Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Era of Miracles & Prophecy

“If it could happen, then it’s not a miracle”

If we are to understand miracles, then we must first realize that Hashem’s essence is in direct contrast with nature and natural law. Hashem, as it were, cloaks himself behind nature. 99% of the time, Hashem’s influence in the world is subtle and often not felt at all. This is intentional; Hashem set up natural systems specifically so that he would not have to interfere in the course of events. These systems include the laws of nature, so-called “laws of nations,” and human nature.

But we must remember that underneath these systems is still God’s direct control. Periodically, He needs to break through nature and directly interfere. These interferences we call “supernatural” occurrences. defines “supernatural” in the following way: “of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena; abnormal.” And this is entirely the point.

But it is hard to believe in the possibility of something beyond nature. This is true not only because is it beyond our personal experiences, but because there have been few true miracles for over 2,000 years. Was there never such a thing as a true miracle, or – for some reason – has God changed the way He involves Himself with the world?

When one looks at Tanach, one inevitably comes away with the following question: “Don’t the Jews get it? Idol worship is bad, and the inevitable consequence is disastrous. Why don’t they learn?” This question can only be asked from our perspective. While we still have people who are technically idol-worshippers, Chazal teach us that the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah eliminated the desire (or perhaps “lust” is more apt) for avodah zarah. Apparently, when people worshipped idols during the Biblical period, there was some reciprocal ecstatic feeling that the worshipper came away with. Consequently, we must compare the Jews’ desire for avodah zarah to an addict’s desire for his drug of choice.

But again, our gut reaction is skepticism. Can it be that this too has changed? The answer, if we are to take Tanch seriously, must be a resounding yes. In the Biblical era, the divide between the Natural and Supernatural worlds was smaller than it is now. On the positive side, there were more miracles, there was prophecy, and people lived with a constant awareness of the supernatural. On the other hand, there were negative supernatural powers: necromancy, the dark magic of the Egyptian chartumim, and the ecstasy of idol-worship.

The Anshei K’neset HaGedola felt that the risks outweighed the benefits. They davened to Hasehm, and the divide between the two worlds was made greater. A new age emerged, one that wages philosophical war in terms of rationalization not revelation. The era of miracles, magic, prophecy, and idol-worship has ended. From this point on, the encounter of man wit nature is waged in the intellect. From this early period, we get both the rise of Greek philosophy and the logic of the Mishna and the Talmud. Revelation is gone, and we must not forget it.

But just because we don’t have it, doesn’t mean that it’s not real. When we talk about something like prophecy, we look for something in our own experience to compare it too. The best we are able to come up with is a disembodied voice. Yes, if we heard something like that we would look for hidden speakers. But prophecy is much more than that. It was a full body experience, both visual and auditory. In fact, (with one exception) every prophet seems to have immediately recognized the prophetic experience as a divine revelation. It did – and could not – be confused with “speakers behind a bush”.


Anonymous becky said...

ok so maybe i didnt quiet get this article, but what stuck out to me was the idol-worship part, mixed with the supernatural. If God expects us to belive in him even though we have 0 interaction with him then he obviously needs to have a mediary (def not spelled right). basically if God is going to communicate with us through other people aka neviim or through objects or nature then i dont see why people wouldnt expect to be worshiping nature, it makes perfect sense. help me out here??

October 09, 2006 10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm not so sure that I'm fully understanding exactly what this article is saying. I understanfd the division between logic,philosophy and intellect versus revelatuion. But what the article seems to be saying is that the draw of avoadah zarah is so greaat that we need this division,yet at the same time we lost something so important. By increasing the division between the supernaturaul and natraul we lost nevuah and miracles (or at least very open obvious miracles) But now, we lack the ability to even understand nevuah. So by taking away our 'lust" for avoadh zara we lost an understanding of nevuah and miracles as well. In a way I think that we lost some of our understanding of holiness once the chasm was widened between the natraul and supernatraul. So even though with the chasm came the rise of "intellect" we still lost an understanding that is so vital to every jews life if they desire to be closer to Hashem. or I could be completely misinterpreting this article...

October 09, 2006 2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe this will clear the article up for some people:

God is not natural (or if he is unnatural, then everything he created can be considered unnatural) but whatever the case is, miracles can, of course, be considered unnatural. Though EVERYTHING that happens on this earth is orchestrated by God (no matter how small it may seem). But I believe the question is..Why do we need prophets.
When the article brings up the idea of Idol worship, it does so to display human beings need for a psysical and obvious presentation of God.
Today the gap between the known and the unknown has widened. Therefore we have athiests, agnostics, etc. Prophets are there to connect the known and the unknown. They are a phsycial representation of God on this earth, but are not as great as a miracle.


October 09, 2006 5:43 PM  
Blogger Yoni Krestt said...

Amalia is correct. We have lost something as a result of what the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah did. And yes, it would be easier to worship Hashem through an intermediary (remember the chet ha'egel), but that doesn't mean that we need an intermediary. Nor does the fact that faith is hard to achieve mean that it's not achievable. That's what makes faith so special: you need to work at it to achieve it. (We don't have "faith" in the fact hat there is rain, it's simply accepted as true.)

October 09, 2006 9:52 PM  
Anonymous dani b said...

for the whole true miracle thing- we see them everyday, its just that they have become so ordinary that they dont feel special. like having a baby or anything like that is crazy and couldnt just happen by itself. yea we dont see the type of miracles that the people thousands of years ago saw, but they were on a completly diffrent level then us. so i think there was such thing as true miracles and that there still is.

October 15, 2006 9:13 PM  
Anonymous Raquela said...

i agree with dani!!! i didnt really understand this article that wel... but i think there are deffinately miracles nowadays that we just take for granted. back in the tanach days there were bigger miracles that were things that happened out of the ordinary. in the present times those types of miracles can maybe be seen by people in their own way as a private revelation.

October 15, 2006 10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it seeems that this article was difficult to understand for a lot of us. But i just think that we can't just say miracles are gone- like raquela said miracles now a days are hidden. we take them forgranted every single thing in every single day in everysingle second is some sort of mirable that one has to look at and just thank god for and now god is always backign you up and god is never not there.-iris

October 15, 2006 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Arella said...

Ok, so personally, i have always “pondered” this issue; is it true that the torah we read through in lets say, chumash class, was actually handed down to us from Hashem? is it possible that Hashem broke through that wall of reality between the laws of nature and the supernatural, and granted us the torah? I've always seen all those intellectual discussions about reality vs spirituality lame 1, because i get bored very easily, and 2,because words and thoughts cannot bring to light what was clearly a supernatural accurance. I do not believe that nature and the supernatural are seperate. I think that faith is the belief that spirituality and nature coincide, thereby proving Hashem's existence through our world. The issue is not whether are not the supernatural exists, because as far as im concerned, by our and the world's existence the supernatural exists. The issue is whether or not we as Hashem's nation who has held witness to countless of miracles throughout our history, are able to take that leap of faith and say that the very fact that we are able to even sit by our computer as healthy, intellectual, and able human beings and read this comment is a miracle (not bc i am smart:-) but because Hashem's presence IS the world's reality, and we must try to see how both enteties of spirituality and materialsm intertwine in our daily lives.

October 18, 2006 12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I deffinatly agree with what most people have posted about this topic. Dani and Kel are 100% correct (in my opinion at least) that we DO face miracles everyday, but we take each and every single one for granted since they've become so ordinary to us. I'm pretty sure that if we were faced with even greater miracles today that were out of the ordinary, we would appreciate them alot more, and I do wish in a way that that was the case so people wouldn't take miracles/life for granted and be more appericiative. However, a reason why i WOULDNT want to have greater mircales that are out of the ordinary today would be because it wouldn't give us the chance to have faith, and to make us realize on our own how amazing these "ordinary" mircales are and to thank hashem for them each and everyday.

Moving along to Rabbi Krestt's post...I also agree that even though it may be easier to worship god through an intermediary, it doesn't necessarilly mean we need one. As a matter of fact, I find that since we don't have an intermediary that it benefits us in the sence that each individual person has the chance to find their own special way to worship god or have their own special connection with god and because of that all of our prayers and mitzvot mean so much more. What really caught my eye in your post was "Nor does the fact that faith is hard to achieve mean that it's not achievable. That's what makes faith so special: you need to work at it to achieve it." I don't think that could have been said any better. You always have to work hard to achieve something. If you could easily acheive everything what would be the purpose of it? there would be no deep meaning to it and it would be the same as how people don't appreciate "ordinary miracles".

- Devora

October 23, 2006 8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't agree at all with the very first sentence of this blog: "If it could happen, then it's not a miracle." When I think about miracles in general, i automatically think that absolutely anything no matter what it is could happen. My reason behind this is that I know some higher being/spirit/powerful state (Hashem), is the one doing the miracle/supernatural action. Just from this particular way that I think, I believe that anything can happen, the unnatural, supernatural, phenomena, or miracle, even without first thinking about miracles in general.

Also, I don't agree with the statement, "Hashem cloaks himself behind nature." My point of view is that God doesn't hide behind nature, He IS nature! I believe that nature is just one of His many forms that He chooses to be shown to us in this world (Olam Hazeh). That could be said for what Dani said earlier about giving birth to babies, or all of the small "insignificant" things in our world (insignificant, meaning things that don't strike us as God's work or Himself).

Yes, there is the obvious huge separation from the natural and supernatural nowadays. Everyone knows that, but from the sprouting of intellect (as Amalia said), some people were able to realize some of the most simple most forgotten places that God's presence/powers/miracles were still around. For example, going back into nature, davening in nature, and looking at the nature pondering God's powers was one way to regain some closeness to God and His powers/miracles or even Himself (from Rav Nachman of Bratslav).

Another point, is that since the enlargement of the gap between us and God we clearly are not as close to God as we once were; which is probably the main reason why we don't recieve the same kind of prophecies we once did and in that amount. The type of prophecy the blog mentions is the kind that involves the whole body experience, and that that is what prophecy truly is, but today we can't say that that is what prophecy truly is when we haven't experienced it. We have experienced prophecy, it's just a different kind, a less connected prophecy with God one could say. So we could say that prophecies today are infact real, but would they classify as "true" prophecies?

~Stepho Meshel~

October 24, 2006 9:45 PM  
Anonymous Leora said...

i agree with rocky and dani, that miracles where huge back then and where easy to distinguish from every day life...but i think that because we dont have the beit hamikdash and we are some what seperated from Hashem (in the beit hamikdash sense) and that period of time that it is very difficult for us to even know if a mircale has occured, i mean if its like someone being born or passing away you can see huge miracles in that but I mean smaller ones like you got accepted to a college you have no chance of geting into thats a huge miracle!!!

November 01, 2006 8:08 PM  

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