- Providence vs Miracles
- Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
- Reader: I read with some surprise your article in this week's
Jewish Times, some statements to the effect that Hashem only
influences certain things in our daily lives; the rest is left to
natural forces. You state that "unless one is a prophet, he
cannot know with certainty whether G-d actually did something or
- This is very confusing to me, since according to Rav Dessler - as
well as many other commentators - "nature" is just as
miraculous as the splitting of the sea, except that we're used to it
because it's more common. Why do you make a distinction between
"natural occurrence" and "G-d's will"? Surely they
are one and the same thing - the only difference being the degree to
which we are conscious of the fact that Hashem is controlling
everything in the world (other than our free will)?
- Mesora: I believe you are
confusing divine providence with miracles.
- The ideas I quoted are from Maimonides' "Guide for the
Perplexed". Other Rishonim as Sforno, share Maimonides' view.
Therein, Maimonides quotes Scriptural verses from which he derived his
theory. He makes a clear distinction between divine intervention, and
nature. He explains that one's perfection and divine protection are
- I am sure you would agree, for example, that of two people cast into
a furnace, the one who is untouched by flames was the recipient of
divine intervention. The other was not. Maimonides says this
preferential treatment of the saved soul is due to the higher level of
- Yes, both men were affected by God's laws; i.e. laws of ignition, vs
laws of divine providence. Both laws are creations of God which
contain stupendous wisdom. You were arguing that all man's experiences
- natural and divine - are really miracles. This is Rav Dessler's
teaching. However, that is not the point of my statement. My point is
that of Maimonides: That divine protection is great in some people,
absent in others, and varying degrees in between....all due to each
person's perfection. It would be correct to state that God intervened
on behalf of the saved man, and He did not intervene on behalf of he
- I believe the confusion is how we distinguish between miracles, and
divine intervention. Meaning, if all that happens on Earth - as Rav
Dessler said - are truly miracles, then how do we distinguish between
the two men in my example above? The answer is that all that happens
are ultimately God's forces at work. But that does not mean it is
God's will at work. People can cause themselves great harm,
with God's forces: As an example, someone igniting a barbecue grill. A
perfected person earns God's suspension of damaging forces in such a
case. Those men who are not perfected will suffer from God's
inactivity, and the explosion might be deadly. In both cases both men
experienced God's forces. But only in the first case did God suspend
damage due to the person's perfection.
- So one topic, yours, is whether we say all which occurs are
miracles. My topic was concerning God's intervention.
- Miracles deal with the ongoing design of earthly occurrence and
matter. Intervention refers to something different - God's will.
- Regarding your other point, if one is not a prophet, he cannot know
when occurrences are divine, or natural. We do not know God's
"mind". It would be completely arrogant to suggest, "I
know that God just did something." We should say instead,
"It is possible that God did something." The only way we can
know for certain, is through God's informing us, or if the event was
clearly a miracle.