The role of human initiative and action
The article that I quoted yesterday It's not Iron Dome [saving us] it's Hashem, where Chaim Cohen claimed that Hashem is diverting the Hamas rockets to non-inhabited areas and that our hishtadlus (Iron Dome) has little to no effect, started me thinking about this question. The article is perfect example of the current Charedi approach that a leaf doesn't fall without it being decreed from heaven (see my post Hashgocha Pratis, what does it mean? for an elaboration of this). I believe that this shita has taken over the Charedi world in the last 50 years for the following reasons:
1. It is theologically simple. It is a very black and white answer which fits into the current Charedi mindset and it promotes emuna peshuta
2. It is as the Chinuch wrote far-removed from the intellect, which fits the current anti-intellectual climate
3. It fits very well with a Torah only mindset. If everything (even a leaf falling) is from Hashem then Torah only makes a lot of sense. Everything else doesn't count anyway.
While this shita is certainly legitimate and has it's sources, it creates a lot of serious questions about man's role in the world. Basically, according to this shita, man has no real role in the world. This world is simply a test and nothing that man does has any real effect (see R'Dessler). The problem is that we see with our own eyes that this isn't true. Of course R' Dessler says that we are simply mistaken and it is all a test, but I think that most people have a very hard time with this. We see that people take initiative and do things and do have success. People work hard and get promoted for their hard work, get good grades and based on that get high paying jobs, etc. While this shita may have made sense for people in earlier times when man had basically no control over anything, today, when we do have limited control, and we can see the direct results of our actions this shita is much more difficult to accept.
In fact, even in the real Haredi world we find that this shita is not accepted when it comes to certain things, medicine for example. Haredim many times move mountains to see the top specialist in the field (for a famous case see Should we go to the best doctor?). However, according to R' Dessler (and the Chazon Ish) this really should be considered too much השתדלות and a lack of בטחון. After all, Hashem is doing the healing not the surgeon and once we have done our השתדלות, going to the doctor and having the surgery, why should it matter whether the surgeon is the best in the world or simply Joe surgeon who is competent? As long as we do our השתדלות to avoid requiring a נס, the rest is a גזירה מן השמים. If the גזירה is that the surgery will be successful, then it will be successful even if done by the average surgeon, and if the גזירה is that it won't be successful then it won't help that you have the best surgeon.
In fact, what does it actually mean that someone is considered the best surgeon? After all, הכל בידי שמים, our success is actually an illusion to make it look like it is our skill. In fact, our success in worldly matters is simply a גזירה מן השמים so the fact that he successfully operated is not due to his skill but due to the גזירה מן השמים. This is essence Chaim Cohens claim against Iron Dome, all hishtadlus is simply an illusion and doesn't really matter.
There is however, a different approach, that while there certainly is hashgacha in the world, man also has the ability to take initiative and accomplish things. As I pointed out yesterday, the Ran in his Derashos (10) explains that in truth a person can say that כחי ועוצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה as long as he recognizes that his raw talents come from Hashem. because we see that different people have different talents and some people are truly gifted. With this approach, Hashem has given every person certain כוחות and it is up to us to use those כוחות in the world. According to this approach, Iron Dome itself is from Hashem because he gave the designers and implementers the intellect and skill to build it. However, it didn't just come down from heaven, people had to actually use their initiative and skills to make it happen.
This is much more theologically complex position, but ultimately one that fits in much better with the way we see the world working and I believe gives more meaning to what we do in our lives.