Our sages have said that a person is sometimes saved from stumbling, not by his own restraint, but by Divine intervention, causing him to be protected from an immediate and known difficulty without actually changing the overall picture of his life.
Thorns and snares exist or lie in wait for every human being, and there is no doubt that only the smallest can be avoided.
In relation to greater, more all-encompassing events, man’s ability to avoid or change these is much more limited.
Of course, snares may also be elements within the larger social structure (the community or nation), which may be able to deal with small problems but be quite unable to cope with disaster on a large scale.
Small occurrences have a cumulative value that influences subsequent events.
The man who breaks his leg because of carelessness, or one who chooses evil over good—both enter a vicious circle in which whatever happens to them “afterwards” takes on a different significance.
As a result, their reaction to subsequent events will no longer be the same, and what is a matter of indifference for one can be a powerful impetus for good or ill for another.
According to this concept, a situation is therefore created in which freedom of movement in a small, inner world changes the meaning and significance of events, even though the world at large goes its way unaltered.
Decisions apparently irrelevant to the larger order of things become a matter of principle and are fateful for those who have some means of evaluating those same events.
Under normal conditions, one very general pattern can, given an average degree of probability, determine the way of life for an individual almost from birth.
Two such lives may be identical in form; their content may well be totally different.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz