Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Beshalach 5775, January 2015, Miracles

This week's parsha brings us great miracles. But while the splitting of the sea and the appearance of clouds of G-d's glory and the falling of spiritual food are each unique occurrences, we need to focus on the real miracles of which we are reminded.

The Yam Suf split to create 12 passages for shevatim; the Shechina itself appeared to the sea and the waters spoke directly to Moshe, "I withdraw only for the Master of the world H-mself!" (Yalkut Shmoneh)  The waters in every body of water in the world, whether in a lake, a river, or a jar or pot likewise split (Shemos Rabbah) and the sound of the splitting could be heard throughout the world.  Yet people continue to give natural reasons as to the splitting of the sea; perhaps a strong wind, a strange current, an earthquake. And each of these could be an explanation.

Clouds of fire and glory led the Jews through the desert and wilderness, protecting them by night and day. Yet there are those who would explain this away with talk of fiery brands, smoke from torches, and bronze shields. And all these do exist and do function in this way.

Mann fell and fed the Jews. It fell 6 days a week like clockwork, and stayed fresh exactly as long as Moshe explained to the Jews it would (Yoma). It never fell on Shabbos, and a double portion could always be collected on Fridays. Exactly one omer per person per day was needed and that was exactly what each person would find they had collected, whether they tried to gather more or less (Rashi). Yet there are places where resins, insect debris, dried berries, and other foods fall to the ground and feed the local people.

But the Jews were becoming spiritually aware in their distancing themselves from the Egyptians and their idol worship. Rav Dessler asks, "Which is the greater miracle, Bread from Heaven or Bread from the earth?" (Michtav Me'Eliyahu) And this is the core of our parsha, for the B'nai Yisroel and we their descendants must see these miracles every day. A tiny dry seed is poked into the ground and we are able to bake a birthday cake. Water, a substance covering the earth, is what essentially enables our whole bodies to function. The sun feeds plants and begins entire food chains so that we may eat plants, animals, fish, birds, to our hearts' delights.  We have and have had shelter whether a cave, a sukkah, a tent, or a house; but each of these comes from materials provided by the world around us through G-d's miracle of making the world work according to predictable rules and allowing us to find the resources we need.

In fact, it is when the B'nai Yisroel attack Moshe by claiming that the miracles "he" had performed in Egypt were only destructive, and demanded more fresh water at Har Chorev so that G-d gave them a water-giving stone (Mechilta, Rashi) that Amalek was allowed to attack them. They denied the basic nature of miracles, that they are around us at all times, that they come directly from G-d, and that they are intrinsically good; they had no appreciation for the protection, food, water, and shelter G-d gave them and their ancestors, and they brought the nation of Amalek down upon the Jews for all time until the coming of Moshiach.

Every time we stop and think and appreciate the miracles of our lives, our gifts, and our world, we bring Moshiach closer.

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