2.9. The Nature of Providence

Sources refer to the Ramchal's Derech Hashem.


We speak of God’s providence as if it’s a single thing but it actually involves two separate components: God’s awareness of all things and the influence that He exerts. [II, 5.1] When it comes to God’s awareness, we know that He is necessarily omniscient. Everything that ever was or will be was known to God in every detail from the beginning of time; nothing is unknown to Him. [II, 5.2]

God’s influence refers to the system that He created in order to implement His will. This system ensures that reality functions as God desires. God directs an “angel” (a force of some kind), that acts upon another “angel,” and so on until this force acts upon something in the physical world. This could then cause a thing to endure, or something new to be brought about, or whatever other result God desires. (The fact that things are sustained comes from God; things in the physical realm are sustained via the chain of influences discussed above in section 5.) [II, 5.3]

God gave each angel (force) the inherent nature to sustain whatever its assigned area might be. This “assignment” can only be changed by God Himself. Let’s say a force is assigned to sustain the trees. When God wills it, the force directing the wind can overpower the force sustaining the trees, enabling trees to be uprooted. Some forces control natural processes such as these, while others direct decrees from God such as reward and punishment. When called for by God, these forces can also supersede the natural order. [II, 5.4]

God oversees the entire process, both spiritual and physical, taking into account the perfection that is the ultimate goal of creation. This affects every individual based on his individual degree of preparation, determining whether he will be drawn closer to God or pushed farther away. Every person is treated appropriately in a way that enhances the world’s overall perfection. [II, 5.5]

God possesses the ability to override the natural order at any time by performing miracles, should He consider them necessary. The Sages tell us that God pre-programmed certain miracles at the time of creation but this does not suggest that He is limited to such pre-programmed miracles; He is surely able to work miracles any time He chooses. By “pre-programmed” miracles, the Sages meant that the forces of nature were “informed” as to these exceptions. Knowing their future destinies, the forces concurred that these were wise exceptions to their standard operating procedures and they “agreed to be created” (Rosh Hashana 11a). God then set the order of the world in motion, with the angelic forces installed to sustain “nature.” God, however, retained the authority to suspend this order as He sees fit. [II, 5.6]

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