Know Hashem!

Since diseases are always in the world, why are there sudden pandemics? What make a pandemic end? Why are certain locales affected while others are not? Read the lesson of the locusts!

4 min

The Kalever Rebbe

Posted on 22.01.2022

“And you should relate in the ears of your son – and you may know that I am Hashem.” (Shemot 10:2)
 

 

Seeing Divine Providence in Nature  
 

In ancient times, the great scientists and medical professionals were puzzled by how diseases and colds were transmitted among the population.
 

Our Sages, however, answered this perplexing question long ago. They taught in Brachot (6a) and in the Midrash Tanchuma (Mishpatim 19) that there are small “creatures” in the air that people do not even see. They are called “evil spirits” or “pests” because they can harm a person. The early Sages and Kabbalists accepted this as the cause for pandemics and the spread of sickness throughout a population.
 

The scientific community mocked these Sages. They couldn’t grasp how there could be microscopic organisms, let alone diseases, that were so tiny that the eye couldn’t see them. However, with the passing of time and medical technological advances, they soon were able to see and study this entire universe of microscopic organisms, bugs, and germs that were spreading illness throughout the world. As science had these “breakthroughs”, the Torah scholars explained that these are a part of the dangerous microscopic “pests” we have known about since the earliest teachings of the Sages.
 

The scientific community still grappled with one question: If these wide-spreading organisms are always in the world, how come there are outbreaks only at certain times, and what causes those outbreaks to stop?
 

However, the Sages answered this question too. In Pesachim (112b) the Talmud teaches that these “evil spirits” and “pests” live in uninhabitable places in the world, such as in the North Pole or the South Pole, where it is too cold for humans to live. However, only when Hashem wants to bring an outbreak or pandemic in the world, He causes these “pests” to enter the space where people live, as it says in Pirkei D’Reb Eliezer (Chapter 3) and explained by the Ramban (Vayikra 17:7).
 

Anyone with an open mind can clearly see that there is Divine Providence in the world, that Hashem oversees and controls all that takes place in creation at all times. Even when something seems natural, something that is woven in into the natural order of the world, that is still occurring with hasgacha pratit, with Hashem’s direct and constant guidance.
 

 

The Plague of Locusts  
 

We see this same Divine Providence with locusts. They will live and gather in the desert. At times, they will swarm to a specific place in the world for no apparent reason, and devour the crops.
 

It is actually unnatural for a creature to leave its home, the place where it has lived for so long, and travel to a strange location without reason. It can only be because Hashem is directing that natural order to begin with, and now Divine Providence is demanding something different – it is demanding that they go to a specific place.
 

Birds will migrate south for the winter because it is cold. That is logical. But the locusts migrate to any area that seems without purpose, where they are ultimately destroyed and die off.
 

Locusts clearly demonstrate that everything in the world happens for a reason and by Divine Design. With the plague of locusts, it was clear that they were in Egypt solely because that was the Will of Hashem. The Midrash (Pesika Zutara, Shemot 14) describes the plague of locusts as: “Wonderous are the ways of Hashem. Locusts are placed in a land where the people cannot see them, and when Hashem commands them, they come and devour the crops to fulfill the mission Hashem has sent them on”.
 

The Midrash in “Perek Shira” says that the ailment of locust is rooted in Isaiah (25:1) that says, “O LORD, You are my God; I will extol You, I will praise Your name. For You planned graciousness of afar, counsels of steadfast faithfulness.” This is referring to the plague of locusts. The Egyptians denied Hashem’s presence in this world, they challenged the idea that Hashem still controls and directs everything that happens in this world. They reject hasgacha pratit, Divine Providence. To counter that, Hashem brought the locusts from a faraway land, a voyage and migration that would seems senseless beyond the Will of Hashem. This plague strengthened the idea of Divine Providence, the idea of hasgacha pratit.
 

 

The Karliner Knew Hashem
 

There is a famous story of Reb Aharon of Karlin. After his wedding, the Karliner was returning from a trip to the Maggid of Mezertizch when he met up with his father-in-law, a man who was deeply opposed to Chassidim. His father-in-law asked him, “What did you learn while you were visiting your Rebbe?”
 

“I learned to know that there is a Creator of the world.”
 

His father-in-law called over a child and asked that child who created the world. The boy answered that Hashem was the Creator. “See,” he said, “even a child knows the answer to that question.”
 

“He says – I know,” answered the Karliner.
 

The Karliner was telling his father-in-law that of course he knew already that there is a Creator who created the world. However, his understanding had evolved, and he now know that Hashem is constantly creating and guiding everything that happens on the world. This is what is called “knowing Hashem”, because such a person is living every minute with this knowledge in his mind.
 

 

Locusts: Know Hashem  
 

This is specifically why by this plague, by locusts, that the Torah tells us: ” And you should relate in the ears of your son – and you may know that I am Hashem.” This was a plague that infused in every Jew’s heart that Hashem not only created the world, but is constantly guiding the world with a precise Divine Providence. Such events should always be passed to the children, in order that they should “know Hashem”. 

 

*** 

The Kalever Rebbe is the seventh Rebbe of the Kaalov Chasidic dynasty, begun by his ancestor who was born to his previously childless parents after receiving a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov zy”a, and later learned under the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l. The Rebbe has been involved in outreach for more than 30 years, and writes weekly emails on understanding current issues through the Torah. You can sign up at www.kaalov.org.

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