8. Even a Prophet

A classic example of using the world in the ways of the world and not overstepping the bounds is when Hashem appears to Shmuel Hanavi (The Prophet Samuel). Hashem appears to Shmuel and says I no longer wish for Shaul to be the melech (king). I want there to be a new king. I want you to go to Yishai; one of his sons is to be the new king. Shmuel turns to Hashem and says eich eileich, how can I go, v’shama Shaul vehargeini, Shaul is going to hear that I’m going to appoint a king in his stead and he’ll kill me. Says Hashem back to Shmuel eglach bakar tikach b’yadecha, take a small calf, tell Shaul that you’re going to bring a korban (sacrifice), and he’ll fall for the trick.

The Chovos Halevavos says wait, stop. This is Hashem speaking to a navi. And Hashem says I have a mission, go appoint a king. The prophet turns back to G-d and says I can’t go, the mighty, powerful Shaul is going to kill me. Explains the Chovos Halevavos, Hashem should have blasted Shmuel. How dare you say that? Who gives life? Who controls the world? You’re afraid of a flesh and blood mortal king? Yet not only didn’t Hashem blast Shmuel, Hashem said you’re right, okay, do this, take a small calf and tell Shaul the following thing and he’ll fall for the ruse.

Explains the Chovos Halevavos you learn a principle from here. And that is that even a navi Hashem (prophet of G-d), when given a direct prophecy from Hashem, cannot go into a makom sakanah (dangerous situation). It would have been wrong of Shmuel to do it, because it was a dangerous situation. What Shmuel did was appropriate and proper. A person is obligated to use the world in the ways of the world. We don’t endanger ourselves, we don’t swim with sharks, we don’t put ourselves in dangerous situations. Even if Hashem Himself directs a navi, the navi still is obligated to go in the ways of the world.

And this is the principle of the Torah. We go in the ways of the world, knowing full well that Hashem controls the outcome. But this is the way Hashem wants us to act, to go in the derech hateva (ways of nature).