Tzora'as, a leprous-type disease, occurred in a miraculous
manner. It came largely as a result of error or transgression, and could
only be diagnosed by a Kohein, not a physician. We have discussed this
concept at length in previous years.
One question in this regard has always disturbed
me. The Ramban (end of parshas Bo), states emphatically that "there
is no such thing as nature," but everything that occurs is miraculous.
He makes a distinction between "hidden miracles" -- everyday
occurrences, and "open miracles" -- extraordinary events.
Elsewhere, it is clear from Ramban's writing that
the "hidden miracles" -- the everyday occurrences -- are what
we generally refer to as "nature."
Granted that it is important to recognize G-d's hand
in the "natural world," but what is the meaning of the statement
"there is no such thing as nature"? Isn't this just a matter
of semantics? Ramban himself refers to nature several times!
Sidur of Rav Yaakov Emden (Tefilas Al Hanisim)
Years ago, I came across the words of Rav Shlomo
Kluger, who made the distinction between man's point of view and Hashem's.
In man's eyes, extraordinary events seem miraculous; everyday occurrences
seem to be natural. To Hashem's outlook, however, there is no such distinction
-- everything was planned long ago; extraordinary events are just as natural
as everyday occurrences.
This year, the words of Rav Yerucham Lebovitz caught
Da'as Chochmo Umussar, Volume One
There is no real difference between nature and events
beyond nature. In the one realm, miracles come about less directly, in
the other realm, miracles come about in a more direct fashion. Hashem helps
us all the time; yet, it is only at Pesach that we say: Lo al yedei malach,
lo al yedei saraph, v'lo al yedei shliach -- "Not through an angel,
nor messenger, nor agent," rak Hashem b'atzmo ubichvodo -- "only
Hashem, Himself, in His full Glory." The "open miracles"
show a direct connection; this is what we refer to as the ezer Eloki, "G-d's
Chasom Sofer made a similar distinction.
The Difference Between Moshe and Yehoshua
In Sefer Yehoshua (Book of Joshua), a malach (angel)
came to Yehoshua and declared that he (the angel) would fight the wars
on behalf of Hashem's people. Chasom Sofer, in his chidushim to tractate
Megilah, noted a discrepancy. From the verses, the angel's declaration
seemed to be a blessing, yet the Talmud declares that it was a punishment
due to lack of Torah study!
Both are correct. The commentaries relate in parshas
Mishpatim, that when Hashem offered to send Moshe a malach, Moshe protested.
He did not want any angel; he desired only Hashem's direct guidance. Hashem
acquiesced, but promised that the angel would have to suffice in the days
When the angel did, indeed, appear to Yehoshua, Yehoshua
also protested. The angel responded: "Your master rejected me; do
you also want to reject me?" He would not budge. The result was that
Yehoshua would not have the direct help from Hashem b'atzmo ubichvodo --
"Hashem, Himself, in His full Glory," but through an intermediary.
Why? Had the generation applied themselves to Torah
study as diligently as possible, they would have merited a level of prophecy
akin to that of Moshe, which was called "face to face," i.e.,
direct. Instead, they would be relegated to an indirect sort of help.
Da'as Chochmo Umussar
Rav Yerucham Lebovitz discussed the relationship
between the two levels of Divine assistance. Everything, he held, comes
about through nature. We are unable to change nature, and the Torah commands
us to respect nature and protect our lives. To attempt to transcend the
laws of nature would be tantamount to defying Hashem's world. Quite the
contrary -- we find that the Avos (forefathers) were working men, and the
Mishnah states: Yafeh Torah im derech eretz -- "Torah study, combined
with an occupation, is fine." Rather, by devoting ourselves to the
natural, earthy world -- in an attempt to fulfill our duties -- we can
merit a higher level of assistance, the Ezer Eloki -- Hashem's help.
We have previously discussed this attitude of Rav
Lebovitz and the Alter of Kelm -- that relying purely on miracles shows
a lack of emunah (faith). Our faith is not that Hashem will help us in
a purely supernatural manner, but that our endeavors will receive assistance.
If we strive properly, in this world, we, too, may merit the aid of Lo
al yedei malach, lo al yedei saraph, v'lo al yedei shliach -- "Not
through an angel, nor messenger, nor agent," rak Hashem b'atzmo ubichvodo
-- "only Hashem, Himself, in His full Glory."
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156