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Do Jews Believe in Nature?

Do Jews Believe in Nature?

Part 2 of a series on Nature and Miracles

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What On Earth Is Nature?

Often, the best way to approach a problem is to turn it on its head. Instead of asking whether there really is such a thing as a miracle, let’s ask whether there really is such a thing as nature. Who is this Mother Nature, after all?

Nature is from the Latin natura, which literally means “birth.” Think of natal and innate. When the ancients talked about nature, natural events, and the laws of nature, they were saying that things innately have certain ways of behaving.

The idea of nature tells us that birds fly not because some external force carries them through the air, but because there’s something about birds and air that allows for flying to occur. The same with fire, water, rocks, plants, animals, ecosystems, planets, stars and galaxies—each has its innate behavior hardcoded into its very being.

Sounds pretty reasonable, right? It’s also very enabling, because it leads you to study and categorize those characteristics. In other words, it makes room for what we call science.

But it wasn’t always so popular. Maimonides1 cites the very influential Arabic theologians of the 10th and 11th centuries, called the Mu’tazalites, who considered the very notion of nature to be heresy. Some considered the very notion of nature to be heresy. Every event, they argued, is performed by the will of Al‑lah.2 To say that fire burns wood of its own accord, or that birds fly because they flap their wings, is a denial of the absolute dominion of the Creator, akin to polytheism—because it grants power to entities other than G‑d.

So, why does fire burn? And how do birds fly?

As Maimonides describes, the Mu’tazalites had what we today might call a cinematic, frame-by-frame view of reality. Each moment, the entire universe must be created once again. After all, there’s no reason it should be here to begin with, other than the will of Al‑lah, and if so, the next moment does not flow out of necessity from the moment just before. It follows only from Al‑lah’s will that it now exist.

As for causality—there’s really no such thing. It just seems that an antecedent action is linked with a consequent reaction, because Al‑lah creates the cinematic frames of each moment in a logical sequence.3

Which means that the bird is not flying because of the innate qualities of the bird and its wing-flapping—just as the animation of a bird on your computer display is not flying because of the properties of the pixels. Rather, every moment of flying comes directly from the will of Al‑lah. He creates each being along with the activity of that being, every moment anew.

How a ball bounces according to the Mu'tazalites.
How a ball bounces according to the Mu'tazalites.

Which means that to the Mu’tazalite, just as there really is no nature, so there are no miracles. All events have nothing to do with the properties of things, and everything to do with the Creator’s will and wisdom. It’s only that when Al‑lah’s wisdom unfolds in an apparently logical sequence, we call that “natural”; but when we haven’t a clue of what’s going on, we perceive that as a miracle.4

The Mu’tazalites included some very influential thinkers, including al-Ghazali, who takes more credit than any other theologian for crystallizing the orthodox theology of Islam. And as far as the idea of continual creation, it’s hard to argue. The major thinkers of all three Abrahamic religions concur on this point: the entire universe is being re-created at every moment.5 As we say in our prayers every morning, “In His goodness, He renews the act of creation every day, continually.”

So, where have Jewish thinkers stood when it comes to nature? Do they also consider the notion heretical?

Looking at the Bible, especially the Psalms, you find that G‑d alone is directly responsible for natural events:

He sends His commandment to the earth; His word runs swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters frost like ashes. He hurls His ice like crumbs; before His cold, who can stand? He sends His word and melts them; He blows His wind; water runs.6

In biblical Hebrew, there isn’t even a word for nature.

Indeed, in biblical Hebrew, there isn’t even a word for nature. Since late medieval times we have adopted the word teva טבע, but why that word was chosen remains an enigma.7 Which might lead one to think that we would have to agree with those Mu’tazalites who refuse to discuss nature.

But we don’t.

Affirming Nature

The kingdom of Khazaria
The kingdom of Khazaria

In the 12th century, Rabbi Yehudah ha-Levi composed a mainstay of Jewish thought, The Kuzari. The work is a dialogue based on historical reality. The king of Khazaria had spoken with a Christian, a Muslim and a philosopher in his attempt to determine what religion his empire should adopt. Dissatisfied with all three, he hesitatingly calls in a rabbi. In the end, he converts to Judaism, and the kingdom of Khazaria became one of the very few Jewish empires in history (ancient Israel and 6th-century Yemen being the only other two, to my knowledge).

At one point,8 the Khazar king raises this objection of the Mu’tazalites. Perhaps, he says, since we acknowledge that there is only G‑d to whom it is fitting to worship, we should refrain from using the term “nature.”

The rabbi disagrees, and he makes a distinction: We have no problem, he says, in saying that each creature was given its properties and characteristics by its Creator. But if you will tell me that the sun shines because it wills to shine, and rain falls because the clouds decide to drop their water—then I will tell you this is polytheism. All that occurs is directed by a single sentience, namely that of the Creator. All other beings are incapable through their volition to achieve anything other than that which the Creator has ordained. They are all but tools in the hands of the Master Craftsman.

Maimonides, in his Guide for the Perplexed, goes much further.9 He acknowledges and agrees with the principle of continual creation. But then he describes the extremes to which this Mu’tazilite idea will take us—that a white sheet does not become black because it was soaked in black dye, but only that on the occasion of it entering the dye, the Creator then decreed that it should become black; that when my hand writes upon the paper, it was not due to my will to write, but only that on the occasion of my decision to write, my hand grasped the pen, and on the occasion of my hand grasping the pen, the pen was grasped, and so on with every motion of that pen.

Maimonides continues, pleading with his reader to understand that, fundamentally, we can’t do science this way. Reason, he writes, is that which abstracts universal principles from specific instances, and then applies that knowledge to further understand more specific instances. It begins with an observation of reality and works from there. What the Mu’tazilites are doing, he claims, has nothing to do with reason and everything to do with imagination. In sum, he decries this view as “a mockery of the Creator.”

Photo credit: Gui Jarro
Photo credit: Gui Jarro

It turns out that these two medieval Jewish luminaries, Rabbi Yehudah ha-Levi and Maimonides, have no problem with the concept of a natural order. Neither, to my knowledge, have other classic Jewish theologians. On the contrary, the word teva ends up being a popular adoption to the Hebrew lexicon.

Which leaves us with two questions: First, considering the positions of Rabbi Yehudah ha-Levi and Maimonides, how is it possible that we never had this concept of nature from the beginning? What did we think?

The second question: How do we answer the objection of the Mu’tazilites—that nothing other than G‑d can be ascribed potency—especially since we agree He is renewing the very existence of all things at every moment?

Old Nature, New Nature

The Greek idea of nature never fully escaped its polytheistic roots. Nature was all about dualities.

What was really bothering those Mu’tazalites? Perhaps, more than anything else, they recognized in the Greek idea of nature a trace of the polytheistic animism from which it had arisen. People had once worshipped trees, birds and mountains, ascribing to them divinity. Many of those who were now Muslims had only recently abandoned such practices. It’s quite likely that the Greek idea of physis, which was translated into Latin as natura, arose from just this sort of paganism. Originally, both were names of the god of nature.10

Nature, in the ancient world, was conceived as a dual process. Some sort of being—whether a demiurge, an angel, or even the Supreme Being—was the intelligence center behind all natural processes. That being would dictate whether you should fall, run, reproduce, shine, or whatever it is that you were good at; and depending on whether you were a rock, a stream, a tree, a beast, a star or a constellation, you hearkened to that dictate according to a certain nature which you had inherited. That nature was yours, and yours entirely—and according to your rank on the hierarchy, you had your say on how, when and whether you would implement the command from on high.

This duality was extended to the creature itself. There was the thing itself, and the nature that it owned—its matter and its form, substance and vitality, what it is and how it is. All of existence was pervaded with dualities.

It’s easy to see how a strict monotheist would not be comfortable with this distributed power system for the universe. Once you endow each critter with its innate powers, it turns out that you’ve chopped up at least some of G‑d and distributed Him into a finite number of bounded packages. Admittedly, you’ve left G‑d’s mind up there, mastering the whole system. You may have even denied that any creature has any say in implementation—both Rabbi Yehudah ha-Levi and Maimonides describe all creatures, earthly and heavenly, as nothing more than “a hoe in the hands of its handler.” But to the Mu’tazalites, as to Maimonides, G‑d is an immutable, infinite, perfect oneness. If He is a true oneness, His power must also be one with Him, and the two cannot be separated. Multiple packages of mortal, finite beings sharing power with G‑d just doesn’t sync.

Top-down Nature

If that was the entire issue, science as we know it today would not bother the Mu’tazalites, nor Maimonides.

As thinking people wriggled their way out of the two-thousand-year iron clasp of Greco-Roman Neoplatonic thought, the entire concept of nature and causality leaped out of its box into something far closer to the monotheistic idea. With the Reformation in Central Europe and England, the focus of intellectual dialogue was turned from Aristotle to the Bible—now in the vernacular, thanks to the printing press and some very bold printers. During the Middle Ages, the Bible had been a source of dogma about heaven; now it became a source of worldly knowledge, with applications in governance, law and science. In this era of the Bible, men of science began to seek out an overarching, majestic oneness within G‑d’s kingdom. Nature was no longer about the qualities of individual things, but about universal forces, patterns and “laws.” In this new conception, the behaviors of a pool of water, granite rocks, ripe apples and feathery birds do not exist innately of their own, but are mere manifestations of a certain order that pervades all things and yet is none of them.

Today, our concept of nature is far closer to the monotheistic idea—and that’s allowed for much progress.

In a way, the new paradigm worked in the opposite direction from that of Aristotle. He and his teacher had worked from the bottom up—emerging from a polytheistic world, and from there discovering a single mind impelling all things. Inevitably, they found themselves trapped by their roots. But now, a fresh new age of science emerged with very different roots. It began with the assumption that a single Creator had formed all things, and from that axiom began to look for a unity within the creation He had made.

Sir Isaac Newton frozen in contemplation of an apple.
Sir Isaac Newton frozen in contemplation of an apple.

It was this new paradigm that compelled Newton towards the discovery of gravity: that the orbits of the celestial spheres above and the trajectory of an apple falling off a tree below—literally all motion in heaven and on earth—could be described by three simple, elegant formulas. Why hadn’t the Greeks come up with such a simple notion? What had prevented both the Arabic philosophers as well as the medieval scholastics from seeing the big picture? Quite simply, they had never entirely shaken off the old paradigm. They were working from bottom up.

Richard Feynman, in a classic lecture, described the majesty of Newton’s breakthrough. At the beginning of his talk, he drew a diagram on his chalkboard of how the solar system looked before Newton, with angels pushing the planets in their orbits. At the end of the lecture, he revised the diagram: The angels were still pushing the planets, but now towards the sun. But I believe that is inaccurate. Newton would have objected. In his mind, gravity was not a multitude of angels, but a universal power emanating from a single Creator.11

Within a few hundred years of scientific progress, Maxwell and Einstein discovered yet greater harmony between these forces. Today, we are still in search of a singular “theory of everything” that will harmonize all the forces/fields/patterns or whatever-you-want-to-call-them that stand behind all observable phenomena. It’s been taking much longer than most had imagined, yet everyone on the playing field holds the conviction that there must be such a principle.

My understanding is that the Mu’tazilites, Maimonides and Yehudah ha-Levi would all be delighted. The same force of G‑d that directs all things is the same force that imbues them with their properties, is the same force that sustains their very material existence. All is one, in perfect harmony. They would not agree that this force is G‑d Himself—G‑d is the ineffable, absolutely transcendent, not limited as the force of nature alone. But the force of nature is His force, and in it is expressed His perfect oneness.

Back To Nature

And yet, the animists have a point. Life breathes from within.

Yet, the ancients—the pagan animists, too—have a point. Life is not an extrinsic force that works upon dumb objects, as a hand within a puppet, or as wind blowing autumn leaves. At least, that is not the way we experience it, and that is not how we perceive it to be in all other forms of life: We sense our life to be our own life. We sense that every cell of life is alive of its own, propelled of its own, reacting and interacting with all other life of its own.

The same with each element: Water is water because of what it is, not due to some external force that wrestles one set of molecules into fluid motion, while bullying others to remain still as quartz crystals. There appears to be something to this notion of nature as birth—innate and integral to the very fabric of each thing.

Rabbi Yehudah ha-Levi himself points this out: The nature of a thing is not an event that occurs to it, but properties it holds on its own.12

Life breathes from within. Losing that notion, we risk losing our sense of wonder over the particular, the sense that there is something sacred breathing within the life we hold precariously in our hands, something that cannot be returned once lost. Yet in losing the sense of the universal and transcendental, we return to a fractured, polytheistic world. We sit upon a perpetual conundrum: Grasp the particular, and there is nothing to worship; grasp the universal, and there is no one to do the worshipping.

But then, we discussed this delightful paradox in an earlier article in this series, G‑d In Love. It is the most exquisite expression of the perfect simplicity and omnipresence of the divine, not limited to directing from beyond, but simultaneously nurturing from within.

Ironically, to the modern scientist, this innateness of nature goes far deeper than it did to the medieval Aristotelian scholar. In the past, a distinction was made between the thing itself and its behaviors, between water and its fluidity, the rock and its intransigence, the tree and its ability to grow. The quantum physicist sees the energy state and the mass of an object as one. The water is its fluidity. The rock is its crystal properties. The energy that any object contains—its potential for action—is not distinct from the matter of which it is composed. The energy and the carrier of that energy are one and the same. Matter is concentrated energy, and energy is the potential within matter. Life and that which lives are one.13

This rock is alive.
This rock is alive.

This works well with Rabbi Yehudah ha-Levi’s statement that nature is not an idol as long as we are mindful that every being is endowed with its particular nature by the Creator who directs it. Even more so with Maimonides, who tells us that G‑d is that which perpetually endows the universe with its very form, so that this entire universe and everything it contains is dependent at each moment upon its Creator for its very existence. He cites on this the verse, “G‑d is the eternal rock,” which can also be read, “G‑d is the form of the world.” Form, of course, not in the sense of image or shape, but in the Neoplatonic sense of soul and vitality, without which nothing, not even matter, can exist.

Yet the idea is most thoroughly developed by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi.14 He cites the Ari, who taught that every creature, even a rock, has a soul.15

Yes, the rock too has a soul—the energy that sustains its existence.

That certainly sounds animistic, and indeed we find the Ari’s protégé, Rabbi Chaim Vital, interpreting it within classic Neoplatonic terms.16 But Rabbi Schneur Zalman explains the teaching in a startling modern way. He states that the very substance of every entity, whether human, beast, plant, or even a rock, is nothing more than an effect, and that this soul of which the Ari is speaking is “the effective force within the effect.” Without that force, not only would the properties of the rock dissolve or the life of the beast expire, its very material existence would be gone—as a thing that never was.

The soul of a rock, then, is the divine spark that brought it into being, endowing it with both its nature and its mass, and continues to sustain its being at each moment.

Hebrew Nature

All this now solves our other puzzle: Where is the word for nature in Hebrew? The answer: It is a name of G‑d.

In Infinite Light Made Simple, we discussed the two principal names of G‑d, Havayeh and Elokim. Unlike the four-letter name Havayeh, Elokim is not a proper name, but a title with a specific meaning. It means “The All-Powerful.” Indeed, the word is often used to refer to human beings of power, such as judges,17 or even to angels.18

But the strange thing is that, while it is a plural form, it takes a verb as though it were a singular form. Imagine saying in English, “The Powers creates” or “The Powers is.” Yet that is how this name works. The very syntax by which this name is used is a statement that the multifarious forces of nature are truly a single force.

In the story of the six days of creation, Elokim is the only name of G‑d used—thirty-two times. “In the beginning, Elokim created the heavens and the earth.” “And Elokim said, ‘Let there be light!’ and there was light.” Why the name Elokim, and not Havayeh? The 16th-century Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Cordovero explains that the name Elokim refers to G‑d in a role of power, judgment and restraint. It’s from that modality that there extend the patterns and regularity of the world of nature. He even notes a numerical equivalence (gematria) of Elokim and nature.19

Left hand restrains while right hand plays.
Left hand restrains while right hand plays.

Restraint is a key word here. In G‑d In Love, we discussed G‑d as the ultimate artist. To be a great artist, we said, you need a personality that comprises two opposite but complementary aspects—brimming with expression but nuts about discipline. Whether you are a visual artist, a musician, an actor or a teacher, to express the depths of your creative soul, you must first be a master of your craft. Just like my hands upon the guitar, the right hand striking and stroking the strings while the other is restraining them—so my state of being in performance, a harmony of intense emotion tempered by cool restraint, squeezing out the depths of my soul while assiduously preserving the fidelity of each note and phrase.

Nature is G‑d’s left hand—the hand of restraint.

That can help us understand how an infinite, unbounded G‑d gets wrapped up in generating the consistent, patterned world we call “nature.” If He is playing the universe on a stringed instrument, that consistency would be the product of His left hand—the hand of restraint. Nature is G‑d being the musician who establishes the meter and harmony of his music and sticks to it; or the artist who settles upon a palette for his art; or the dramatist who chooses the setting and characters for his play.

Nature As Drama

Think of the name the name Elokim as G‑d’s pen name. The craft of story writing is multifaceted, but the two principal disciplines are plot and characterization. Often, the two come in conflict with one another.

First comes the plot—where the story is headed, and how it has to get there. To carry out the plot, the author develops characters. For those characters to be as believable and realistic as possible, the author has to direct them with consistency. If he has portrayed a character as a wise sage, he can’t let that character behave stupidly for no reason—even if the author needs that to happen in order to drive his plot. If the character is weak, he can’t suddenly pick up a car to save a baby—no matter what the storyline demands. Often, an author finds himself relinquishing control of his plot to his characters, sometimes to the point of something called “character hijack.”

When I was writing The Shushan Files, the characters refused to let me say everything I am trying now to say in this series. When I wrote The Angel Files, the characters continued coming back to me for weeks later, complaining that I hadn’t let them say the lines they really wanted to say. (I finally relented, expanding that piece later.)

But who are these characters? Do they have any substance of their own? They are nothing but my own fictions, and everything they are telling me is coming from within me. Just that it’s coming from within me through them. That’s the art of fiction: speaking to yourself from within a fictional other.

Storytelling is all about speaking to yourself from within a fictional other.

The author invests himself in his characters. As strange as it may sound, if he’s a good storyteller, he begins to see the story from their point of view, to the point that he has to negotiate their lines and actions with them. His own fictions become real to him.

The vast difference between me the storyteller and G‑d the storyteller is that G‑d will get His entire plot out of His creatures no matter what—which is even more wondrous when you consider that His creatures are endowed with volition, and even free choice. We can choose to stick out our tongue at His script and do as we please, but the plot keeps moving along (just that our role may have been demoted).

But the similarity we are looking for here is that for His creation to be a believable world, a real world, a stage fit for juicy drama, His characters must be directed consistent to the nature they have been assigned—and He’s stuck with that. (Unless, of course, He decides to make a cameo appearance—i.e., an open miracle—and blow His cover. But we haven’t gotten to miracles yet—we’re still discussing nature.)

In a way, that’s a limitation for G‑d. Not a true limitation, because it is self-imposed. But from our perspective, as long as G‑d chooses to work within the parameters He has set, all we see of Him is that bounded aspect of G‑d that deals with the nature of our world. Or, if we so choose, we see none of Him at all.

King David sang, “Say to Elokim, ‘How awesome are your works! Due to Your great force, Your enemies deny You!’”20

Meaning: He did such a good job of consistent characterization and realism that there are those who deny there is an Author or Director—claiming that nature itself is the fundamental reality.

Nature in Sum

Nature is nothing more than consistent miracles.

In sum, we are still left with matter and form—which today we call matter and energy—along with a pervasive force that directs all of it. Only that today we see all of these as manifestations of a single force. Nature—or Elokim—is a wholly transcendent G‑d invested in an orderly, consistent world. Nature, in other words, is nothing more than a pattern of consistent miracles.

The pattern is a background, a template for expression, a script awaiting an actor to breathe life into it, a sonata awaiting a musician to provide its interpretation. It’s designed exquisitely to accept a deep form of expression, to reveal the essentially hidden, to speak out the ineffable, to bare the very soul of its Master Artist. And that will be through those hidden miracles.

Which we will get back to soon. But not until we’ve discussed the miraculousness of nature itself—how nature, in a way, is yet more wondrous than an open miracle, in next installment of this series.

Footnotes
1.

The Guide of the Perplexed, translated by Shlomo Pines (University of Chicago Press, 1963), p. 109. Available in Hebrew (Kapach translation) at http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/mahshevt/more/a22-2.htm#1. For a thorough historical treatment of the all-but-forgotten idea of “occasionalism” and its “staggering importance to the development of philosophical modernity,” see Jason Jordan’s very readable and highly informative essay on occasionalism at http://www.iep.utm.edu/occasion/.

2.

I hyphenate Al‑lah, just as I hyphenate G‑d, since both names refer to the same being, and a name of G‑d, by Jewish law, must not be spelled out in a document that may be printed and discarded in the trash.

3.

I am simplifying matters here. The Mu’tazalites obviously did not have the concept of a static frame of time. Rather, they considered time to be made of finite chunks, and within each chunk Al‑lah would create both “the atom and its event.”

4.

This concept of a miracle seems at odds with the plain meaning of the biblical text, where miracles are discussed as exceptional circumstances, outside the regular order of things. The Rebbe points this out, apparently in reference to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, in a letter dated 5723 (1962). Thinking about it, all the Mu’tazalites have done is to describe G‑d as the core of a logical system, in a very Aristotelian manner.

5.

See Midrash Tehillim 119:36: “‘Forever, G‑d, Your word stands in the heaven.’ What is the word that stands in the heaven? Rather, the Holy One, blessed be He, says, ‘What do the heavens stand upon? Upon that word that I said, “Let the sky be amidst the waters.”’ With that word that He created them, with that word they endure forever.”

Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Book of Knowledge, Foundations of the Torah, chapter 1, halachah 1: “The foundation of foundations and the pillar of wisdoms is to know that there is a Primal Existence, and He brings all entities into existence. And all entities from the heavens to the earth and everything in between exist only from the reality of His existence.”

The Pirush (anonymous commentary) ad loc: “. . . and the Holy One, blessed be He, brings each entity into existence, and He sustains each one with the current that flows upon it continuously.”

Maimonides himself is most explicit on this point in the Guide, 1:69, where he states that imagining otherwise is ignorant and vain.

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Pardes Rimonim, Portal 6, chapter 8: “This is why we say, ‘And You vivify all of them’ (Nehemiah 9:6, quoted in the prayer liturgy). Our teachers of blessed memory interpreted this as, ‘And you is-ify all of them.’ But they also stood by the simple meaning of ‘You vivify all of them’—because it is all one idea: Since He is-ified them and brought them into existence out of nothing, the current must continue flowing and all of them continue drawing their vitality from Him. And since He is continually vivifying them, it turns out that He is is-ifying them at all times, and at every moment and in every event. So, you see that vivifying and is-ifying is really one thing.”

See also Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Shaar HaYichud veha-Emunah, chapter 1.

Concerning non-Jewish theologians, see the references in Jason Jordan’s article, cited above, section d.

7.

In the Hebrew Bible, the word teva is used in the sense of something that is sunken. For example, a signet ring with a sunken impression for stamping wax is called a taba’at טבעת. Or, Egyptians drowned—tub’u טבעו—in the Sea of Reeds.

8.

Maamar 1, 76–77.

9.

1:73.

11.

See José Faur, “Newton, Maimonides & Esoteric Knowledge,” in Cross-Currents 40, no. 4 (Winter 1990/91): 526 (AN 9611263221). Also by the same author, “Newton—Maimonidean,” in Review of Rabbinic Judaism 6:2–3.

12.

Kuzari 1:75.

13.

Nick Herbert, author of Quantum Reality, even suggested a new form of animism along these lines, in which the nature of the thing is the thing itself, rather than simply its soul.

14.

In Shaar Hayichud veha-Emunah, first chapter.

15.

In his notes to Mayim Rabim 5636, page 28, the Rebbe provides a reference to “Eitz Chaim, Shaar M”N UM”D, Derush 3, and numerous other places.” However, in Sefer ha-Maamarim 5708, page 160, he writes, “Perhaps the intent is to Eitz Chaim, Shaar 39, Derush 3; ibid, Shaar 50, Perek 10; and more in numerous places.”

16.

See sources cited above. Rabbi Chaim Vital suggests, for example, that this vitality provides the rock with healing powers, or with the power to grow plant life.

17.

See, for example, Exodus 21:6 and 22:27.

18.

See, for example, Job 1:6 and 2:1.

19.

Pardes Rimonim, Shaar 12, perek 2. The gematria works only when attaching the definite article to nature (הטבע), since from Elokim extends עולם הטבע.

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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Anonymous fort lee, New Jersey via chabadfortlee.com May 27, 2013

is there human life on other planets? enjoyed your article Reply

Sophia May 8, 2013

excellently said, thank you Wow, really well said. Now if Chassidic and Orhodox Judaism could embrace Nature the way they embrace Elokim, we would certainly have a miracle. Hallelu-Yah. Reply

Anonymous Mexico May 8, 2013

Nature Rabbi, this is so profound. I will have to read several times more in a quiet place to fully grasp the miracle. Reply

Anonymous Guadeloupe May 8, 2013

Holy Name and Nature through Gematria HaTeVA (Nature) has the same numerical value (86) of ELoHIM (Holy Name) Reply

Idan UK April 21, 2013

Science vs Religion I don't understand why people seem to think that science and religion are incompatible. Everything in the universe can be split down to the same few fundamental particles, which are all forms of the same fundamental energy. Importantly, mass and energy are linked by the famous equation E=mc^2, so mass can also be equated wholesale to its inherent energy. This energy permeates the whole universe and everything in it, and since it is one, and G-d is one, this fundamental energy of which everything arises can be seen as G-d, and directed by G-d. Reply

J. Munuzuri April 20, 2013

Nature is made up of hidden miracles. It took me a great effort to read the whole thread but I had no choice, I got hooked by the story. What I liked most was the notion of polytheism simply because although I knew the word its implications were unknown to me. I'm looking forward to your next article on miracles... just to enhance further my culture. Thank you Rabbi Tzvi Freeman. Peace and prosperity be with you and with Chabad.org Reply

eli April 18, 2013

Here is the end of Isaacson's Einstein: His Life and Universe.

For some people, miracles serve as evidence of G-d's existence. For Einstein it was the absence of miracles that reflected divine providence. The fact that the cosmos is comprehensible, that it follows laws, is worthy of awe. This is the defining quality of a "G-d who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists".
Reply

Anonymous Nigeria April 16, 2013

We are becoming one. This is the ideal. See Qur'an 16:79. The most important thing now is to compare the written and oral law with what Muhammad believed and practiced. Compare 1 Kings 12:24 and the saying of Muhammad: don't call yourselves with names inciting hatred. You are named Muslims. Don't manufacture weapons. Reply

Paul Wisconsin April 16, 2013

A fantastic, thought provoking article. Thank you. Reply

Tim Upham Tum Tum April 16, 2013

Everyday We Should Be Concerned About Nature We should all be concerned about nature, that is the reason why we celebrate Tu B'Shevat. On that day, I pulled English ivy, and ripped their roots out of the ground. That way the trees they entangled can survive and thrive. I also planted Willamette Valley ponderosa pine, a tree nearly wiped out in the Willamette Valley of western Oregon. To rehabilitate this tree in its native habitant. So being concerned about nature is a mitzvah to fulfill. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma April 16, 2013

Nature We move together as if there is a master plan or there would be no Messianic promise. If you believe this. This then is determined and the evolving forward movement is taking us to a place of merger or Union Street. I would say our mandate is to preserve, sanctify and protect all life of which we are part, meaning we cannot tease apart Nature from our being. It's all One. I so agree with Daniel Frank above, who wrote G_d remains present, yet hidden in the details. There are many who would disagree with this, who totally deny the presence of a Prime Mover in our lives. I would say, being me, that All is G_d, and therefore even this is part of a grand Story, that only G_d could have written, because we're here it seems to uncover that unity, and the uncovering process, is finding delicious. G_d likes a good mystery, and we are gifted a mystery story of cosmic proportions. Those who "arrive" perceive a great unity, encompassing all life. We are each gifted a road map. Reply

Anonymous NA April 15, 2013

That's all great, but I would dispute the existence of 'miraculous' miracles. In all likelihood, the red sea didn't part one side to the left, the other side to the right, sand and rock in the middle - as in the movie(s). A strong wind created a temporary water surge that lowered the sea level at the point of crossing.
The miraculous thing is that it happened at the right time and within the narrative that was being lived up by the people whom it helped.
In other words, it was a great miracle to them precisely because of its perfect fit in their narrative, as being experienced by them. How would you convey this to someone who wasn't there and didn't live up that particular narrative at that particular time? You can't, and that's why you embellish the oral/written narration of the event, and give it the appearance of something that just can't happen naturally. But it can and it did. All recorded miracles are like that (e.g. the flood was most likely a megatsunami form an asteroid) Reply

Daniel Frank Toronto April 15, 2013

Nature and Miracles G-d remains present yet hidden in the details. Reply

A growing collection of essays on motifs of Chabad thought as they relate to today's world.