Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Noach: Why G-d Does Miracles In The Least Miraculous Ways

A lot of ideas that are considered basics of Jewish philosophy come from the Ramban on Chumash. One example of this is in this week’s parshathe idea that G-d does miracles in a way that is as close to nature as possible. This explains why even though the only way the ark could only hold all the animals in it was it via a miracle, G-d had Noach build a big ark (though He could have done a bigger miracle by fitting all the animals in an even smaller vessel and not bothered Noach to make a big boat).

A strong question can be raised, why is it such a fundamental fact in Judaism that G-d does miracles within nature? An important lesson here is that we remember that even though large miracles do happen we need to stay close to and live in the natural world.  This relates to the Ramban's fundamental assertion, marshaled at the end of Parshat Bo that the point of big miracles that happen rarely is to remind us that seemingly commonplace natural events are miraculous.

Also relevant is the concept of ein somchin al haneis  - one should not rely on a miracle. By doing a miracle in a way that resembles the natural order of things, G-d is reminding us to live and work in the natural world we inhabit and not sit and wait for supernatural miracles. This also relates to the idea of hishtadlus and bitachon. By doing a miracle as close to nature as possible G-d reminds us that we must make efforts that make sense in the natural world and then we can trust that miracles will come from above.

Additionally, this relates to hakarat hatov - the concept often misunderstood to mean saying thank you, but which really means seeing the good. G-d stays close to nature when he does miracles to remind us to pay attention to the daily miracles we dismiss as merely natural.

G-d acts within nature because that’s where we must live.  This is where we strive to lead holy lives. In this physical world we reach toward connecting with G-d.

The mishnah states that the world stands on 3 things - Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Chasadim. The mishnah includes not only the fact that this saying came from Rabbi Shimon HaTzadik but also that he outlived Anshei Knesset HaGedolah.  Why are we told this random biographical fact about Rabbi Shimon?

This seemingly extraneous information is directly connected to Rabbi Shimons's statement. He outlasted the great era of The Men of the Great Assembly and lived on to see less glorious times. He was saying that even though that golden era was gone what was important was on a day in and day out basis to adhere to Torah, prayer, and kindness. That's what keeps the world going.

On a similar note after the chagim, as we complete a full week of school and begin a stretch of such weeks, as we go through the six months till Pesach we need to focus on the holy potential of daily life. We need to remember that G-d’s miracles are embedded in every miraculous moment of our day to day routines.  May we be blessed to see G-d’s close to nature, big miracles.

No comments: