Can Man Do Miracles?
Moshe Ben-Chaim
Question: On your website you post a number of very worthy shittos from the Rishonim and other baalei mesorah concerning the impossibility of man having "powers" in the supernatural domain. While I realize that we must follow the Rambam, and his son Rav Avraham, in understanding midrashim and aggados which are contrary to logic and rationalism in a homiletical or non-literal way, still, I would pose the following question:
In Melachim Aleph, Eliyahu stands before Ach'av and utters a curse against the Northern Kingdom: "There will be no rain in the days to come, except through my word (ki im lefi devari)." The Gemara in Sanhedrin records an unwritten account to the juxstaposition of Eliyahu's curse with the previous episode of the fulfillment of Joshua's curse of the man who builds up Yericho (his firstborn and youngest will die -- as happened to Chiel). Basically, Eliyahu's curse is in response to Ach'av's allegation that Moshe's curse of "Ve'atzar es hashamayim v'lo yihhye mattar," did not come to pass, while Joshua's did -- thus, Elijah fulfilled the curse. How was he able to? Well, earlier, the Gemara stated that Elijah did not want to go comfort Chiel (since Ach'av would be there, and would curse Hashem), but Hashem persuaded him by telling him that whatever curse he uttered, He would fulfill.
Now, simply taking this story at face value, do we not get the impression that Elijah was given CONTROl of the elements. Even though this power originated with G-d, still, wasn't it his own power? A response is greatly desired.
Mesora: It cannot be Eliyahu's own powers for good reason:
The world was working under the created laws prior to Eliyahu's birth. So 'Someone' other than Eliyahu is responsible for their operation and aberration - God. So if it is God, it is not Eliyahu or any other being. Additionally I would ask, "Can a chair created by a carpenter control the carpenter? Did not the carpenter give existence to the chair, thereby showing clearly that the chair is the controlled, not the controller?" So too is the case with Elisha and God.
Tosfos in Niddah 16b says that a few keys are in God's hands, but are handed over to a messenger temporarily, for the need of the hour; the key of life, the key of rain and that of resurrection, as witnessed in Elisha.
What does this Tosfos mean?
Notice that it calls the person who receives these keys a "messenger". This means that God's will is for the miracle to occur even before man wills it, and man is merely a messenger. God ony incorporates a person into His plans and he acts as a messenger. This teaches us a very important idea, that if God does not will the miracle to occur, man cannot override God.
This also teaches that God is only allowing man to indicate when such laws will be suspended. Man cannot cause it.
Why does God do so? Perhaps to emphasize the messenger's greatness. By God making it seem that he is "reacting" to man's word, it reflects great perfection of the messenger, as he talks, and God enacts.
Perhaps for this very reason God willed that Moses tell Pharaoh when the miracles would occur, thereby teaching the unique greatness of Moses to both the Jews and Egyptians. The Rabbis teach, "A tzaddik decrees and God fulfills". It means to endorse the tzaddik, not that the tzaddik has the ability to alter nature himself without God. One as perfected intellectually as a tzaddik functions in line with God's will, to such a degree, that the tzaddik's will reflects God's will. So it is as if, "he decrees and God fulfills".
Man didn't create the laws. He therefore cannot control them.

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