THE HASHGOCHOH PROTIS VS. COINCIDENCE SICHA
OR THE READER'S DIGEST SICHA

By RABBI SHLOMO PRICE

1) The Gemoro in Shabbos (21b) relates that when the Chasmonaim defeated the Greeks and liberated the Beis Hamikdosh they found only one jar of pure oil enough to suffice for one night. A miracle occurred and it burned for eight days. The next year they established these eight days as Chanukah. The Beis Yosef asks his famous question, if there was enough oil for one night and it lasted for eight nights, then the miracle was only the seven additional nights so why do we celebrate Chanukah eight nights?

2) There are two Reader's Digest articles which attempt to explain a secular way of understanding "coincidence". One of the articles is from August '79 entitled, "Coincidence: Is It Black Magic or Blind Chance?" It can happen to any of us. And some experts say the odds that it will are so high that unseen forces must be at work. Some of the main points are as follows: "You look up an unfamiliar word in the dictionary, then encounter the same word several times in the next few days. You write a letter to an old friend you haven't heard from in years, and a note from him crosses in the mail. Blind chance or something else.
Orthodox science considers that coincidences like these are merely chance happenings. And yet coincidence remains a tantalizing familiar phenomenon - one that could have significance according to British author Arthur Koestler, who has written extensively on the subject. A recent book by Alan Vaughan, "Incredible Coincidence" summarizes much of Koestler's argument and lists 152 cases of coincidence. Such happenings have Koestler and others to try find patterns and causes in coincidentally paired events. The search has yielded few answers, for coincidences leave no laboratory residue that can be measured and analyzed even if they do leave occasional memories as striking as this one:
Best-selling author and pilot, Richard Bach was barnstorming in the Midwest in 1966 with a rare biplane, a 1929 Detroit-Parks P-2A Speedster of which only 8 had been built. In Palmyra, Wisconsin, Bach loaned the plane to a friend, who upended the craft as he came in for a landing. Bach recounted in his book "Nothing By Chance" that they were able to fix everything except for one strut. That repair looked hopeless because of the rarity of the wanted part. Just then a man came up and asked if he might help. Bach said sarcastically, “Sure. Do you happen to have an inter-wing strut for a 1929 Detroit-Parks Speedster, model P-2A?" The man walked over to his hangar and came back shortly with the part. Bach concludes: The odds against our breaking the biplane in a little town that happened to be home to a man with the 40-year-old part to repair it; the odds that he would be on the scene when the event happened; the odds that we'd pushed the plane right next to his hangar, within ten feet of the part we needed - the odds were so high that coincidence was a foolish answer..."
There is another article in September '87 entitled, "Our Wild, Weird World of Coincidence," by Richard Blodgett which brings some more interesting coincidences. "Some coincidences hinge on so many peculiar variables that the chances of their occurring seem impossible to calculate. Could probability - or even, for that matter, the most crazed conspiracy theory - account for the string of bizarre similarities between the assassinations of Presidents Kennedy and Lincoln? Just for starters: Kennedy was elected President exactly 100 years to the week after Lincoln; both were deeply involved in civil rights for blacks; both were assassinated on a Friday in the presence of their wives; each had lost a son while living in the White House; Lincoln was killed in the Ford's Theater, Kennedy in a Lincoln Convertible made by the Ford Motor Company; both men were succeeded by Vice Presidents named Johnson who were born 100 years apart (1808-1908). (I heard from Tzvi Petrover, and I read it later in a different book, that Lincoln had a Secretary named Kennedy, and Kennedy had one named Lincoln).
Jung was especially struck by the unlikely ways that lost or stolen objects sometime return to their owners. One example he cited involved a German mother who photographed her infant son in 1914 and left the film to be developed at a store in Strasbourg. In those days some film plates were sold individually. World War I broke out and unable to return to Strasbourg, the woman gave up the picture for lost. Two years later she bought a film plate in Frankfurt, over 100 miles away, to take a picture of her newborn daughter. When developed the film turned out to be a double exposure, with the picture of her daughter superimposed on the earlier picture of her son. Through some incredible twist of fate, her original film, never developed, had been mislabeled as unused, and had eventually been resold to her."
Back in the first article it says: "Some scientists have flirted with the idea of an unseen force affecting coincidence - some particle as yet undetected. The late British Physicist and Mathematician Adrian Dobbs suggested that hypothetical messenger-forces, which he called psitrons, sweep out like a sort of radar into a second time dimension, sampling future probabilities and conveying them back to the here and now. (Sounds like "The Twilight Zone" [my comment].) As Koestler says in the "Roots of Coincidence", Dobbs went on to speculate that his psitron bypasses the senses and triggers a sort of illumination direct to the brain. Another theory cited by Koestler is that set forth by psychotherapist C. G. Jung, who teamed up with physicist Wolfgang Pauli in a book that used the term "synchronicity" for coincidence (The Police [my comment]).
One of Jung's examples was related by the French astronomer Camille Flammarion: A certain M. Deschamps, when a boy in Orleans, was once given a piece of plum pudding by M. de Fortgibu. Ten years later he discovered another plum pudding in a Paris restaurant, and asked for a piece. But the plum pudding was already ordered - by M. de Fortgibu. Many years afterward, M. Deschamps was invited to partake of a plum pudding. While eating it, he remarked that the only thing lacking was M. de Fortgibu. At that moment the door opened and an old man in the last stages of disorientation walked in: M. de Fortgibu, who had burst in on the party by mistake.

Jung's collaborator, Pauli, who won the Nobel Prize for developing a cornerstone principle of modern physics, felt that coincidences were the visible traces of untraceable principles (huh! [my comment]). Jung on the other hand, assigned everything that could not be ascribed to cause-and-effect relationships to the influence of the "unconscious" - an underground reservoir of aggregated memories through which minds may communicate.
Jung, however, would probably have a difficult time relating his theory to the posthumous fate of Canadian actor Charles Francis Coghlan, In "Incredible Coincidence", Vaughan recounts that Coghlan, a native of Prince Edward Island, died while on tour in Galveston, Texas, in l899, and was buried there in a leadlined coffin within a granite vault. Less than a year later, the great hurricane of September l900 hit Galveston Island, flooding the cemetery. Coghlan’s coffin, wrested free of its granite enclosure, floated into the Gulf of Mexico, was propelled around Florida and out into the Atlantic. The Gulf Stream carried the coffin northward. Eight years later, in October l908, Prince Edward Island fisherman spotted a large, weather-beaten box bobbing in the water. They brought it to shore, and found a metal plate with Coghlan’s name engraved on it. His remains came to shore just a short distance from his native village. With fitting respect, Vaughan's account concludes, Coghlan was reinterred near the church where he had been christened.
Blind chance? Probably. But, as Koestler notes, current biological, as well as physical, research strongly points to a fundamental tendency of nature to create order out of disorder; something beyond known influence is at work. We are surrounded by phenomena whose existence we ignore, he continues in The Roots of Coincidence If they cannot be ignored we dismiss them as superstitions. For centuries, man did not realize that he was surrounded by magnetic forces. So it might be thought that we live immersed in some sort of psycho magnetic field that influences such things as coincidences." (Till here is the article of the Reader's Digest).

What is interesting to note is that they are almost there, they admit that "something beyond known influence is at work," but instead of searching for the real power that creates these "coincidences", namely Hashem they resort to all kinds of crazy theories. Interestingly enough, on the next page in the "Quotable Quotes," it quotes Morris Bender as saying, "A skeptic is a person who, when he sees the handwriting on the wall, claims it is a forgery." That's exactly what this article is doing. They come to the conclusion, that the odds of many coincidences to happen are so high that "something beyond known influence is at work." But how absurd this is that they don't attribute this to Hashem, but rather to some weird theories which make no sense. The only redeeming factor is a different article about Alcoholic’s Anonymous that says, "We in AA say that a coincidence is a miracle in which G-D chooses to remain anonymous." The Article is in the Reader’s Digest April 1986, entitled, "Unforgettable Bill W." (Which means you have to be drunk to understand this point.) Of course the real reason they fail to acknowledge Hashem is because of the problem of cognitive dissonance. Once they admit that Hashem exists then that means He may have a job for them to do, and they would have to change the way they live. They aren't prepared to adjust their lifestyles so they prefer to ignore Hashem.
Rav Elchonon Wasserman, (Kovetz Mamarim - "Ma’amar on Emunah"), and Gershon Robinson (2001 Space Odyssey) discuss this point at length.

3) We must however realize that Divine intervention is not limited to these rare"coincidences". On the contrary, everything that happens in the world, whether big or small, was directly designed so by Hashem. The Gomoro in Chullin (7b) says "A person doesn't hurt his finger on this world, if it wasn't decreed so from above".
We are accustomed to translating the terms nes and tevah as Natural and Supernatural. We define Nature as something which is attributed to other powers besides Hashem such as science and chemistry etc., whereas Supernatural refers to phenomena that can't be explained according to scientific and natural laws, so we have no choice but to attribute them to Hashem. However this understanding borders on k’firah (denial of Hashem's role). The Ramban (Sh'mos 13:16) explains, there is no power or event that occurs without the Hand of Hashem. There is no such thing as Nature without the Hand of HASHEM. Everything is nes - MIRACLE - through the Hand of Hashem, but there are Obvious miracles (like the splitting of the Red Sea), and Hidden Miracles, what we call Nature. The scientific and natural laws which Hashem created and commanded into being, that occur so often that Hashem's hand is hidden and unseen. And from the Obvious Miracles one learns to believe in the hidden miracles. As we say in modim three times daily "and for your miracles that are with us everyday". THE EVERYDAY MIRACLES like planting wheat."
Rav Hutner zt"l said, "Nature is the pen name of Hashem". (Also (l’havdil) in the movie, "Jason and The Argonauts" they viewed the World as one big chessboard, and the people were the chess pieces, and the gods were moving the pieces and causing the events to take place here on Earth.)

One can imagine a person who was born while B’nei Yisroel were in the desert. This person from childhood adjusted to the fact that in order to have food all that is necessary is to wake up every morning, walk outside the tent and gather from the ready made food lying on the ground, otherwise known as the manna. Imagine this person’s shocking experience when forty years later upon entering Eretz C’na’an he discovers that there is no more of this food to be found on the ground. He probably ran over to Yehoshua in desperation and screamed "To what kind of land did you bring us to? There is no food here. We’re going to starve"!!! Yehoshua kept his calm and quietly explained that in this country there is different system for producing food. He took some grain, planted it in the ground, and a few months later showed them the new grain and how to make it into bread. A person who all his life was accustomed to eating bread that fell from the heavens, must have walked away from there muttering to himself "What an amazing land have we entered? A miraculous one! One that produces bread from the ground, not from the heavens"! To this person the Manna was nature and wheat was a miracle, since he was accustomed to Manna not to wheat.

4) L’ilmod U’l’lamed (Parshas Vayeshev) explains our understanding of Hashgochoh Protis, and quotes a story from the Midrash that underscores the point. "Hashgochoh Protis (Divine Supervision) - Whatever happens in this world is planned and controlled by G D. Some may occasionally question this statement. "If G-D controls everything," they ask, "how come certain unfortunate things happen? What is the reason for this?" Often we may not be able to perceive the reason behind certain events. However, this does not mean that there is no explanation. What we lack is the ability to see events in total perspective from the vantage point of hindsight. What might seem tragic today might prove to be wonderful tomorrow. Life is like a puzzle with all the pieces scattered about, and we seem unable to fit them together into a logical form. However, Hashem designed the puzzle and it is He who will eventually link together the pieces into a perfectly comprehensible whole.
The truth of this can be seen from the story of Yoseph. The events of Yoseph's early life probably seemed very tragic at the time they occurred. He was his father's favorite son, and yet he was thrown into a pit by his jealous brothers, seemingly doomed to die. The brothers then moved away from the pit so as not to hear Yoseph's cry for mercy. Then, in apparent coincidence, they noticed a caravan of travelers which, "just happened" to be passing by. The traveling merchants removed Yoseph from the pit and "just happened" to take him to Egypt. There, instead of becoming a menial slave toiling in the fields, he "just happened" to be sold to an important member of Egyptian society. Then again Yoseph's fate seemed to take a downward turn when he was unjustly thrown into jail. At this point an observer might have thought that Yoseph was being punished for no obvious reason. However, it was in jail that Yoseph "just happened" to meet and interpret the dreams of the butler and the baker. This eventually to his becoming second in command to Paroh, which in turn led to the immigration of all of B'nei Yisroel to Egypt. In was in Egypt that Yoseph was able to support his family and keep B'nei Yisroel alive even during the terrible hunger. So what seemed to be a series of unreasonable hardships for Yoseph finally resulted in the sustainment of the Jewish nation. Hashem’s Divine Hand had been in command of the situation throughout, and His Divine plan finally became clear in retrospect. (Bereishis Rabbah 85: 1)"
The Midrash Rabbah relates that Rav Yitzchok was once walking on a cliff near the city of Kasira when he saw a bone rolling towards him. Realizing that it was dangerous as someone could trip over it, he tried to bury it but it came right back out again he did this three times, and then he realized there must be some Divine reason for it so he left it there. A few days later, Rav Yitzchok learned that a government courier had come to the same spot he had traveled on, had tripped over the bone, and had fallen over the cliff to his death. Some Jews who found the courier’s body found that he had been carrying documents urging punishments for the Jews. The documents disappeared and the punishments were not carried out. Reb Yitzchok smiled to himself. "I have now seen the hand of G-d at work."

5) If I was asked Tevye's line in Fiddler On The Roof in the song "If I Were a Rich Man" " Would it spoil some vast Eternal Plan, if I were a wealthy man?!", I would answer a resounding "YES". Just because you don't see the Eternal Plan, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Making you rich will very well spoil this vast eternal plan.

6) Yeshayahu Hanavi says (Isaiah 40:26) "Lift your eyes up to the heavens and see who created these". The Lev Eliyahu (Parshas Miketz pg. 163) questions, why are we being asked to search for Hashem by observing the heavenly phenomena such as the stars and planets, can’t we find Hashem by observing the wonders of the Earth?
(As Rav Avigdor Miller points out that by looking at an orange peel one can observe Hashem. The mere fact that the outside of the peel has a bright orange color while the inside is bland, also has great reasoning. Hashem made the outside of the peel beautiful, in order to advertise and to catch the eyes of the human being, thus he will want to eat the orange. Consequently the inside part of the peel which the person doesn't see has a bland color. Also, only when it is ripe and ready to be eaten does it advertise its bright orange color; but before it is ripe, it is green and hidden by the green leaves, because it is not ready to be eaten.)
The Lev Eliyahu answers that of course you can see Hashem in all the wonders of nature here on Earth, but since we are so used to it and see it everyday, so we fail to see Hashem. It is for this reason Yeshayahu advises to look in the wonders of the Heaven which we are not used to, then we will see the Hand of Hashem. (The Astronauts, when they traveled into outer space, were so inspired by what they saw that they started to recite the passage from the Bible - "IN THE BEGINNING G-D CREATED HEAVEN AND EARTH" GENESIS 1:1. Upon their return to earth many became more religious and some of them even joined the Clergy.)

7) Getting back to the original question about Chanukah, based on what we said till now we can answer it very well. The Alter of Kelm and Rav Dovid Feinstein explain that the fact that the oil burned the first night is a hidden miracle, because the fact that oil burns is not due to the fact that it has the natural property of combustion, but rather because Hashem commanded it to; but we are used to it, and we don't see Hashem. However, on Chanukah when the other seven days were obvious miracles, that showed us that Hashem was also responsible for the natural burning of the first day, so we have to celebrate seven days of obvious miracles and the one day of natural hidden miracle. In fact, it was the tradition of many people to sit by the burning Chanukah candles and reflect and recount the various hashgochohs throughout their lives.

8) When we hear or read CURRENT EVENTS we must not just HEAR it but we must also LEARN from it. Hearing but not learning be compared to a person who studied from a Sefer Mishnayos that was printed in the town of Pietrkov (a popular printing press long ago). Yet when asked what did he learn from the sefer, he replies "I discovered that there is a printing press in Pietrkov". Obviously that is true, but the person seems to be overlooking the main accomplishment, he studied Mishnayos from the sefer. So too is someone who ignores the main lessons from current events. The Gemoro (Yevamos 63a) says, "All tragedies that befall this world our only for the sake of Yisroel". Rashi explains that suffering comes to the world even to other nations so the Jews should learn from it and do t’shuvah.
If, for example, someone hears of a volcano erupting in Colombia, and it kills many people, and all he learns is that there is a volcano in Colombia, and it killed many people, then he is missing the main point. In this case the lesson should be that a person has no guarantee for the next moment that he will live, even if he is young or even a baby. The people who died from the volcano were not all old people, some were young and even babies. When we reflect on this then we realize we can't push off t’shuvah (repentane) to later on in life, because we have no guarantee as to how long we will live.

When we read about the plague of AIDS, and see by which perverted groups it is prevalent (Homosexuals and Intravenous drug users - see article in U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT SEPTEMBER 30, 1985,) we should learn a tremendous lesson, about the consequences of immoral behavior. Unfortunately, the secular world closes it's eyes not wanting to notice the fact that Hashem pays back a person middah k’neged middah (the punishment for a crime comes in a similar form to the crime itself). In this case we see that when people behave like MINDLESS CREATURES (behavior of an animal- see the Gemoro Sotah 15b) then Hashem treats them in a similar manner. Quote from an article, "...death by AIDS can be among the ugliest known to medicine, the reduction of a person to a MINDLESS CREATURE." (NEWSWEEK JULY 21, 1986) Instead, they look for ways of having "Safer Sex." We at least should not make this mistake and learn the lessons of others suffering, to avoid having to learn it from our own.

9) Personal Examples of hashgochoh protis:
1 - My marriage, was an amazing hashgochoh and in short I will just tell you the final part of it. My chavrusa Nachman Ruck and Nochum Kaplinsky suggested a shidduch with Miriam Bresler formerly of Detroit, in 1976. We went out 4 times, and then it didn't work out. Almost a year later in 1977 the shidduch was reinstituted, and we went out 7 times, and on June 15 I was going to propose. That morning I was offered my present job at Neveh in Eretz Yisroel, (I pulled a dirty trick and didn't tell Miriam until after we were engaged). We got married on October 12 and came up to Neveh on November 9, 1977. In retrospect, when I reflect upon it, apparently Miriam was the right girl but it was the wrong time. If I would have been already married to her in 1976, then when I would have been offered the job in 1977, I may not have taken it, because we would have furniture to sell, a lease and maybe a child, and we would be used to living as a married couple in the U.S.A.. However, since I knew about the job before I was married it made it a lot easier. We didn't get any furniture, we subleased a furnished apartment and we weren't used to living in the U.S.A.. So when in 1976, it didn't work out, I may have been disappointed, but Hashem was laughing and telling me to have patience, because it's the right one, but the wrong time; if you wait a little longer, you'll get a lot more than you bargained for, and I did.

2 - My story with the $3200 and shmittah. This is a personal story that started in 1980. I had lent out $800 to someone and as Shmittah was coming I wrote a "Pruzbul" which would allow me to collect the loan. Well, there was a technical Halachic problem which disqualified the "Pruzbul" and I was advised not to rely on it, consequently, I did not collect the loan. Now $800 is a lot of money, and I had to give myself the "Gam Zu L’tovah" sicha, but eventually I managed. In 1986, my daughter Esthy’s foot was run over by a bus, and we expected some insurance money. Meanwhile, I was borrowing money, relying that when I would get the insurance money, I would pay it back. There was one tzaddik who lent me money at different times and the sum total was $3200. Another shmittah had passed and I finally got the insurance money in shekalim, so I asked this tzaddik if I could pay in shekalim or he needs only dollars. He told me to forget about the loan because shmittah had passed and knocked off the loan. I asked him if he wrote a Pruzbul, and he said that he didn't want to, he wanted to fulfill the Mitzvah of forgoing a loan as prescribed in the Torah. (There is nothing wrong with writing a Pruzbul, it's a law that Hillel made, but he wanted to do without it). I told him that the law is that even though he forgoes the loan , I could still return it to him as a present. He still didn't want it even when I reminded him that $3200 is a lot of money. He insisted that I take it and use it towards trying to get a bigger apartment. (His blessing came true and eventually I got a bigger apartment). At that moment I was dazed, as can be imagined, and a word struck me like a lightning bolt, "SHMITTAH". The last shmittah you thought that you "lost" $800, well you were wrong it was just an investment because now through shmittah you got back 4 times as much, $800 x 4 = $3200. Again we see that what at first glance looks like a loss, in retrospect was a tremendous gain.

An amazing story of hashgochoh protis can be be found in the book The Maggid Speaks (by Rabbi Pesach Krohn) p. 224., titled Wrong number - Right party.
"A certain Israeli Rabbi had a heart condition and was under a New York doctor's care. The Rabbi always carried the doctors phone number with him in case of emergency. On one of the Rabbi’s trips to New York he felt sharp chest pains and realized that he needed medical attention at once. He dialed the number and prayed that it wouldn’t be busy. It rang twice and then a woman picked up. The Rabbi asked if the Doctor was there. "Yes," the woman said in surprise. "The doctor happens to be here." When the doctor got to the phone he heard the symptoms and assured the Rabbi that he would be there in a few moments. "But how did you know that I was here? I didn't tell anyone where I was going," the Doctor asked. "You're not in your office?" asked the surprised Rabbi. "No, I'm on an emergency call a few blocks from my home," the doctor answered, "I just dialed your regular number," the incredulous Rabbi insisted. Then the doctor looked down at the phone from which he was speaking. The numbers were precisely the same as his office phone except for one, in which the number was one digit off. By inadvertently dialing one of the numbers incorrectly, the Rabbi had actually dialed the "right" number! Later, after having been taken to the hospital, the rabbi was told that his life had been saved only because he had reached the doctor in time. Wrong number. Right party." An overt lesson in hashgochoh protis (Divine Providence).
(Story reprinted with permission from Mesorah Publications.)

10) In conclusion, we must constantly realize that every incident that happens to us is by hashgochoh protis. In fact, there is a person in Lakewood, New Jersey, who printed Hasgocho Protis diaries. The purpose of these diaries are for each person to record their own personal observations of hashgocho protis and to review them regularly.

List of Rabbi Price's sichot
Back to Neveh Homepage



The webspace for the Neveh Zion site has been generously donated by




send your comments to webmaster@neveh.org