Monday, April 27, 2009
Miraculous Nature- By Rabbis Dessler & Carmell
Excerpted from the book, "STRIVE FOR TRUTH!"
What is the difference between the natural and the miraculous? Are they not both from G-d?!
Many who believe in G-d may find this question naive. Of course everything is from G-d, they will reply. Nature is simply the law G-d established at the time of creation, which regulates the processes of this world in accordance with the principle of cause and effect. This is how this world operates, they will tell us.
On rare occasions, because of some special need, and for someone who has extraordinary merits, G-d will override the laws He has written into the cosmos, and will perform open miracles which have no physical cause. This is the case with all the miracles mentioned in the Bible.
We may ask them: What precisely is "cause and effect?" Why does the effect, proceed from the cause?
For example, what causes grain to grow? The reply will be: Surely it's obvious! Once the soil is prepared by plowing, and the seed has been sown, and the ground properly watered; all the natural causes are present, which bring about the growth of the grain.
If we venture to ask: But WHY do these factors cause the growth of the grain. They are likely to laugh at us and reply:
But you can see, it always happens like that; it is perfectly obvious, that these are the causes that G-d has implanted in creation, to bring about the growth of grain.
This is what we mean by nature.
MIRACLE OF RESURRECTION
But when we go into this more deeply we realize, that we have no answer to the question of, why the effect follows the cause. All we know is, that this is what invariably happens.
But would it not be valid to say, that this is a constant miracle - which we happen to have gotten used to!?
Let us imagine that we saw a dead person laid to rest in his grave. The body decomposes and turns to dust. Then slowly, from the depths of the grave, something begins to grow. We see something like a human body forming and protruding above the ground.
Eventually the earth is thrust aside, and a complete, living human being shakes himself free of the earth, and emerges from the grave.
What would we say?! We would be absolutely sure, that we had witnessed the great miracle, of the resurrection of a dead person.
But then why do we not see the same miracle in the growth of a seed, which likewise is sown in the earth and rots away, until a new shoot comes forth out of the rotting material.
Why should not this event, too, be considered a resurrection of the dead?
In fact it is. The only difference is, that we are used to the resurrection of seeds, but we are not used to the resurrection of people.
If the situation were reversed, we would call the resurrection of bodies "nature", and the resurrection of seeds "miracle."
EVERYTHING IS A MIRACLE
The truth is, that there is no essential difference, between the natural and the miraculous. Everything that occurs is a miracle. The world has no other cause, than the will of G-d.
His deeds, and His conduct of the world, are the immediate consequence, of His will. What He wills, comes into being, without need of any intermediary.
We call G-d's act a "miracle", when He wills an occurrence, which is novel and unfamiliar to us; and which consequently, makes us aware of the hand of G-d.
We call G-d's acts "nature", when He wills that certain events should occur in a recognizable pattern, with which we become familiar.
This familiarity, presents us with a challenge. We can choose to recognize, that these events, too, have as their sole and immediate cause, the unfettered will of G-d.
Or we can imagine, that G-d has delegated certain powers to "Nature;" and that within the realm of nature, man too has the ability to influence events, by the process of cause and effect.
The whole concept of "nature" is thus, nothing but a test for the human being. Nature has no objective existence; it is merely an illusion, which gives man a choice, to exercise his free-will: to err, or to choose the truth.
VINEGAR CAN BURN
Let us imagine an individual, who by dint of enormous spiritual effort, has successfully overcome the challenge of "nature," so that the natural no longer presents any problems to him.
There would no longer be any need for Heaven to deal with him, through the obscuring veil of nature. Miracles would become commonplace for him.
There have been rare individuals of this sort ,in our history. One of them was Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa, whose daughter once by mistake put vinegar instead of oil in the Shabbat lamp.
He said to her: "Why are you sad? What difference does it make? He Who told oil to burn, can tell vinegar to burn."
And the vinegar burned all Shabbat, until they lit the (post-Shabbat) Havdalah light from it. (see Talmud - Taanit 25a)
The meaning is, that Rabbi Chanina had reached the level where he recognized, not only intellectually but deep in his being, that there was indeed no difference, between nature and miracle.
Consequently, so far as he was concerned, there was no need to keep up the pretense of "nature." And for him, oil and vinegar, were indeed equally flammable.
Making a living
OPPORTUNTITIES IN ABUNDANCE
People tend to make another great mistake. They often find, that they manage to gain a livelihood, only with the utmost difficulty; it seems to them indeed "as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea." (see Talmud - Pesachim 118a)
They assume that this is because, there are relatively few opportunities, compared with the number of people competing for them; so that only a few can be successful.
Consequently, they are always striving to manipulate the situation, to attract to themselves as many opportunities as possible, not failing to step on other people in the process.
All this is useless and destructive, in the extreme.
The truth is, that G-d has provided opportunities in abundance - thousands, even millions of times more, than we can possibly make use of.
Look at the world around us. The earth and all the planets together, utilize only an infinitesimal fraction of the light, heat and energy, given off by the sun.
Man, animals, and the whole biosystem of the earth, use only a tiny fraction, of the available air.
For every seed that develops into a plant, there are countless millions whose potential is never fulfilled. In animals and man, only one out of millions of sperms, is needed to fertilize the egg.
What can one do, to avoid these pitfalls? What can help us realize, that everything comes to us directly from G-d, and that physical causes have no power and no reality?
THE POTENCY OF PRAYER
The most obvious means to this end, is prayer. Prayer fixes in our heart the realization, that we can obtain our desires only, by turning to G-d, from whom all things come.
Our Rabbis say: "Man's livelihood is as difficult, as the splitting of the Red Sea." Rashbam explains: "That is to say, a great miracle."
Needless to say, this does not mean, that the miracle is difficult for G-d; because everything is equal before Him. The meaning is that we, from our point of view, have to reflect on and realize, the wonder of the miracle involved, in earning one's living.
And the purpose of this, says Rashbam, is "to know how to pray." Through prayer we come to recognize, the miraculous nature of human sustenance, which most people think of as the result, of mere natural causes.
Through prayer we impress on ourselves the truth, that nature is nothing, and that all comes to us from G-d alone; that there is no other cause but He, and from Him alone we seek and receive all our needs.