Is the Value of Human Life Infinite?

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2 Responses

  1. Loving the blog!

    Based upon the translation of Moreh Nevuchim that I was able to find (http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/gfp/gfp154.htm), the Rambam DOESN’T deny universal Divine Providence. Rather, he states that “the greater the human perfection a person has attained, the greater the benefit he derives from Divine Providence.” In other words, a person will ***receive more benefit*** from Providence when he is attuned in word, thought, and deed with the Divine will. This is NOT to say that others do not HAVE said Providence, only that they do not receive BENEFIT from it.

    This is the meaning in both 3:18 (linked above) and 3:51 (http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/gfp/gfp187.htm). It may be worthwhile to discuss how the Rambam understands the concept of “deriving benefit” and “enjoying” Divine Providence, but that is distinct from the existence or non-existence of said providence on an individual basis.

    Rambam later refers to “providence” meaning “Divine protection” as something specifically contingent on our awareness of the Divine, but this is a separate matter entirely.

    This site (http://revach.net/article.php?id=857) seems to have a different understanding of the Sefer HaChinukh than you do.

    In fact, the idea that Rambam uses (miracles are just calibrated natural events set into motion at the moment of creation) and your previous concept of Hashem acting “without resorting to power” are consistent with a concept of perfect pre-ordination – the meaning of your use in this post of Divine Providence.

    Personally I solve the hasgacha vs. free will (false) paradox by pointing out that linearity is a limitation of human perspective, and Chazal clearly understand Hashem to be above linear time. Ergo, there is no distinction in the Divine perspective between the moment of creation and every moment thereafter – creating light and “reacting” to my free will are all performed in the same “breath.”

    • micha says:

      I am glad you enjoy this blog!

      You appear to be misled by Fraedlander’s aging English. He doesn’t mean “enjoy” in the sense you’re taking it. For example, here is R’ Yosef el-Qafih (“Kapach”)’s translations.

      3:18: “שכל אחד מאישי בני אדם, אשר השיג מאותו השפע מנה יתרה כפי עתוד החומר שלו והכשרתו, תהיה ההשגחה בו יותר בהכרח”. He says the hashgachah will necessarily be greater. And indeed this is the only way it fits the argument the Rambam is making — that human understanding of theology is the conduit by which hashgachah reaches a person.

      And 3:51:

      כי לפי ערך דעת כל בעל דעה תהיה ההשגחה בו. והנה האדם השלם בהשגתו אשר לא תחדל דעתו מהי תמיד, תהיה ההשגחה בו תמיד. והאדם השלם בהשגתו, אשר רוקן את מחשבתו מה’ בעת מסוים, הרי תהית ההשגחה עליו בעת מחשבתו בה’ בלבד, ותתרוקן ההשגחה ממנו בזמן עסקיו. ואין התרוקנותה ממנו אז כהתרוקנותה ממי שלא השכיל כלל, אלא תתמעט אותה ההשגחה, כיון שאין לאותו שלם ההשגה בזמן עסקיו שכל בפועל, אלא הוא אותו השלם אז משיג בכוח קרוב, והרי הוא דומה אז ללבלר מהיר בעת שאינו כותב.

      Nothing there about enjoyment or benefit, just proportion — the more often you are thinking of G-d, the more often hashgachah is involved in your life. Which is different than 3:18 where the intensity of hashgachah is said to be proportional to the perfection of one’s understanding, since in ch. 51 he is comparing frequency.

      As for hashgachah vs free will, I had reached the same conclusion. See “Divine Timelessness“:

      … G-d doesn’t know today what I will decide tomorrow, because G-d doesn’t have a “today”. G-d simply knows. The nearest way in which we can assign a point in time to His knowledge is when speaking of when His actions impact creation. And Hashem assures us, using Yishma’el as an example, that man is judged “ba’asher hu sham as he is there” not based on his future. Within time, the direction of causality is preserved.

      Similarly, our opening issue. Miracles were written into creation because Hashem has no “initially” and “later”. The decisions were made “simultaneously”, for want of a better word to say “not separated by time”. And in fact, they were therefore the same decision.

      This is true for every event of all of creation. God created a 4d sculpture. Not a watch that He could then leave to run on its own. (The use of the word “then” in the previous sentence is a tip-off. It makes sense only in the context of time.) Picture the printing of a timeline in a book. The spot of ink representing 1702 was printed in the same act as the spot representing 2004. Because from the perspective of His Action there is no time, all of the history of the universe is equally ma’aseh bereishis — the act of creation. Our persistence from one moment to the next is the same “strike of the printing press” as the six days at the far end of the timeline. Deism is simply not tenable if time is a created entity.

And your thoughts...?

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