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Torah Attitude: Parashas Tzav: You are what you see
|March 18, 2003
G’d hides miracles disguised as nature. A person who wants to see the Hand of G’d will see miracles on a daily basis. The open miracle of the Great Flood was rationalized by the builders of the Tower of Babel to be a natural phenomenon. The exact order of creation suggests that it was created by an intelligent force and did not suddenly appear out of chaos. Only in retrospect, when we put everything together, do we see the concealed Hand of G’d guiding the events in the story of Purim. Even in the darkness of our exile, and most difficult situations in our lives, somewhere is hidden the goodness and lovingkindness of G’d.
Fire on the altar
In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, G’d tells Moses to tell Aaron and his children about how to conduct themselves when bringing an offering on the Altar. This concludes with a commandment that a permanent fire shall remain aflamed on the altar and shall not be extinguished. The Talmud explains (Yuma 21b) that although there was a Heavenly fire descending on the Altar, nevertheless there was an obligation that the Jewish people should bring fire as well.
G’d hides miracles
Says the Chinuch (Ch.132), this is an example of a basic concept in regard to miracles. Even when G’d performs open miracles, He will somewhat hide them in disguised as nature so that they appear to be natural phenomena, or at least close to natural. Even at the splitting of the Red Sea, which was a very open miracle, it says, (Shemos 14:21) “And HASHEM moved the Sea with a strong east wind all night and He turned the Sea into dry land and the water split.” Similarly, G’d commanded us to bring a fire on the Altar, although a fire came down from Heaven, in order to hide the miracle. On a daily basis, the Jewish people did not necessarily see the Heavenly fire. Only at the inauguration of the Tabernacle did they merit to see it (Vayikra 9:24) “A fire came out from G’d and consumed the offerings on the Altar…And all the people saw, and they sang and they fell upon their faces.”
This is how G’d conducts Himself. Even at the time when there is a need for Him to perform open miracles, G’d blends the miracle with the ways of nature in order to give people the ability to choose on their own, whether to see the Hand of G’d, as is quite evident, or to dismiss it as just being nature. A person who wants to see the Hand of G’d will see even on a daily basis how G’d is behind daily natural happenings. The one who chooses not to see can experience open miracles and will explain it as nature. Reb Eliyahu Kahn of Copenhagen used to point out that it says before the splitting of the Sea (Shemos 14:13) “Place yourself and see the salvation of G’d that he will perform for you today.” Even then in order to see the miracle and the salvation, the Jewish people would have to focus and want to see it in order to absorb what was happening.
Rationalizing the Great Flood
We find an example of this by the Tower of Babel where the Midrash explains that the people wanted to wage a war against G’d by building a tower that would reach into Heaven. We wonder how they dared to try to fight G’d after the Great Flood which clearly showed the supreme power of G’d. Says the Midrash, they rationalized by saying that every 1656 years the Heavens open up and everything will be in upheaval. Since it was only 340 years after the last flood, they figured that they had another 1316 years until the next flood. G’d had warned humanity through Noah that a flood was imminent. But the people of the Tower of Babel ignored this. They chose instead to make the flood into a natural phenomena. Here is a clear example of how an open miracle can be turned around and twisted in such a way as to justify one’s own belief.
The exact order of Creation
G’d made Creation from nothing. Everything functions with such precision and accuracy that any objective observer will clearly see the Hand of G’d. The sun’s position is so exact that it properly warms the Earth. If it were a little further away, our whole planet would be covered with ice. If it were a little closer, all liquids would vaporize and the ground would dry up. Mammals breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants in turn absorb the carbon dioxide and produce oxygen in exchange. The exact order of Creation suggests that it was created by an intelligent force and did not suddenly appear out of chaos. It is incredible how someone cannot believe in the Divine origins of Creation. Nevertheless, millions of intelligent people choose not to believe.
The story of Purim
In our daily prayers, we thank G’d for the miracles bestowed upon us every day and for the wonders and favours we continually receive. With these words, we acknowledge that even daily occurrences are nothing but hidden miracles. This is a lesson that we can learn clearly from the story of Purim. If we look at each occurrence of the Book of Esther as individual events nothing appears to be miraculous. King Ahashvarous invited all his subjects to a magnificent feast and the Jews attended despite warnings from their leader Mordechai. Seemingly unrelated to this, the King gets into a fight with his queen and has her executed. Sometime later Esther, the niece of Mordechai, is chosen against her will to be the next queen. Interwoven with this is the planning of two of the king’s guards to poison the king only to be foiled by Mordechai. Finally, Haman is elevated to become the Prime Minister and Mordechai refuses to bow down to him or show him any honour. Only in retrospect, when we put everything together, do we see the concealed Hand of G’d that has been guiding the events. None of this was coincidence. However, those who choose not to see the Hand of G’d will rationalize that these events merely happened by chance.
The hidden goodness and lovingkindness
Says Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon, of Lakewood, that through the reading of the Megillah we learn to understand our daily lives. Even in the darkness of our exile, and most difficult situations in our lives, somewhere is hidden the goodness and lovingkindness of G’d. Sometimes from the most difficult situations themselves springs forth the salvation. As Rabbenu Yonah says in The Gate of Repentance, the darkness itself can be the cause of the light (2:5). During these days of insecurity and uncertainty we have to understand that this is not just something that happened to be. There is no doubt that the Hand of G’d is behind it. Just as in the difficult time of Purim, when the Jewish people felt endangered by their enemies, it brought them closer to G’d, we must follow in their footsteps and do everything in our power to understand the message of the time and bring ourselves closer to G’d and in that merit He shall surely send us the salvation with the coming of Mashiach in the near future.
These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network