Why we don’t see open miracles anymore as we did in the Bible
Have you ever prayed for a miracle? Have you ever experienced one?
Have you ever wondered why we don’t see open miracles today as we used to in the Torah?
The Talmud tells the curious tale of an infant whose mother tragically died during his birth. The bereaved father had no resources with which to feed the child, so he prayed for a miracle. And indeed, milk miraculously formed in his breasts with which he was able to feed his baby. Whether the story actually happened or is a fable is immaterial. What is fascinating is the Talmud’s analysis of the miracle: While Rabbi Yoseph sang the man’s praises, Abaya dismissed him as “weak, because he had to rely on a miracle to survive.” (Talmud Shabbos 53)
Though people love to hear miraculous stories and listen to them unfold, fondness for such tales actually represents spiritual immaturity, and are contrary to our mission on this Earth. Like a child who is completely reliant upon his parents, our nation relied on G-d’s miraculous intervention in their infancy. Without G-d’s changing the laws of nature for us, we could never have broken free from Egyptian bondage and survived the arduous trek to the Promised Land. A cursory reading of the Passover Hagaddah shows the miracles flowing freely.
But as much as parents love their child, their goal is not that the child should forever remain reliant upon them. Just as the maturing child learns to stand on his own two feet, the Jewish Nation today no longer needs to experience open miracles in order to believe in G-d. When we started out, we needed G-d to hold our hands every step of the way, but now, 3000 years later, we’ve learned not to be afraid of the dark.
In a stunning break from other religions, which sing the praises of miracle workers and proclaim them saints, Torah attributes miracles to the weak of heart and shallow of perception, because we’re supposed to learn to stand on our two feet as mature adults instead of being influenced by the dazzling allure of Divine intervention. It might be more exciting to witness the hand of G-d; but it’s so much more meaningful to witness the devotion of mankind. We weren’t sent to this Earth to be spectators; we are players on the field. We’re not here to watch things happen; we’re here to make them happen.
It’s easy to fall in love when you’re being wined and dined on your honeymoon. But true love is being able to love your spouse even when you’ve got a headache and you’re being asked to take out the garbage.
As the Jews are supposed to prepare to enter the Promised Land in this week’s Torah portion, they actually rebel against G-d and refuse to do so. We’re shocked to discover that they would far prefer to stay in the desert rather than enter the Land of Israel! The deep mystical reason behind this passionate choice of theirs was that they didn’t want to leave the loving embrace of G-d in the desert, where they would experience open miracles on a daily basis. Their daily Manna miraculously appeared from Heaven; fresh drinking water flowed from the rock; the clouds of glory served as a modern-day air conditioning system that doubled up as an Iron Dome protection from enemies—they really had no reason to work or worry; their sole devotion was to studying Torah. They correctly understood that entering the Land of Israel would mark the end of this miraculous sustenance and usher in an era in which they would have to fend for themselves. And like a child who is fearful of moving out on his own, they said, “No thank you!”
But this is not the reason that G-d created us. Ask not what G-d can do for you but rather what you can do for G-d.
The stunning story of the Creation of a universe that spans countless light years is recounted in the Torah in just 26 verses in a single chapter. In contrast, the construction of the Temple that the Jews built for G-d in the desert, a tent roughly the size of our Shul, is recounted in over 350 verses spanning half the book of Exodus! For Almighty G-d’s ability to build a home for mortal man is no big deal, but for mortal Man to build a home for Almighty G-d, is a huge story that is what life is all about!
When someone wrote to the Rebbe complaining about how hard it was for him to connect with Jewish life where he lived, the Rebbe showed him little sympathy as he wrote: “Torah and Mitzvos need to be achieved through sweat. If something comes easily, it’s a sign that it’s not worth much. Instead of praying to G-d for a miracle, pray for your hard work to bear fruit.” Life wasn’t meant to be easy; we were sent to this Earth to work hard. Instead of praying for ease, pray for your success. And then G-d will send you a hidden miracle, as he blesses the results of your toil.
The following story is one of my all-time favorites because it so poignantly expresses our purpose in life:
Rabbi Doctor Tzvi Weinreb was just 30 years old when he was both the Vice President of the Orthodox Union of America and a Professor of Psychology in Maryland. Sometime in his 30’s, he experienced a mid-life crisis and desperately sought guidance for his future. He struggled with how to balance his personal and professional responsibilities; the education of his children as well as his own struggles of faith and psychology. Though not officially a “Chabadnik,” he decided to call the Rebbe’s office for counsel in February of 1971.
As he called the office, he made sure to remain anonymous by introducing himself merely as “a Jew from Maryland.” He was politely explaining to the secretary the reason for his call when, suddenly, the Rebbe’s voice was heard on the line (there was a phone line in the Rebbe’s office that he would sometimes use to listen in on). The Rebbe said to the secretary in Yiddish, “Tell him that there is a Jew in Maryland who has the wisdom to advise him. His name is Weinreb.”
Weinreb was stunned. He was 100% sure that he had not identified himself during the call, yet the Rebbe had just uttered his name! The secretary broke the awkward silence by asking if he had understood what the Rebbe had just said. Shocked and stunned, he responded in the negative. So the secretary repeated what the Rebbe had said, this time in English.
Confused, he blurted out: “But I am Weinreb!”
And then he heard the Rebbe’s voice say: “If so, then sometimes one has to learn how to speak with himself.”
We tend to not give ourselves enough credit. If G-d Almighty placed you upon this Earth, it means that He believes in you! He chose you for this mission and has endowed you with the resources to fulfill your Divine mission upon this Earth. You don’t need miracles and wonders to help you make the right choices. The truth is already within you. You were born to be great; it’s time to let yourself shine.
Wishing you pride in your own perspiration.