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 not."
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 directly proportional.
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 his perfection.
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 who perished.
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.

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