You can read the other parts in this series here.
We have established until this point that Hashgacha Pratis is commensurate with one’s knowledge and understanding of God. We continue in Rambam’s Guide to understand what this means, and how this works.
An excellent idea presents itself here to me, which may serve to remove many doubts, and may help to solve many difficult problems in metaphysics. We have already stated in the chapters which treat of Divine Providence, that Providence watches over every rational being according to the amount of intellect which that being possesses. Those who are perfect in their perception of God, whose mind is never separated from Him, enjoy always the influence of Providence. But those who, perfect in their knowledge of God, turn their mind sometimes away from God, enjoy the presence of Divine Providence only when they meditate on God; when their thoughts are engaged in other matters, divine Providence departs from them.
Rambam here lays out a fairly simple formula. When you are cognizant and meditating on God, in a perfect and complete manner, your Divine Providence will as well, in turn, be perfect and complete. Those that live their entire lives this way — in this God-intoxicated state — will enjoy constant Divine supervision. Others, who indeed possess a perfect understanding and knowledge of God, but who at times break their concentration or contemplation of the Divine, enjoy Providence only at those times during which they are properly connected to God. Rambam elaborates on this latter category of human…
Thus: Someone who possesses a proper understanding and cognition of the Divine, but perhaps at times is too preoccupied to exercise it, sometimes, Rambam states, has a “cloudy day”. The sun (God’s protection) is still there in potentiality, but is somewhat obscured. This is in contradistinction to one ignorant entirely of the Divine, for whom there is no protection ever, at all. Such people don’t have sunny days, nor cloudy days, but rather exist in constant darkness, devoid of Divine protection entirely. Someone utterly ignorant of the Divine receives no protection therefrom.
Here Rambam turns to the age-old question of how bad things could befall pious people. The answer, Rambam proposes, is that the bad things occurred at a point at which the pious person did not have his or her heart connected to God. God only protects so long as one is connected to and thinking about Him. In short, while God is on your mind, He will protect. Should He slip your mind — should that connection break — one receives punishment commensurate with just how terribly that connection was broken. Rambam continues…
Rambam says it best himself, without much elaboration needed here. It is noteworthy, though, that here Rambam shifts slightly from implying that a break in connection results in punishment, to stating that a break in connection simply results in being left to the elements of nature (in which sometimes evil things do indeed, unfortunately, occur).
Evil might occur to good men due to nature taking its course during an interruption in their thinking of the Divine, whilst good things might happen to evil people (who surely do not have any Divine protection) due to them simply getting lucky with various positive occurrences in nature.
God operates as a mirror. The closer we are to Him, the closer He shall, in turn, be to us.
Rambam concludes, summarizes, and also makes the important point that these same principles apply to communities, and larger groups of people, just as they do at an individual level. (We shall see in time that not all accept this particular point.)
We now turn to an earlier chapter in the Guide in which Rambam further explains his understanding of the mechanics of Hashgacha Pratis.
Having shown in the preceding chapter that of all living beings mankind alone is directly under the control of Divine Providence, I will now add the following remarks: It is an established fact that species have no existence except in our own minds. Species and other classes are merely ideas formed in our minds, whilst everything in real existence is an individual object, or an aggregate of individual objects. This being granted, it must further be admitted that the result of the existing Divine influence, that reaches mankind through the human intellect, is identical with individual intellects really in existence, with which, e.g., Zeiḍ, Amr, Kaled and Bekr, are endowed.
The entire concept of a species, Rambam explains, is nothing more than a human invention — semantics we have invented so as to better refer to groups of creatures. In truth, a “species” does not exist. It is purely a human construct. As such, Rambam concludes, Providence cannot extend to a species (as no such thing truly exists), but can instead only extend to a specific intellect, commensurate with the level of said intellect. Rambam also takes for granted — as shown previously and proved again right here — that Providence does not extend to animals (nor inanimate objects) as they possess no intellect capable of comprehending the Divine — a prerequisite of Divine Providence.
Thus far, this is mostly a reiteration of what was elaborated on above, with the addition of more details about prophets who obviously possess an extremely high level of Divine comprehension. Rambam now continues explaining the other side of things, namely those that are deficient in their understanding of the Divine…
For fear of misinterpreting Rambam here, I shall add nothing to his words other than pointing out just how intense said words seem to be.
This proper understanding of Hashgacha Pratis, in essence, forms the very basis of s’char v’onesh — a true fundamental of the Torah, without which, as explained in the previous installment in this series, the entire Torah becomes pointless. As such, an improper understanding of Hashgacha Pratis is to misunderstand the very core of Judaism and how God works.