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Home Questions in Judaism Outlook and Belief MIRACLES vs. NATURE
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Question - - 02/28/2013
Why don't we see miracles nowadays?
Answer by Arachim
When the world first came into being, the Creator not only formed the heavens and the earth, and everything within them, but also established the laws by which they would exist and interact. These "Laws of Nature" are no less a part of the creation than the mountains, seas, galaxies and outer space.
We find the Laws of Nature described by the psalmist:
He has established them for ever and ever; He hath made a decree which shall not be transgressed (Psalms 148:6)
It is G-d's will that the entire world function according to fixed laws of nature. A miracle involves a deviation from these laws. Right from the beginning of creation, G-d intended that there be individual instances that would be miracles, that is, they would not conform to what are known as the Laws of Nature.
Who will decide when the laws of Nature hold sway, and when they will be abrogated in favor of a miracle? Obviously, only the Creator, who instituted the Laws of Nature in the first place, when He created the world.
Had the Creator merely set up the world, and then left it to function on its own, like a machine that operates automatically, there would be no option for miracles to occur. The fact that, at various junctures in the course of history, the laws of nature have been suspended, serves as evidence of the Creator's on-going supervision and intervention in these laws.
When the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, G-d declared: "I am the L-rd thy G-d, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. (Exodus 20:2)
He did not introduce Himself as the G-d who created the heavens and the earth, and for a good reason. The creation of the universe proves that its Creator is capable of bringing physical worlds, even galaxies, into being. However, the Exodus from Egypt goes one step further: It provides incontrovertible evidence of His ability to suspend the Laws of Nature at will. This proof was passed on from generation to generation. Not only the Jews are aware of it; Christianity and Islam also acknowledge the Exodus and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
Once the Creator established beyond all doubt that He is indeed Master of the Universe, there is no further need to demonstrate His sovereignty a second time.
Certainly, G-d does not need to prove to each individual that it is He who is in control by performing additional miracles. The events that took place when our nation was first born continue to serve us as ample evidence of His omnipotence yet today.
Moreover, the universe follows one of two fixed patterns. One of them is known to us as the Laws of Nature, which were an inherent part of the original creation of heaven and earth. These laws control each facet of the creation so that it will fulfill the task assigned to it by the Creator. The world, taken as a whole, operates in keeping with the rules governing the motion of the planets and the heavenly bodies as they follow their paths through the skies.
The other mode is called individual providence, or, in Hebrew, hashgachah pratit. G-d supervises the world continuously, following the actions of both individuals and classes of creatures in His universe. He controls our lives in accordance with His precise reckoning of what rewards, and, conversely, what retribution, each individual has earned through his actions.
Occasionally, He deals with individuals in a manner we term "miraculous" because it defies laws of Nature established at the time of Creation. The Flood at the time of Noah, the destruction of Sodom and Amora, and the Splitting of the Red Sea, are a few examples. The generation that spent forty years in the desert witnessed several such supernatural phenomena, such as the daily ration of manna, the clouds of glory, and more, as described in the Torah.
When we examine natural events, it appears that there is a "natural" cause for everything that happens. We attribute to this "cause" the power to control the event that follows it. It rains, because the air has become saturated with water. We conclude that each physical object has its "nature" which compels it to act and re-act in a predictable fashion.
However, this is a somewhat short-sighted view of the world. To get the full picture, we must remember that behind the mask of Nature lies the Hand of the Creator. Who decided that the humidity would rise to 100% just now? And why here, and not somewhere else?
If we go back to the original cause, we will always end up with the same answer: the ultimate "Driver" and "Manipulator" of the world is the Creator.
Just as a mother manipulates a hand puppet to delight her offspring, so, too, does G-d manipulate events and put ideas into people's hearts without always letting His hand be seen. When the mother withdraws her hand, all that remains is an empty shell of inert cloth. So, too, does man crumble into an inert heap, if G-d removes the supporting Hand that gives him life.
The same is true of all natural phenomena. The process is spiritual, not purely physical, just as the puppet is lifeless until someone's hand, slipped inside it, brings it to life.
It is one of Hashem's endless miracles that He usually keeps His hand hidden, inside the "puppet." In this way, He manages to present each aspect of our world to us as a "natural phenomenon" which seems to be imbued with its own power to operate.
We have free choice; we can attribute everything to nature, and go no further. Or, we can continually remind ourselves that this is merely the mask of Nature behind which the Creator has chosen to hide, in order to test us.
The "miracles" of nature are characterized by the fact that they repeat themselves with clocklike regularity, while miracles, in the conventional sense of the word, are one-time events, by definition. Another distinction between nature and miracles is the fact that we can discern a "natural" explanation for the former, but not for "supernatural" happenings, which is why we categorize them as miracles.
Just as we acknowledge the fact that miracles are not the consequence of natural forces, so, too, should we strive to enhance our awareness of the fact that all of Nature is itself a miracle, perhaps the greatest of them all.
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