8 Tevet 5775
Fate and Destiny - It all balances out fairly in the end
by Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi
God predetermines a person's basic lifespan, wealth and opportunities -- but leaves ample room for free choice.
In order to fulfill His purpose, God decreed that both good and evil exist in the world, and that each man fulfills his task in life by striving to acquire good traits and overcome evil traits in himself. For example, pride is a bad trait, while its opposite humility, is a good one. Mercy is a good trait, while callousness is its opposite. The quality of being happy with what one has is a good one, while it's opposite is bad. The same is true of all other traits.
In order to provide an environment for these traits to exist, God divided individuals into different stations in life. Each of these stations is then a test for a particular individual, allowing all these bad qualities to exist, while giving him the opportunity to strive against them and embrace the good.
The fulfillment of God's Torah also requires the social intercourse that results from these variations of station. Thus, for example, if wealth and poverty did not exist, there would be no opportunity for the rich to demonstrate either generosity or indifference to the poor who need their help. The poor likewise could not be tested to determine whether or not they would be satisfied and thank God for the little that they do have.
Whether a person is rich or poor, healthy or sickly, he can always choose good or bad.
The main task of Divine Providence in this world is therefore to set each person in his station in life in order that he may serve God according to his destiny. All things that God does in this world are directed toward this purpose. Some things directly affect the person involved, while others are used to set up chains of events to direct him toward his destiny.
Every person's station in life is a test, wherein he can choose either to serve God to the best of his ability or not. Whether a person is rich or poor, healthy or sickly, intelligent or dull, he can always make use of his qualities for good or for bad.
Regarding this important principle, God told us through His prophet, "Let the wise man not glory in his wisdom, let the strong man not glory in his strength, and let the rich man not glory in his wealth. But if one would glory, let him glory in this: that he has intelligence and that he knows Me, that I am God, performing kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth, for in these things I delight" (Jeremiah 9:22-23).
Doing Your Best
Though a person's station in life might make it more difficult for him to do good, he is still required to use all this resources to serve God. For this reason, it is taught, "In all your ways know Him, and He will straighten your paths" (Proverbs 3:6). If a person's nature or environment tend to make it more difficult for him to serve God, then his reward will be that much greater, since reward is always gauged according to the effort expended. Similarly, in such a case, his punishment for disobeying God's commandments will be reduced, since God takes extenuating circumstances into consideration.
On the other hand, one whose station in life makes it easy to serve God is punished all the more for failing to do so. Though providence makes it easier for some to serve God, and more difficult for others, the truth is that it all balances out fairly in the end.
This underscores the fact that, while it is true that God decrees a person's station, this does not excuse him from doing his best to serve God. Similarly, the fact that God decrees that a person should be poor is no excuse for the rich to withhold charity from him, since it was for this very reason that God created a world of contrasts. Likewise, although it may have been decreed that a person should be murdered, this does not excuse the killer, since God has many messengers.