In the Torah portion of Mikeitz we read that after Yaakov reluctantly acceded to his sons’ request to return to Egypt together with Binyamin, he said to them: “May G‑d A-lmighty grant that the man have pity on you and release your other brother and Binyamin.”1

Yaakov’s fear and trepidation regarding his sons’ return to Egypt was greater than that of his children. Although they, too, were aware that this whole event had unfortunate undertones — as they themselves said, “We deserve to be punished because of what we did to our brother ... that is why this great misfortune has come upon us” — they nevertheless looked upon it as a personal misfortune.2 Yaakov, however, saw this event as a continuation of his previous trials and tribulations. More importantly, he viewed this affair in light of the forthcoming tragedy of the Jewish people in Egyptian exile.3

The reason Yaakov and his children viewed this event differently has to do with the basic difference between Yaakov and his children, the founders of the Tribes.

As one of the three Patriarchs of the Jewish people, Yaakov viewed all events that involved him as a “sign” and forerunner of events that would occur with later generations of Jews. The founders of the Tribes, however, not being at the spiritual level of the Patriarchs, were unable to see these events as being of a general nature; they were only able to view them in terms of personal misfortune.

In other words, the founders of the Tribes viewed these events as they related to the course of nature; Yaakov, who was on a far superior spiritual plane, was able to see these selfsame events insofar as they transcended the bounds of nature.

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This distinction also relates to the festival of Chanukah. Although the events surrounding this festival actually came about through miraculous means, superficially one might think that these miracles were within the framework of nature, because the deliverance of the Jewish people from the hands of the Syrian-Greeks involved actual physical warfare.

This shortsighted view misses the truth — that the victory involved nothing less than miracles that utterly burst the confines of nature. For the victorious Jews overcame vastly superior odds: “the mighty [being delivered] into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few....”4

From this we may learn that whatever a Jew engages in, even if it seems to be completely within the realm of nature, he should not think that he need only act according to natural means. His actions must always be accompanied by — indeed, preceded by — a prayer for success.

While it is true that he ought to act according to the laws of nature — for the Torah exhorts, “G‑d your L‑rd will bless you in all you do”5 — he must at the same time know that his connection with nature is but an external garb. Essentially, he is bound to G‑d Who transcends nature. Thus, when a Jew desires (for example) wealth, what counts most is that he “pray to Him to Whom all wealth belongs.”6 So, too, with regard to all one’s needs, both material and spiritual.

When a Jew acts in this manner, he is privileged to behold the miracles that are clothed in the garments of nature, and moreover the miracles that utterly transcend nature — and, ultimately, those miracles as well will be revealed with the coming of our righteous Mashiach.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXV, pp.227-234.