HomeMarch 2013Ho-Hum, Miracle of Miracles

Ho-Hum, Miracle of Miracles

Time and again, those who study Torah come to the question as to how the nation of Israel, which had just been miraculously redeemed from Egypt in order to receive the Torah, could have fallen spiritually to the level of committing the sin of the Golden Calf.  Perhaps we are being told that human nature is such that even though a person has scaled the loftiest heights of Divine communion, he remains capable of descending into the depths of depravity!

In order to answer the question, we must take a closer look at how CHAZAL describe the events at the Red Sea.  If a maidservant at the splitting of the Red Sea was capable of Divine inspiration, why is she still referred to as a maidservant and not as a prophetess?  Revelations and unique events on their own do not create prophets.  A person may experience the miraculous and yet remain the same person.  A person’s new knowledge and awareness gained from a miraculous occurrence will not necessarily effect a change in his personality.  “Miracles, however awe-inspiring, cannot change human nature.  They can only momentarily shake the human soul out of its everyday concepts, but they cannot in themselves effect a lasting transformation.” (Nechama Leibowitz, Studies in Shemot)

The maidservant, after the event at the Red Sea, retained the same humble stature that she possessed prior to that miraculous event.  Genuine prophets, on the other hand, reached prophecy only after a long and arduous process of character development and self-perfection.  Prophecy was but the climax to their efforts and, therefore, it became an integral part of their personality.  Thus, we can now understand why the people turned so quickly to idolatry.  They were idol worshippers who lived through miraculous events.  These events, being unique and spontaneous, left no lasting impression.  Once the revelation at Sinai had spent itself, the people returned to their idolatrous ways.

A single miraculous experience, however awe-inspiring, is not capable of changing a people from idol worshipers into a God-fearing nation.  Only a prolonged, sustained disciplining in the precepts of the Torah – so that the Torah directs every moment of existence – can cause a nation to go from worshipping idols to fearing God.  It is only through studying and observing the Torah, with its all-embracing laws that regulate an individual’s relationships with himself, his family, and society, that one builds resistance to moral failures.

Think About It

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson (ztl), taught that emotions not only carry the strength to sustain a faith that goes beyond questions; they also lead to action.  In this vein, the Rebbe taught that love brings a man to “do good,” and fear leads him to “turn from evil.”  Knowledge, however, by itself, leads to detachment.  The mind becomes engrossed in learning and loses its concern with action.  Even though the mind may gain the knowledge of what to do, it loses the inclination to do it.

This is why the sages warned: “He who says, ‘I have nothing but my learning of Torah’ does not even have Torah,” because this learning, by itself could lead naturally to detachment.  A Jew must accompany it with actual service towards God and acts of compassion towards man.

Learning alone, without acting, is not true learning.

MARCH 2013

Candle Lighting Times
and Torah Portions

Friday, March 1
Light candles at 5:29 p.m.

Saturday, March 2
Torah Portion: Ki Tissa
(Exodus 30:11-34:35)

Friday, March 8
Light candles at 5:35 p.m.

Saturday, March 9
Torah Portion: Vayakhel-Pekudei
(Exodus 35:1-40:38)

Friday, March 15
Light candles at 6:41 p.m.

Saturday, March 16
Torah Portion: Vayikra
(Leviticus 1:1-5:26)

Friday, March 22
Light candles at 6:46 p.m.

Saturday, March 23
Torah Portion: Tzav

(Leviticus 6:1-8:36)

Friday, March 29
Light candles at 6:51 p.m.

Saturday, March 30
Torah Portion: Special Passover Reading

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