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Nature and Miracles

by Rabbi Binyomin Adilman


Library » Philosophy » Miracles | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Both nature and miracles are from G-d, but what is the difference?

Many who believe in G-d may find this question naive. Of course everything is from G-d they will reply. Nature is the law G-d established at the time of creation, which regulates the processes of the world in accordance with certain principles (usually 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 may override the laws He has written into the cosmos and will perform open miracles which seemingly have no physical cause. This is the case with all the miracles mentioned in the Bible and in the words of our sages.

However, what precisely is "nature"? For example, what causes grain to grow? The obvious reply is that once the soil is prepared by plowing, and the seed has been sown and the ground properly watered, the presence of natural causes bring about the growth of the grain.

Would it not be correct to say that this is a constant miracle, it is just that we have gotten used to it?
But while the forces which G-d has implanted in Creation, i.e. "nature", bring about the growth of grain, why do these factors cause the growth of the grain?

Nature is a miracle

But if we go into this more deeply we realize that there is no answer to the question why "nature" works the way it does. An effect follows a cause. All we know is that this is what invariably happens. Would it not be correct to say that this is a constant miracle, it is just that we have gotten used to it!?

Don't we see the same miracle in the growth of a seed, which 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 kind of resurrection of the dead? In fact it is. The only difference is that we are used to the resurrection of seeds but it would be hard to accept resurrection of people. But if the situation were reversed, we would call the resurrection of bodies "nature" and the resurrection of seeds "miracle".

There is no essential difference between the natural and the miraculous...
The truth is that there is no essential difference between the natural and the miraculous. Everything that occurs is a miracle. There is no other cause than the will of G-d and no other consequences than His deeds and His conduct in the world. What He wills comes into being without need of any intermediary. We call it a miracle when G-d wills an occurrence which is novel and unfamiliar. Subsequently we become more aware of the hand of G-d. We call G-d's acts "nature" when He wills that certain events 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.


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Holidays » Chanukah » About

(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
An eight day mid-winter holiday marking: 1) The miraculous defeat of the mighty Syrian-Greek armies by the undermanned Maccabis in the year 140 BCE. 2) Upon their victory, the oil in the Menorah, sufficient fuel for one night only, burned for eight days and nights.
Prayer signifying the end of the Sabbath or Jewish holiday. This "separation" prayer is recited after nightfall over a cup of wine.
Candelabra. Usually a reference to the nine-branched candelabra kindled on the holiday of Chanukah.
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
Plural form of Tzadik. A Tzadik is a saint, or righteous person.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.