even happens to hear about them, has an intended purpose. This too was designed by G-d, for within this system there is no chance. (Rabbi Aryeh Leibowitz, Hashgacha Pratis: An Exploration of Divine Providence and Free Will, pp. 31-32, Targum Press, 2009.)

Please click on links below to download the Teacher’s Guide and Student’s Source Sheets:

Teacher’s Guide in Word or PDF.

Student’s Source Sheets in Word or PDF.


Based on Rabbi Yaacov Haber and the OU Pardes Project Concept & Sources from the Olami Morasha Syllabus

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