"G-d Willing" is a phrase we've all used or heard. (As an aside, the reason I use a dash instead of spelling out the word is because, according to the Sages of the Talmud, there are in Hebrew seven names of G-d that are considered sacred and, if written completely, cannot be erased. There is a debate among contemporary rabbis if that rule applies to names of G-d in a language other than Hebrew. In deference to to the view that it does, I have adopted the custom of not completely spelling the word.)
The phrase "G-d Willing" (or its parallel "with G-d's help") occurs when we're talking about future plans. "I'll be at the game, G-d Willing," for example. It makes sense. Past events already testify to what G-d Willed. The future is unknown, and we hope our plans match G-d's plans.
"G-d Willing" is an acknowledgment of Divine Providence. We have plans, hopes, desires, but we are not in control. 'Events' may intervene. It's not the 'vast eternal plan,' as Tevye sings, that gets spoiled, but our more narrow, personal ones.
Yet there might seem to be a a contradiction, or at least a paradox: if everything goes as G-d wills it, what difference does it make if I have plans or hopes? Ultimately they don't matter, right? If it's G-d's plans that matter, what happens to free choice?
Rabbi Akiva answered this question when he said, "All is foreseen, but free will is given." Plans are linear and time-bound. I am in the present and project into the future. I go from the known (or partially known) to the unknown. And in so doing, I try to create stability and certainty.
But, as we all know, life intervenes. The unexpected happens. And it doesn't have to be large-scale. Getting a red light, we're late for a meeting and as a result, we lose the contract, otherwise a sure thing. Back at the office in the midst of our disappointment, we go through messages we were too busy to return. One of them turns out to be from a potential client. We return the call an he tells us that, had we called earlier, he wouldn't have been in a position to do business with us. But now...we end up with a better contract than the one we lost.
Of course, not all the interventions and unexpected turn of events end up with an obvious positive result. But even when there's no message waiting, so to speak, it's still "G-d Willing." We may not understand, we may not be happy with the result, but, as we will all admit, life is more complex than our understanding.
G-d operates beyond time - where past, present and future are all one. This is "All is foreseen," because all is simultaneous. We can't really grasp this, being time-delineated, but we know it's true.
So where does that leave us? We have to live our lives, deal with the unexpected turns, make our plans, adjust them, and accept that so much is beyond our control. That's how we are and that's what's expected. With humility, or an acceptance of reality, we add G-d Willing.
We might say the more disruptive, the more life-changing the unexpected event, the more we try to adjust and create a new, life-affirming reality, the more we have to acknowledge, G-d Willing.
At least, as I cope with my illness, as I try to live in the present and yet hope for the future, so it seems to me. I've talked to others in a similar situation, and there's a combination of what we'd call 'fighting spirit,' hope, realism as well as moments, just moments, of resignation or despair. Even from there, hope returns because although our lives will be changed and altered, still G-d Willing, the medicine will work, the surgery will be successful, and there will be a return to health.
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