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The Purpose of Miracles: WakeupBased on the Sefer Emunah u'Bitachon by Moreinu v'Rabbeinu Maran Rosh Hayeshiva, Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, zt"l, parshas Mikeitz.
The gemora (Shabbos 21b) asks, "What is Chanukah." Rashi explains that the gemara is asking upon which miracle was Chanukah based. The implication is that there were other miracles at that time. The tefilla Al Hanissim indeed mentions a whole list of miracles. If so, why is the miracle of the flask of oil left out of Al Hanissim? All that is mentioned is, "and they lit candles in Your holy courts." This implies that the lighting was as usual and not miraculous. We can answer by first studying a Midrash which discusses Avraham Avinu's recognition of the Ribono Shel Olam.
R. Yitzchak said, "It is similar to someone traveling on a path. Suddenly he sees a brightly glowing palace, and asks himself, 'Is it possible that this palace has no master?' The master of the palace then peers out at him, and says, 'I am the master of this palace!' So too, Avraham Avinu asked, 'Is it possible to say that this world is without a master?' Therefore, the Almighty peered out, and said, 'I am the Master of the World.'" (Bereishis Rabbah 39:1) This Midrash sparks off a fundamental question. Why was Avraham the only one to recognize the Creator? Any intelligent person should realize that this grand and complex universe could not have come into existence by itself. When even the simplest person sees a table and chairs he realizes that a carpenter made them. So upon seeing such a complex and organized world, where every little detail fits into place, multitudes of people should have asked, who created all this?
The question gets more pointed when we realize that not only are simple people not asking the question, but the greatest minds of mankind failed to see the simple truth. The Rambam states that Aristotle had one of the greatest intellects in history. Yet he concluded that the universe always was, and always will be, because that is the nature of things. How could such a genius miss the simple truth? (Aristole's thinking was later mimicked by the "Steady State Theory." But the "Big Bang Theory" is just as problematic. What was before the Big Bang? An endless series of explosions?)
The clue to answering this question comes from the Chovos Halevovos (Sha'ar Cheshbon Hanefesh 23): This thoughtlessness and foolishness comes from being misled by the mundane nature of thing. We get used to the fact that the world goes on every day the same way and so habit sets in and tricks us into thinking that this is the way it has to be because that is nature. The fact that nothing changes is proof of the reality of nature. Therefore we fail to ask the basic question, why is it like that?
The universe is really one big sugya. When a child learns a piece of gemara everything is quite understandable and he has no question. But after he grows into a big lamdan all of sudden he has a myriad of questions on the same gemara and sees the remarkable depth in pshat. The same is true about the universe. It looks simple if you take it a face value. But once you delve into it, asking all the questions, you are forced into the conclusion that there must be a Creator. This is the way a chachom looks at the world: with a lumdisher kook.
This is the purpose of miracles: to wake the person from his slumber to see that really there is no such thing as nature at all. The outstanding miracles bring a person to recognize the hidden miracles. And this is the most basic principle in all of the Torah (Ramban, end of parshas Bo).
Really everything is a miracle. But because of habit, we just don't see it.
The daughter of R. Chanina ben Dosa by mistake put vinegar in her candle instead of oil. This caused her much anguish [thinking there would be no light in the house that Shabbos.] Her father said to her, 'My daughter, don't worry, the One Who said that oil should light will say that vinegar should light. Why should oil burn any better than vinegar?'" (Ta'anis 25a).
If it weren't for the miracle of the oil we might have made a terrible mistake and looked at the victory of the Chashmonaim as a result of their military skills. The Yiddishe Kup outsmarted the goyishe generals. The miracle of the flask of oil came to show us that the victory of the Chashmonaim was totally miraculous. "You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah."
According to this pshat, the purpose of the miracle of the flask of oil was to remind us that the victory over the Greeks was a Divine miracle. (See Halichos Shlomo on Tefilla by Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt"l, p. 353, who says a similar pshat. The main mitzva is not the lighting of the Chanukah candles. Rather the Chanukah candles are the way to remind us to praise Hashem for the miracles of the victory over the Greeks.)
Perhaps we can also take this one step further. In reward for the Chashmonaim's misiras nefesh to purify the Beis Hamikdash and their undaunted battle for their pure Torah beliefs, the Chashmonaim merited the open miracle of the flask or oil. This oil burnt for 8 days symbolizing that they had raised themselves up above nature and were now attached to the supernatural. This is the power of the mitzvah of Chanukah candles: to be attached to the supernatural. A person can be living in the material world, and still be attached to the light of mitzvos which is pure ruchnius. (See Sefas Emes, Chanukah úøì"à citing the Kedushas Levi).
Thus it is no accident that Chanukah falls out in parshas Mikeitz. The story of Yosef is a lesson in the special Hashgacha Pratis that surrounds the life of a Jew.
The Finger of Hashem
(Excerpt from Chizuk! Adapted from "Haggada of Reb Sholom," an anthology of commentaries on the Haggada by Rav Sholom Schwadron, zt"l.)
At times we need a bomb to wake us up. It isn't a recommended method, but sometimes a very extraordinary experience shakes us out of our complacency and changes our whole perspective of the entire universe:
Sometimes even the most stubborn atheist is forced to admit that he has just witnessed the finger of God pointing at him.
The Arachim kiruv organization organizes seminars to give non-religious Jews a chance to explore their Jewish heritage. One such seminar took place at Kibbutz Chofetz Chaim. A family with two teenage children participated. The two parents and the daughter attended the lectures and listened attentively. The son, however, didn't want any of this. He spent the entire week sitting in his room, his ears plugged into his CD player. One of the organizers of the seminar took notice of the boy's absence and tried to speak to him privately, but to no avail. The boy just wasn't interested.
The seminar ended and all returned home. The parents were quite impressed by their experience and decided to embark on the new path to which they had been introduced in the seminar. Of course they did this all carefully and proceeded at their own rate, taking on mitzvos slowly. They asked their son to join them in their new venture and try keeping just a little bit of something Jewish. But their request fell on deaf ears.
One day his parents approached him and said, "Listen, let's make a deal. If you'll agree to go to the next seminar, and just listen to the lectures with absolutely no commitment to anything more, we will give you a present of a trip to Europe. You've wanted to visit Cyprus and Italy. This is your chance."
The boy looked at them, and thought for a moment. "Okay. It's a deal."
A few weeks later, he packed his bag and went to the Chanukah Seminar at the Kibbutz. He sat through the lectures, or at least his body did. His head was already in Italy.
At the end of the week-long seminar, there was a symposium. It took place after Shabbos around midnight. Everyone attended and several of the guests went up to the microphone to express their impressions and feelings after a week overflowing with spirituality. Others told over their personal history, while others revealed the revolution that had occurred in their lives due to the seminar.
Our young man sat next to a friend, and listened with less than half an ear, mostly dreaming. His friend, fired up by what he had heard, leaned over to him and said, "Nu! What's with you? Are you going out of here with any resolutions?"
"Me? Are you kidding? I'm leaving the seminar with a plane ticket to Italy!"
"But you heard all the lectures. How can you still be so cold?!" asked his friend.
Suddenly he woke up from his sweet dreams. He turned to his friend and announced, "You know what? If a miracle happens and my mother and father come here in the middle of the night (they lived in Jerusalem, quite some distance away), I will agree to become a ba'al teshuva. Signed, sealed, and delivered!"
An hour or two passed and suddenly his parents appeared in the lobby of the hotel!
The boy, overcome with emotion, ran over to them and kissed them. He felt as if he had just experienced an earthquake.
The participants in the hall had no idea what had just taken place, but they knew that something special had just happened. These were very emotional moments indeed. The boy spoke to his parents and started crying. After regaining his composure, he left his parents and hurried up to the microphone. On the way, he asked someone for a kipa. He then announced over the microphone, "From now on this kipa won't leave my head!"
What had happened? How did they get there? Later on the father told over the missing piece of the puzzle. He had been asleep when suddenly he dreamed that an old man with a white beard (maybe his grandfather) came to him and said, "Why are sleeping in your bed? Get up fast and go to Kibbutz Chofetz Chaim! Your son is waiting for you."
He woke up and told his wife what he had dreamed. "Oh, very interesting. That is a strange dream. Maybe we should go…."
"No! I want to go back to sleep!" He said, and did.
The old man came again. "Why aren't you going to your son? Why are you sleeping here?"
He woke up all confused and told his wife, "I saw him again."
"If that is the case, then maybe we should go"," she said to him.
"But I want to go back to sleep!"
"Listen, I believe in dreams. Don't worry. You won't be alone. I'm going with you," she said with persistence.
They got dressed and went down to the car. It wouldn't start. The husband sat in the car, his eyes half-closed from lack of sleep. He couldn't get the car to budge. [Aha! commented Reb Sholom. The Satan works hard at these crucial moments. Do you think the yetzer hora is sleeping at 2:00 AM?] "The battery is dead. I can't handle this! Finished! I'm going back to sleep!"
"We are already dressed and downstairs. Let's call a taxi to take us there." She was very determined. "We are already standing in the street. Let's take a taxi." She repeated adamantly.
"What happened all of a sudden?"
"Nu! We are going at any cost. Call a cab!"
She won. They called a taxi and paid a fortune to go from Jerusalem to Kibbutz Chofetz Chaim at 2:00 in the morning. But they arrived.
"The finger of God!" The lesson is clear. One who wants, gets supernatural help!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network