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Nature, Miracles and Natural Miracles

Nature, Miracles and Natural Miracles

Part one of a series

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“Blessed are the cracked,” said master philosopher Groucho Marx, “for they let in the light.”1

Perhaps it was from Groucho that Leonard Cohen received the inspiration for his poem:

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”2

Both got it right. Reality is full of cracks. If it weren’t, life would be dark, ugly, and certainly no fun, much like living inside a dumb, impersonal machine. It’s the cracks in the system that make life worth living.

We call those cracks miracles. And they are everywhere.

What sort of miracles? You’re probably thinking of the open miracles—those in-your-face gashes in nature’s otherwise tidy, patterned wallpaper. Miracles like those that occurred at the time of the Exodus, or those performed by Elisha the prophet. Water turns to blood, dirt to lice, a sea into dry land, and the dead return to life. Rivers of light pour in through massive fissures in the wall from a higher world that is oblivious to the protocols of how things are supposed to work down here.3

But these open miracles, writes Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman4 (“the Ramban,” 13th century), are not an end in themselves. After all, why would a Creator build neat, tidy walls only to demolish them? Rather, the entire point of open miracles is so that afterward we should look into the wonders of our own lives and say, “I recognize these. These, too, are miracles.”

Hidden Miracles

Ramban calls these everyday wonders hidden miracles—those segments of life’s story when water remains water, dirt remains dirt, and the dead remain lying still, when every pattern of nature goes on singing its same old song and all the players on the stage keep fastidiously in character—yet, when all is said and done and properly in place, something wondrous and unexpected has emerged. Something that looks suspiciously deliberate and sneakily invasive. G‑d sneaked in when nobody was looking, and we still can’t find the crack.

Every day, miracles befall a person as great as the miracles of the Exodus.

That’s the story of Purim, for example. It’s also the story of the victory of the Maccabees. Ask any Israeli general, and he can tell you many more. It’s the ongoing story of the survival of the Jewish people.

Ramban points out that the divine reward and punishment promised in the Torah are precisely this: promises that nature will provide miracles. “If you will follow in My statutes…I will cause the rain to fall in its season…” Clouds will cover the sky, rain will fall and water the earth to let the crops grow and flourish…but not due to the rhythms of nature playing out their script. Rather, nature will do its natural thing through divine intervention. A.k.a., a miracle.

He insists that these hidden miracles occur to each of us every day. So often, he says, that there is really nothing natural about our lives. We only appear to be interacting with the cause and effect of the natural world, but in truth, our lives are a nonstop relationship with a Creator who transcends all causes.

The Midrash says the same: “Every day, miracles befall a person as great as the miracles of the Exodus.”5 Which is why, three times a day, we say thank you, G‑d, for “Your miracles every day with us, and Your wonders and favors at every moment, evening, morning and afternoon.”6

Tiny cracks everywhere, like microscopic silicon fibers in the ceiling, walls and floor, streaming in endless light from beyond the system.

Seamless Cracks and Relationships

We can call these hidden miracles intra-natural miracles, because they are weaved seamlessly into the system. But they are miracles nonetheless, because they do not belong at all to the system—or to any system. They are part of a relationship, and you don’t have a relationship with a system. You have a relationship with a being that is free to choose, and therefore chooses to love, chooses to love you, and chooses to await your love in return. The ultimate relationship, then, is with the ultimate free being, the One who chose that there should be any being at all.

You don’t have a relationship with a system

And yet, He chooses to enter this relationship (most of the time) on our territory, masquerading in a costume of natural causes, playing with us a sort of hide-and-seek in the playroom of our everyday world.

Which explains why these miracles are often even more concealed than those of Purim, Chanukah and the Six-Day War. In those cases, all but the most stubborn cynic cannot help but realize this was not business as usual, that the natural order was only a flimsy disguise for a very supernatural event. Yes, such miracles happen in our own lives as well. But not as often as the greatest form of miracles, the most mysterious and the most intimate, the sort about which the rabbis say, “Even the person saved by the miracle doesn’t recognize that a miracle just occurred.”7 The kind where G‑d is so intimately involved in your life that you don’t even notice Him there.

The rabbis give examples of such miracles—of people getting out of bed just in time to avoid the bite of a poisonous snake,8 walking away just on time to avoid the collapse of an overhead rock,9 stubbing their toe and kvetching and cursing about it as though something terrible just happened, when in truth the stubbed toe saved this person from a fateful boat ride.10

A Jew opens a business and prays for success. Does he expect G‑d to drop money from the ceiling? No, he expects the market to work as markets work, customers to come the way customers come, and through all these means, G‑d will grant him whopping success. He expects G‑d to be there, within natural causes, performing miracles, because, after all, G‑d is everywhere.11

A Lonely G‑d

About these hidden, intra-natural miracles, the Psalmist sings, “To the One who makes miracles all alone, for His kindness is forever.”12 All alone, because only the One who performs them knows that about them.

No one else knows, because no one else gets it: A boundless G‑d getting whatever He wants within the tight bounds of natural order. It’s too great a paradox, impossible to resolve, so it just slips by unnoticed.

Will He remain forever lonely? Will nobody ever get it?

No, there’s hope. The prophet tells us of a time yet to come (may it be sooner than we can imagine) about which G‑d promises, “As the days when you left Egypt, so I will show them miracles.”13 What sort of miracles? Obviously, the ones that we need to be shown to know that they are miracles. That’s why it says, “show them,” not “make for them.” But if they are miracles, why do we need them shown to us?

Now, we call them fortunate coincidences. Then, they will totally blow us away.

It must be, writes the Tzemach Tzedek14 (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, 1789–1866), that this is speaking of those surreptitious miracles that are continuously slipping through the cracks to brighten up our world. The ones that are now imperceptible, but then will be staring us in the face. The ones that now we call “fortunate coincidences” (if we notice them at all), but then will totally blow us away. The exodus from Egypt will look like a birthday party magic show in comparison.15

That’s why, concerning the miracles of messianic times, G‑d is reported to say, “The miracles I will make for the children won’t be like the miracles I made for their ancestors. For their ancestors, I consulted with My heavenly court. But for the children, I will do the miracles all alone.”16

Why all alone? Because no heavenly court can figure out how to crack the system without disturbing it whatsoever. That’s G‑d’s territory alone. It is His masterwork, that in which His absolute uniqueness is most evident—if only someone would realize the evidence.17

What’s so special about these intra-natural miracles that G‑d must perform alone? And if only G‑d knows about them, and no laws of nature are violated by them, in what way are they miracles to begin with?

To answer that, we have to answer a more fundamental question: What makes one event a miraculous one, and another natural? Doesn’t G‑d direct all that happens? You can’t have cracks unless there’s first a wall to have cracks in. But for G‑d, are there really any walls?

We need to do some miracology 101. Basically, the study of cracks in the wall. Which is just what is planned for part two of this series, G‑d willing—and with a few more miracles.

Footnotes
1.
Still can’t find a reliable source for this.
2.
Leonard Cohen, Selected Poems, 1956–1968.
3.
See Maharal (Rabbi Yehudah Loewe of Prague, 16th century), Gevurot Hashem, in the second introduction. This concept will be expanded upon later.
4.
Commentary to end of Parshat Bo (Exodus 13:16). See also his comments to Exodus 6:2 and Leviticus 26:11. See also commentary of Rabbeinu Bechayei to Exodus 6:2. These are not filler footnotes—I really mean you should look there.
5.
Tanna D’vei Eliyahu 2.
6.
Liturgy, Amidah prayer, blessing of Modim.
7.
Talmud, Niddah 31a.
8.
Yalkut, Tehillim 106.
9.
Zohar 1:201b.
10.
Talmud ibid.
11.
I got that from Reb Yoel (Rabbi Yoel Kahan), may he be well and live to see the miracles of the messianic times.
14.
Ohr Ha-Torah, Tehillim (Yahel Ohr), 40:8–10, as explained in the maamarim cited in note 17.
15.
See Talmud, Berachot 12b (quoted in the haggadah), citing the opinion of Ben Zoma, who implies that in the messianic era we will no longer make mention of the exodus from Egypt. The sages argue with Ben Zoma, asserting that after the future redemption we will still be telling the story of the exodus. Yet, they too would agree that this would be only an adjunct to the principal narrative at that time—the telling of the story of the final redemption.
16.
Shemot Rabbah 19:7.
17.
On all this, see the Rebbe’s maamarim Kimei Tzeitcha 5712; Patach Eliyahu 5715; Ve-Chazakta 5728; Va-Eira 5735; Kimei Tzeitcha 5738; and many other places indexed in the Rebbe’s works.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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suzy hander woodland hills, ca December 5, 2014

Mathew, you are right. There are no walls for G-d. Only man. God knows the difference between past,,present, future. I wish He would share them with man. Maybe he does and we can't understand them, but we're not suppose to understand. When I placed notes in the wall, I wanted to see every note. It was a wonderful experience. Thank you for sharing. Reply

hu December 5, 2014

walls He knows how to dissolve walls, He knows how o treat walls of calcium and walls of wood. After that He builds invisible wall of sweetness protecting the city :-)

Shabat Shalom Reply

Viv Golda Leijonhufvud (nee Haberland) Republic of Ireland October 1, 2013

Miracles Judaism for me is the most practical, wise faith, seeing both sides, or either side of the crack. How did my crack begin? In April I was confronted with a dilemma, for the main character, of a story in progress. Chabad was the first chink of light in Ben's progress, as well as my own. Judaism always gives me balanced and practical knowledge and with spirituality as part of the teaching. Ben and me seem to be making the journey together as the story progresses, and I hope this will lead to a natural end, where by we can share our journey with a wider audience. Reply

Anonymous toronto September 28, 2013

Miracles Through praying , attending services , & reading your articles I have become more aware of many thanks things going on around me . And , now I am able to see the many miracles that occur every day. Occurrences that I normally take for grantit, or go unnoticed , are miracles. I receive so much encouragement , insight , strength , courage, & awareness by praying. Reply

Anonymous USA May 3, 2013

Nature, Miracles, And Natural Miracles Thank you for sending the comments back to me to-day. I am going through a crack on my wall and the light is coming through. I can see it. Hashem, blessed be He, works in mysterious ways. And, all my hopes are placed in His hands. He said: "Walk amongst your enemies and I will be with you." Therefore, I am not alone. Reply

suzy handler Woodland Hills, ca May 2, 2013

miracles When I read this site each week I find it a miracle. I have never found such inspiration. The writing and teaching is something to marvel at and learn. Reply

Anonymous Arizona, USA May 1, 2013

Nature, Miracles, And Natural Miracles I am65 years of age. Many walls have I seen and the light coming through them. I just did not recognized them then. But now I do. As I look back into my life. There was a miracle in every sense of the word. Miracles everywhere! Today the greatest miracle is being able to see and recognize my ancestry, which Hashem, blessed be He, has revealed to me. The account of how it came to be, is the greatest miracle in my life. I do not think anyone would believe it unless they have gone through one like it. Therefore, I am expecting for the greatest of all miracles. The coming of Mashiach, and the gathering of all His children throughout the world as He promised. The whole world witnessing His Im-mense Glory, and total destruction of idolatry for ever. The King of King reigns and will reign forever! Reply

Michal Germany May 1, 2013

I am very moved by the "miracles" you explain so well I read your article twice, and if it would not be nearly midnight, I would start all over
again.It is true. All that happens to us is a miracle.
And I am looking forward to having them all explained one day and then I will even see those I did not realize down here.
Mostly I appreciate the sentences about love. That I do not love a "System", but the One who created us and loves us and waits to be loved in return. That simply makes me happy. Thank you, Rabbi Tzvi! Reply

suzy handler April 9, 2013

When I went to Israel I went to the Wall. I noticed the cracks. I placed a note inside. I remember wishing I could read all of the notes. Just reading your articles about miracles gives me inspiration, just like when I stood at the Wall. By wanting miracles, I wonder. Do we ask too much from G-d? Perhaps just praying at the Wall was a miracle. I wished I had known it then. I know it now. Reply

Mathew Malingi Port Moresby,Papua New Guinea April 8, 2013

“But for G-d, are there really any walls?” The all knowing G-d knows everything including the past, present, and the future. When that G-d first created everything, He decided to give the freedom of choice to mankind. And then G-d looked into the future and saw that there would be great walls. Those walls would be the walls of disobediences, sin and separation; walls of stubbornness, deafness and blindness; walls of confusion, idol worship and man-made god or gods.

The all knowing G-d seeing all those possibilities, decided to create or allow cracks in those walls. That was to allow the Light of His Glory to penetrate the walls and shine and brighten up this dark, fallen and sinful world with His Everlasting Glory. I believe that this will be one of the greatest miracles in human history because G-d will perform this miracle all alone. G-d will perform this miracle all alone because there is no any other G-d besides Him.

All that I hear and see in televisions are the man-made statues made from gold, silver, woods and stone. Reply

Doreet Oregon, USA April 8, 2013

Miracles, or 'coincidences' Hello; that is a very article; I have wanted for sometime, to tell someone who understands "cracks" because I have some. I know there are miracles, because my cousin had a very bad heart condition; they told him he could easily die. He was watching tv, and discovered an "evangelist" who was very good. A real good man of God. He prayed, and asked for help, as he was likely to die; he had such a strange experience; he felt filled with light, and Love, and overwhelming power, he felt so transformed ,he told me, it was profound. He went back to his heart-doctors, and they did new tests, ect., on all of his cardio system. his heart condition had changed, completely.it did not even look, or test as the old heart!the doctors had no explanation for it; he now had a healthy, good heart, instead of the sick one. they Keep testing, but it was true .his bad heart condition was gone! it was all healed up! All the heart-doctors were flabbergasted cause they never saw stuff. Reply

Anonymous Philippines April 8, 2013

Thank you for this. I can hardly wait for the continuation. Miracology 101 -- yes! Reply

David Jones Brandon April 8, 2013

miracles? This makes sense to me. The plant growing through the asphalt or concrete cracks seeking life or ants getting into a seemingly sound structure seeking shelter. When my house full of girls make us late for an event (because it takes "us" longer to get ready), did we avoid a wreck? Who knows but I tell myself that. I have come upon accidents that just happened and have realized that a few seconds or minutes would have had me or my family right in the middle of it. Maybe even the fact that I passed out doing home chemo dialysis last night and my 19 year old walked into the room to catch my falling head and call 911. She was here for spring break and should have already left earlier that evening. It took her and my wife to rectify the situation. Dear G-d, thank you! Let me humbly be grateful, let me see and understand your ways. Forgive all my pompous ways and my laziness! Thank you for me being here now, at this moment. Blessed be your name forever! Reply

DANN MONTEVIDEO-R.O.U. April 8, 2013

Nature,Miracles,and Natural Miracles (Cause and Effect investigation) Complementing the piece work of R.T.Freeman may be we can separate the causes in four groups at least (efficient causes,material causes,formal causes and finalists causes) The non filosofical sciences concentrates in the efficient causes like impuse and energy ,cinetic,cinematic causes.Philosofical sciences concentrate in the finalist causes .For example to build a house as an example(BAIT in hebrew) you need an objectiv (build the house) Finalist cause ,but you need also a plan (formal cause) and you need bricks and clay,cement ,material causes And also you need and investment and work payed with money in general, the efficient causes.Apparently the difference of concentration in different causes leaded to a separation not well between filosofical sciences and material.natural sciences long time ago (300-400 years at least)
I hope this complement a little the piece work of R T Freeman .It would be good to analyze relation of science and phylosophy with the spiritual action of G-DI Reply

Anonymous Republic of Ireland NW April 8, 2013

Joining the Judaic philosophy Dear Rabbi,

Now that I've read the above, I see why I appreciate Judaic philosophy. I converted 30 years ago after attending synagogue over Pesach.

My maiden name is/was Haberland, among the Haberland clan we had a Rabbi! At age 47 (1920) he sailed to Southampton and then sailed onto Hamburg. At school I sat next to a boy named Anthony Haberfield (he died age 43 1991).

Some time ago I met a woman, she said, remember 'your ancestors' I was taken by surprise.

During the war my Italian family (Catholic) helped persecuted Jewish families out of Northern Italy..

Two weeks ago as I was completing Chapter 12/13 I was confronted with how my Jewish character was going to handle the death of his murdered wife?

So I see all the above as a series of small cracks or miracles to bring me back.

Today where I live there is no place to go and pray, no one to share traditions with, however Chabad.org makes me feel less alone and for this I'm grateful. Reply

suzy handler woodland hills, ca April 8, 2013

I enjoyed your article on Miracles and rejoice that there are cracks. This reminds me of the Wall in Jerusalem. Reply

Anonymous USA April 8, 2013

Fascinating article Thank you! Reply

Bernie Siegel, MD New Haven , CT April 8, 2013

miracles water is a miracle it is the only liquid which becomes less dense when frozen and preserves life. a band aid reveals our ability to heal and a penny, in god we trust. Reply

Daniel Frank North York General Hospital April 8, 2013

Hi Tzvi from Daniel David Frank I'm am perplexed, but fascinated and uncertain Reply

Olga Sanchez Orlando April 8, 2013

looking forward for next week chapter. toda :) Reply

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