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RABBI CHAIM LOBEL הרב חיים לובל

This week is Parshat Masei
Candle Lighting 7:57 PM 7/29/11 NYC DST
Rabbi Chaim Lobel – Young Israel of Aberdeen, NJ
www.yiaberdeen.com


 

 

Miracles – In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z’L)

“And they journeyed . . . and they encamped . . . And they journeyed . . . and they encamped . . . and they journeyed . . .” Hence the name, Parshat Masei – the chapter of journeys. (Numbers 33) Forty-two times, the parsha repeats the verse “And they journeyed . . . and they encamped . . .” Why?

Nahmanides (1194 – 1270) quotes Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed (1135 – 1204; 3:50):

“When we notice the narratives in the Torah, which have no connection to any of the commandments, we are inclined to think they are entirely superfluous, lengthy, or repetitious; this is only because we do not see these occurrences as noteworthy. For example, the stations the Israelites made in the desert appear useless. Yet, the Torah explicitly says that the stations were written “by the commandment of G-d”. However, it is indeed most necessary that these be written. Miracles are only convincing to those who witness them; future generations are only familiar with the miracles through the account of others; future generation may consider them untrue. Miracles cannot continue for future generations. The greatest miracle in the wilderness was the forty years supply of Manna. The wilderness described in the Torah consisted of places that were remote from cultivated land and naturally uninhabitable for Man. (Numbers 20:5) G-d knew that, in the future, people may doubt the miracles. Therefore, the details of the stops that the Israelites will strengthen the fact that the only way Israel survived was through the Manna.” (Translation with the help of Dr. M Friedlander; Jews' College, London 1881 – 1907)

Maimonides is speaking of people who believe the Torah was written by G-d, that every word is true. Why might such people doubt the miracle of the manna?

“Miracles are only convincing to those who witness them; future generations, are only familiar with the miracles through the account of others; future generation may consider them untrue. Miracles cannot continue for future generations.”

Maimonides teaches us a very important lesson. Even people who believe every word of the Torah, that G-d created the universe and is involved in our everyday lives, find it hard to believe in revealed miracles. Our natural inclination is to downplay the miraculous because we find it so hard to believe.

Even a Torah observant Jew might be tempted to ask “Did G-d truly make magical food appear from nowhere each weekday morning for the entire Israelite nation for forty years? Maybe the Israelites traveled near fertile land and G-d created the Manna through natural means. Or maybe the Israelites had other food in addition to the Manna.”

The Torah, therefore, refutes the possibility the Manna could have been anything less than absolutely miraculous. The Israelites were in places where it was impossible to grow food. It was impossible for the Manna to have been created through natural means or for the Israelites to have subsisted through any other food aside from the Manna falling from heaven. The person who believes in the Torah must also believe in the complete miracle of the Manna because there is no alternative explanation.

The old saying that “seeing is believing” bears a lot of truth. People, including fervent believing Torah Scholars, are naturally inclined to find it difficult to believe in anything that defies nature and lies completely outside their personal experiences. As Maimonides says, “Miracles are only convincing to those who witness them . . . G-d knew that, in the future, people may doubt the miracles. Therefore, the details in the wilderness strengthen the fact that the only way Israel survived was through Manna from heaven.”

Shabbat Shalom


 
   
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