Some call it – karma. Others say, “What comes around, goes around.” We often see an uncanny tit for tat in everyday events. Someone who’s known to gossip may get a toothache. Another who donates to charities may get an unexpected windfall. This is a rule of the spiritual world. Just as the physical world has physics, so does the spiritual. Everything we do has an effect on the spiritual realm, and in turn the spiritual world responds. If you generate love, love will come your way. If you are tolerant of the mistakes of others, God’s attribute of Justice will be more tolerant of your mistakes. If one person says, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One,” then God’s presence will fill the entire universe. When a person imitates God’s attributes of mercy, the attribute of mercy is strengthened everywhere. These are some examples of nuances of the same rule of the spiritual world that it responds in kind to man’s actions. We don’t see it all the time. There’s no way to know what the reaction may be. Yet because the two worlds are interwoven and interdependent, there has to be some response from the Heavens that affects us here on Earth.
This is what we call providence or “hashgacha” in Hebrew. Kabbalah in large part is a description of how God runs the universe. It’s a hidden world. We don’t know all the rules. In fact sometimes the spiritual side of things seems to be in opposition to our way of looking. An interesting episode in the Talmud brings out this point: a person died and subsequently came to a friend in a dream. The friend asked what it is like on the other side. The dead man replied, “It’s an upside-down world.” The spiritual side of life is often the opposite of what we think or feel. For example, a funeral is a sad time for the living. However, from the spiritual point of view the deceased are now going to a place of extreme pleasure and bliss. We should be happy. To drive home this point, some mystics even asked that their disciples dance on the day of the teacher’s death. The realm of the non-physical where God’s plan is more evident is a very different world than our own.
In line with this, hashgacha means that everything happens for a reason. All of one’s life experiences have a spiritual purpose. God by definition is aware of and in control of every molecule of existence. If He doesn’t will it, it can’t happen. The sages go so far as to say that since we don’t have prophets to deliver God’s messages, life events are the only way God can get our attention. Similarly, it is a Jewish practice to analyze your deeds after a bad thing happens to you. This does not mean that there is a clear recognizable message from God in all the events that happen to us. We’re not so astute to figure them out and He knows it. If you’re looking for messages, though, you may find them. Practically speaking, it’s best to check out our interpretations with another person. Since interpreting Divine messages is also a challenge, the door is open to interpret an event in a self serving way. “I stubbed my toe getting out of bed. I guess God wants me to lie in bed all day and relax.” Call a friend and ask what they think, just to make sure you’re being honest. Although the spiritual world responds in a way that mirrors our actions, not all of our circumstances are a reaction to us, some are purely designed for our spiritual growth. God knows what situations and challenges we need to get to the next spiritual level. That’s certainly the main point of all that occurs to us. Even when an event is a reaction, it comes in the context of a person’s spiritual level and what they need for growth. The point of this rule of the spiritual realm to react to our decisions is obviously not to be a system of reward and punishment. It can be to a partial extent, but there can’t possibly be a reward in the physical world that really pays someone for a mitzvah. There’s no amount of pleasure in this world to truly compensate for a spiritual achievement. Also, we don’t see righteous people getting tons of wonderful experiences and not righteous people getting terrible circumstances. All of that is left for the next realm, the world to come. That’s for eternity. The rule of spiritual interaction with us is to constantly fill our life with chances for growth and spiritual challenges that fluctuate with our own spiritual fluctuation.
A word of caution: with all this talk about the meaning behind every event small and large in our lives, you might get the idea that we should question all day long what’s happening and why it’s happening. This might turn into a very unproductive activity. Every kabbalistic insight must be tested to see if it heightens your spiritual awareness or if it leads to confusion, or worse. If you’re striving for greatness and ethical excellence you don’t necessarily need to know why you have a specific challenge. We always have the potential to rise to the occasion. If not, God won’t give us that spiritual challenge. Sometimes it’s better to put on blinders and merely try to be a good person in all circumstances. As it says, “You should be innocent with God, your Lord.” (Deuteronomy 18:13) However, if you find it effective, you may learn some important insights about yourself by analyzing your life’s circumstances. Nothing is an accident.
As mankind travels through time towards the ultimate redemption, historical events are all happening as responses from the spiritual realm. They are designed to fit man’s needs in terms of their spiritual growth as well as the ultimate destiny of man. Whether we see it or not, there’s a reason for everything.