- Man Has No Powers
- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- Question: In
parshat Vayishlach, chapter 33, verse 13, Yaakov tells Esav that he
cannot travel with him for his children are tender and his flock are
nursing, and they are pushed to travel hard, the FLOCK will perish. I
saw a commentary in the Artscroll Stone edition Chumash which quoted
the Gemara in Moed Katan 18a, that a covenant is made with the lips.
And because of this, Yaakov did not say his children will die, rather
only his flock, because as Artscroll put it, "unintended
prognostics often become fulfilled
- as prophecy."
- Can you please explain what this means, especially as stated in the
- In addition, why was it that Yaakov's curse came true upon Rachel in
reference to the idols? Does what some says have a power on someone
- Mesora: A
human does not have power over his own life, how can he control
- It must be interpreted that Yaakov's curse was in line with what G-d
desired. It only seems that Yaakov was the cause. I believe this
explanation also explains what it means that "righteous people
decree, and G-d fulfills". When a tzaddik says something, it does
not become true due to him, rather, G-d already put the forces in
motion. The tzaddik - being in line with G-d - will intuit what is
righteous. G-d is not bound by a person.
- This should not be confused with prayer, as we find that Moshe was
able to alter a decree from G-d. That could be due to Moshe raising
himself to a higher level, something not yet in place prior to G-d's
decree. As Moshe became more perfected, Moshe could now address the
shortcomings of the Jews himself, therefore G-d's decree was no longer
- When requested by Pharaoh to remove a plague, Moshe rabbeinu left
the city and prayed to G-d. Moshe did not have power. He had to ask
G-d to remove the plague. If he couldn't perform miracles, no one else
could, as Moshe was the most perfected individual ever.
- When Rachel asked Yaakov for children, Yaakov said, " Am I in
G-d's stead?". Yaakov attested to the fact that he had no power
to give her children. If people have powers, why did Jacob respond
this way? It is clear that Jacob understood that no one is able to do
what G-d does. Those were his very words, " Am I in G-d's
stead?" (Additionally, when Yaakov said, according to Rashi,
"God has withheld children from you and not me, he was not acting
viciously. He meant to say, "You have the need, not me, and God
has not answered you. You must then be the one to pray, as prayer
enables one to reflect on their needs, hopefully directing you to your
flaws, and then repent from whatever character trait prevents you from
- When Naaman requested Elisha to rid him of his leprosy, Elisha did
not leave the house, but rather, he sent a messenger to instruct
Naaman to bathe, and this would remove his ailment. Naaman was upset
with Elisha, that he did not come out, call upon G-d's name, and
"wave his hand over the place of the leprosy and remove it".
A friend suggested wisely, that Elisha desired that G-d retain the
grandeur for such a miracle, therefore, Elisha did not leave the
house, he avoided the spotlight, as Elisha knew that G-d was the
performer of all miracles, and did not want to mislead Naaman. Elisha
was aware that people desire to believe in man as a miracle worker.
Elisha therefore avoided at all cost, taking any credit for that which
man has no connection with.
- Whenever we encounter such stories which on the surface seem to
imply that man is able to perform miracles, we must carefully review
the text. I am certain you will find that the text of the Torah
attributes powers to G-d alone, and avoids deifying man. A Rabbi
mentioned that very few prophets are recorded as having performed
miracles for this reason.
- We say every day "Ki hu livadu po-ale g'vuros" , For He alone
works might". We ourselves attest to man's incapability to
perform wonders, or the like. This is clear.
- Rav Saadia Gaon stated, "man has no power over the