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Parshat Vaera

"And I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov as 'Kel Sha-ddai,' but I did not make Myself known to them by the name of Hashem" (x, 3). The Ramban in his commentary quotes the Ra: "He appeared to the fathers by this name (Kel Sha-ddai), implying that He controls the heavenly constellations, through which He can perform great miracles without cancelling the laws of nature [hidden miracles]. But I did not reveal Myself to them through the name by which all was created, the Tetragrammaton (Havayah), so as to create new things in nature" (see our discussion in the second series for an explanation).
 
We shall try to explain the difference between the natural and the miraculous. In Gemara Shabbat (53b) we find a measure of distaste for the type of miracle that interferes with the very laws of nature. The Gemara relates: "Our Rabbis taught: There was an incident when a certain person's wife died, leaving him a son to nurse, and he could not afford to hire a wet nurse. A miracle occurred and he grew two breasts like a woman's and he nursed his son. Said Rav Yosef – Come and see how great this man is that such a miracle happened for him! Abaye replied, On the contrary! How terrible is this man that the laws of nature had to be changed for him." On the other hand, we find that one must say a special blessing when Hakadosh Baruch Hu performs a miracle for him: "One who sees a place where a miracle was performed for him must bless, 'Who performed a miracle for me in this place.' All his descendants must also bless, 'Who performed a miracle for my father in this place'" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, 211:64). One must also bless for a miracle that was performed for Am Yisrael: "One who sees a place where a miracle was performed for Am Yisrael, such as the crossing of the [Red] Sea or the crossing of the Jordan, must bless 'Who performed miracles for our fathers in this place'" (ibid).
 
Abaye's objection - how terrible is this man that the laws of nature had to be changed for him – is explained by Rav Kook in the following manner (Ein Ayah, Shabbat II, p. 16): "We must always remember that the love of ordered nature and its internal grace is a basic foundation for wisdom, for holy conversion in the glory of G-d, and for the uprightness of heart. Hence miracles must come from the deficient aspect of mankind that would naturally turn away from logic and the opposite of the upright." The ideal way to achieve a holy life and uprightness of heart is to reflect on the order of nature that follows fixed laws through an inner Divine grace. Yet (external) human nature leads us towards tendencies that oppose straight and profound logic. Man might reach the erroneous conclusion that nature has no Divine Master but rather is blind, that it follows internal, fixed laws without being guided. The purpose of miracles is to prevent such mistaken thinking. "They are in need of such guidance that will influence them regarding the opposite of the order of their nature [their lowly and external nature], that logic and morality should defeat the natural wavering of the heart, for the observation of the wonders of the Master of all, through the wrecking of the natural, fixed order, for the lofty, superior purposes of logic and morality, raises the soul from the lowly depths of its own self-possession to the glory and the ascent."
 
When we reflect on miracles that change the fixed, natural order and understand that this change is performed for lofty, superior, spiritual-moral purposes, we arrive at the conclusion that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the Leader of the world, and he renews in His Goodness every day the act of creation continuously. Yet this state of man, that he requires miracles, indicates his lowly, inferior position (as Abaye says). The ideal is otherwise. "The pure state, without any deficiencies, is that the heart should be restored to its natural purity [internally pure nature], and the purer, loftier state will match man's natural state [internal nature and its external appearance will be identical], and then higher guidance will come with the loftier attachment to ordered nature [in man's perfect state he is attached to ordered nature and has no need of miracles]. We shall love nature, with its laws and regularities with which the Eternal Rock fashioned his world for all times. Despite the greatness of one for whom a miracle was performed in his very being and nature [the man who grew two breasts], we nonetheless sense a certain deficiency here, in that the laws of nature had to be changed for him." The perfect situation which the world will achieve is, "that the hand of Hashem which guides fixed, ordered nature will be revealed in its glory and splendor in the heart of all creatures, in a perfect and lofty image. In another place the Rav explains the difference between our current situation and that of the future, while elaborating on the reason for our need for miracles in our present state. The Rav in Olat Reiyah (II, p. 270) writes as follows: "The difference between the current state of affairs and that of the future, is that as long as our knowledge is limited and darkness rules the world, and through [our] meager knowledge the aspect of faith is lost until eventually the Evil Inclination has the control to cause man to transgress his Master's desire, we must reveal the spirit of Hashem's providence through miracles and changes in the natural order, but in the future when the land will be filled with knowledge of Hashem, and Hashem, Blessed be He, will pour His spirit on all flesh, there will no longer be a need for miracles and changes in the regular order, but on the contrary, this regularity through regular providence will declare the glory of G-d, and His closeness, Blessed be He, to his creatures."

In the current reality our knowledge is meager and limited, and hence we are in need of the occasional miracle so that we can overcome those nagging thoughts which state that only nature exists and that Hakadosh Baruch Hu did not create or lead the world, G-d forbid. In the future, however, when our knowledge will be complete, we will recognize the glory of Hashem through the natural laws of the world and will not require miracles. Today we are in a situation of choice between good and evil. In order that we can choose good through our own efforts and thus acquire ourselves, Divine providence must be hidden. Yet in order that we should not lack success and fail in choosing the good, Hakadosh Baruch Hu occasionally shows us His clear, miraculous leadership. "Yet nowadays the occasional miracle is necessary in order to make room for choice, for the true leadership cannot be revealed as this would cancel out choice. But when the period of tests is over [in the future], choice will no longer be necessary, and hence the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves G-d and the one who does not serve Him, will be made apparent." In the future good and evil will be made clear. Good things will happen to the one who does good, while the converse will apply to the one who does evil. This will be made apparent through the natural order of things and there will be no need for miracles. Yet when everything is made clear and evident, man will of course not sin and will forfeit his choice. Hence this leadership is for future times when mankind will no longer need free choice in the manner of today.

In the Rav's introduction to Olat Reiyah (p.19) he refers to the aforementioned Gemara in Shabbat in a slightly different manner. We will try to understand his words as best as we can. The Rav writes: "Prayer acts to include all of Torah, all of service and wisdom as a natural quality and a permanent state of the soul, while it is called the sustenance of the hour, meaning that it provides life for that hour, so that it can stand before the influence of eternal life." One of the functions of prayer is that we should be able, in the routine of our mundane lives, to live the lofty life through a true and harmonious connection. "But Torah is eternal life, above nature, and where there is nature then the level of miracles is great and most lofty. Yet when nature is feeble then miracles are considered a bother in the eyes of heaven and a deficiency in the act of creation – 'How terrible is this man' (Shabbat 53b)." The idea is that even in our current situation there are two states of affairs. When nature is dark and lowly, and due to this great darkness miracles are required, this is "a bother in the eyes of heaven," and a deficiency. But when nature draws its light from the Force above nature then the level of miracles is great indeed. Beyond both of these states of affairs lies the future, in which we will have no need of miracles whatsoever, for nature itself will clearly show us the hand of Hashem in the world.

These two situations, of this world and the future, are connected. We should not think that the future holds a completely new reality that cannot grow out of the current one. In the blessing that Yaakov gives Yosef before his death it states: "…the blessings of the heaven above, the blessings of the deep that crouch beneath…the blessings of your father are greater than the blessings of my parents" (Beraishit xlix, 25-26). The Rav explains (Olat Reiyah, II, p, 203): "The blessings of my parents came about through the miracles that were performed for them, as Avraham and Sarah were blessed through [open] miracles, as were Yitzchak and Rivkah in the judgment of Avimelech, king of Pelishtim. But the greater praise of my blessings is that nature itself will be uplifted and raised, a taste of the world-to-come which goes beyond miracles, in the unlimited inheritance amongst the borders of the world and the laws of nature." These unlimited appearances, without material boundaries, will appear through the laws of nature without the need for a change in the usual Divine leadership. This is the perfect situation, a taste of the world-to-come. When Yaakov blesses Yosef with this blessing he teaches us that even today it is possible to achieve a certain connection with the future state. Of course this is dependant on our raising ourselves and raising the world with us.
 
Yaakov's blessing to Yosef is revealed to the entire nation as well. Our exodus from the house of slavery in Egypt has refined us and raised us, and all of nature has been raised alongside us in a taste of the future. "Those who minimize nature are gloomy, as they limit it to narrow borders and distant straits." Those who observe nature and see only the limits of law are themselves dark and gloomy. "We were redeemed from the house of slavery to everlasting freedom; the iron crucible in Egypt refined us, to prepare redemption for the entire world through our redemption. Nature has been raised up through our ascent; the splendor of the soul of miracle has shone upon us" (Orot Hakodesh III, p. 28). Am Yisrael is commanded to live the true connection of the miraculous and the natural. We are capable of this through our being refined in the crucible of iron in Egypt.
 
All this becomes clear when we realize that the cause and effect of nature is not cancelled through miracles, but rather that miracles light up the Divine order that is revealed through the laws of nature. "The relationship between miracles and nature should be recognized as one of unity, as the actions of Hashem are all one. The value of a miracle is not independent of nature, but is rather linked and connected to it. And this is the implication of the words of Chazal, that Hakadosh Baruch Hu made a condition with creation regarding the miracles that will be performed in it [see Shemot Rabbah ch. 21], meaning that miracles are related to the laws of nature, and they do not involve a change in His wishes" (Olat Reiyah, I. p. 319). A miracle is part of the Divine leadership revealed through nature and does not contradict it.
 
In the reality of nature every material thing has its "place," whereas things above nature are above place as well – "the place of the Aron and the Keruvim are not part of the measurement" (Bava Batra 99a). A person for whom a miracle has bee performed blesses, "Blessed be He Who performed a miracle for me in this place." This teaches us "of the relationship between the miracle and nature, so that we should recognize that all is one act of Hashem, and that nature, like the miracle, is not detached from individual providence. Therefore the thanksgiving blessing for miracles is also linked to a regard for the place, which is the subject of nature – Blessed be He Who performed a miracle for me in this place - to indicate that miracles are attached to and complete nature which refers to the place." This is a lofty and perfect outlook to which we must strive.

We are situated in the process of redemption and are connecting more to the status of the future – and hence our redemption is arriving through natural means rather than through a miracle. As a result we are required to be active and to assist in the building of the nation and the Land, for whoever works with G-d will earn his full reward.

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