Response to Yosef Simpson
from Jewish Press Friday Dec. 11, 1998
Dear Editor,
One should not think that Moshe Rabbeinu had an inherent power to perform miracles. Hashem was the One that did ALL of them. Look through the posukim. When the Torah tells of the Plagues, the Splitting of the Red Sea and the manna it is always Hashem that does the miracle. By the story of Korach, Moshe states, "But if Hashem will create a phenomena(Bamidbar 16; 30)" not "I will create a phenomena". Throughout the Prophets miracles are attributed to Hashem. When Eliyahu restored the child to life we see that first he prayed to Hashem. The posuk then says, "Hashem hearkened to the voice of Eliyahu and the soul of the boy came back within him, and he came to life (I Kings 17; 22)." Elisha, as well, prayed to Hashem to restore a child to life. No man has the ability to perform miracles through his own power. When Rachal Emeinu asked Yaakov Aveinu for children he replied angrily, "Am I instead of Hashem?" He did not have the power to grant her children. If he could perform miracles, why didn't he grant her wish? Onkelos comments, "From me you request? Is it not from before Hashem that you should make your request?" Only Hashem has the power to grant such requests. If a person desires something, they should pray to Hashem. Prayer is the recognition that Hashem is the Source of everything.
It has become necessary to clarify a fundamental principle regarding the method of understanding Midrashim. They were not written down by Chazal to be understood literally. The Rambam writes in the Introduction to the Mishna, "If you will inspect the Aggadic Drashos and construe them following their immediately apparent meanings, you will see ideas expressed which are at the height of absurdity. The sages purposely expressed them in such a disguised form due to weighty considerations." In the Introduction to the Moreh Nevuchim he says that absurd Midrashim must be taken figuratively. The Rashba in his Commentary on Aggadot says that Midrashim contain deep and hidden ideas and should not be taken on face value. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato wrote an entire essay explaining that Midrashim were not meant to be taken literally. We must not be arrogant and assume we understand every Midrash. To understand the statements "A Tzaddik commands and the Almighty fulfills" and "The Almighty decrees and a Tzaddik annuls" literally, is ludicrous. Man cannot control Hashem.. A Tzaddik or anyone else does not have some kind of power to annul a decree of Hashem. If this were so, Moshe would have annulled the decree of not being able to enter the Land of Israel. Hashem could not have said no. It should be obvious that there are deeper ideas contained in these words.
It seems that the true purpose of Mezuzah has been overlooked. The Tur in the beginning of YD 285 states, "when a person goes in and out [of his house] he will remember the Unity of Hashem and that will put fear into him so that he will not sin." A person must think about the profound ideas contained in the Mezuzah to derive the true benefit. That benefit is a deep appreciation of truth and a recognition of our lowliness in relation to Hashem's Awesomeness. These ideas will lead us on the correct path. This is the underlying idea of the various Chazal that discuss Mezuzah as a protection. It is the same idea that the Rambam discusses at the end of Hilchos Mezuzah. The Tur continues, "the house is guarded through it (the Mezuzah) as they (Chazal) explained the posuk, 'Hashem watches you etc..'" Is it the Mezuzah that watches us or is it Hashem? Obviously, the Tur is stating that it is Hashem. If we do the Mitzvot and observe the Torah properly, Hashem will watch over us. If the Mezuzah was indeed some kind of physical protection, how could have millions of Torah observant Jews been murdered in their homes throughout the ages. Why didn't it protect them? Great Torah giants were killed. Did they all have posul Mezuzahs? Even if they had, they were most likely unaware of it. Should they then be killed because of an unwitting error? Furthermore, why would Hashem give it protective power to begin with? Could not Hashem protect us without the help of a Mezuzah? If one maintains that Hashem needs the help of a Mezuzah, he is denying Hashem's Omnipotence.
May we all search for the true ideas of Torah and not be mislead by false notions.
Avraham Shimon

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