Home March 2012 When Miracles Seem Natural

When Miracles Seem Natural

Fundamental to Jewish belief is recognition of Divine control of the universe.  There are no accidents.  Everything  is so because the almighty makes it so.  The concept of hashgachah peratis (specific supervision) refers to God’s control over everything that is and everything that occurs.  In fact, this belief is the first of Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith: “I firmly believe that the Creator, Blessed is His name, is the Creator and Ruler of all created beings and that He alone has made, does make, and ever will make all things.”
Divine control, however, functions in two patterns, teva – nature, and neis – miracle.  “Nature” means that God moves everything within an identifiable and predictable order; we describe as “natural” those events that occur by Divine control within this order.  Miracle means “unnatural” – something that, while occurring through Divine control, does not fall within any identifiable or predictable order.  Miracles, too, function in two patterns in one: the neis niglah, Divine control is revealed, and the miracle is recognized as such; in the other, the neis nistar, Divine control is hidden, and the miracle is made to appear as a natural occurrence.
The miracle of Chanukah was through the first pattern; the miracle of Purim, through the second.  While the miracle of Chanukah was obvious – a one day supply of oil burned for eight days – the miracle of Purim was not obvious.  In fact, the entire Book of Esther reveals nothing miraculous.  It appears to be almost a fairy-tale, telling of a wicked man’s downfall and the triumph of good over evil.
The rabbis of the Talmud report that the Book of Esther does not mention even once the name of God.  The book presents the case of a miracle camouflaged to appear as a natural occurrence.
Purim is a celebration of a miracle disguised as a natural event.  Thus, it would reason that the fulfillment of Purim should also appear as something natural although, in reality, it is not.  One must be aware while listening to the reading of the Megillah, sending food packages to friends, giving gifts to the poor, or enjoying a festive meal that all might appear natural, but they are not.  Instead, one must be mindful of loftier meanings.  It is more difficult to be reminded of holiness when we are dong something ordinary.  Once reminded, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Purim reminds us of the way God takes care of His children.  He is always there, even when we do not realize it.
A Purim Thought
The Megillah is the fascinating story of the Jew bringing God back to a place where observance had almost disappeared.  The Megillah describes the beginning of a return to Jewish practice and observance, a return to identifying with the Jewish state, a return to gladness, honor, majesty, and the dictates of God in the communal heart.  It is a call to every Jew not to forget his identity and not to forget his duties – to remember what ‘accountability’ means.
That is the story of Purim.  They were just about to forget when something happened and woke them up.  We are told that the light in the sanctuary came from pure olive oil.  The more an olive is beaten, the better is the oil.  The finest pianos are made from wood that has been exposed and tested by the weather.  It produces the finest echoes and the sweetest music.  It is not easy to get up early in the morning to pray, to guard every word and to have respect, to give up time from sport for a Hebrew lesson.  It is like beating an olive, producing the very best oil.

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