Rabbi Shlomo Cohen
Miracles are a topic we’ve all thought about. How are we to begin understanding them? One individual went so far as to say to me, “I’m not a believer, however, if G-d would come down right now and perform a miracle then I’d believe.” I had to point out that if G-d indeed performed miracles on command belief would not even be an issue, free will would. In what way can we understand them?
It’s a really hot day. Mr. Plony has been outside for hours mowing his lawn. All of a sudden he notices one of his bushes burning. He goes over to investigate and notices that the bush is not being consumed. Suddenly he hears a voice. “PLONY, REMOVE THINE SHOES FOR THOU ART ON HOLY GROUND”. (It seems that G-d talks English like this.)
Plony’s first reaction is to look around to see who’s playing a joke on him. (Am I on Candid Camera?) He searches for the hidden speakers. Plony, like each of us, is highly skeptical. We’re jaded. Think for a moment. What would it take to convince you?!
So, OK, he’s convinced. He rushes in to tell his wife. “Outside, bush, burning, G-d talking.” His wife’s reaction? “Come sit down, dear. You’ve been in the sun too long. Let me get you a cold drink.” He runs outside to tell his neighbors, “Bush, burning, G-d talking.” Their reaction? “You keep him occupied while I call the men with the white coats.” You and I are not likely to believe him either.
Plony is a cool guy. He doesn’t rush off too tell anybody. In fact he takes off his shoes and awaits further developments. G-d says. “HOW ART THOU DOING? PERCHANCE THE WEATHER BE TOO WARM FOR THEE? CAREST THOU FOR THINE JOB? WOULDST THOU LIKE THREE WISHES?”
Not likely! Should G-d choose to communicate with Plony He is going to have a task for Plony to perform. “PLONY, REMOVE THINESELF FROM THINE HOME AND THINE BROKERAGE FIRM AND GO TO TIMES SQUARE AND SAY UNTO THE PEOPLE FOR THEY HAVE SINNED.”
That’s more like it. But is Plony prepared to do G-d’s will? More to the point, are we? Plony now has no choice (unless he prefers being swallowed by a fish). As we said above, having witnessed the miracle, free will is gone. Plony cannot ignore the evidence of the burning bush (replace with any overt miracle of your choice.) nor can he ignore the direction he has been pointed in. He cannot shirk the responsibility thrust on him. In short, we are not ready to witness miracles.
And yet…. Think of a young boy born during the 40 years in the desert. The Jews approach Israel and the lad calls out to his mother, “Look, it’s a miracle. Food is growing from the ground.” For us Manna from heaven would be the miracle. So we see that there is a matter of perspective involved .
Virtually everyone can tell a story involving themselves, a family member or friend to whom some miracle happened. We express wonderment and then proceed with life as if nothing out of the ordinary occurred. We do not even appreciate the miracles we see on a regular basis simply because they are regular.
Consider the following. One can admit not knowing very much about art or not being a wine connoisseur. Yet there are those who fill those descriptions. In fact, one can take courses to learn how to know and appreciate fine art or fine wine. So too, a person has the ability to attune him or herself to appreciating miracles.
We are constantly bombarded by radio waves, television waves, X-rays, Gamma rays. Thousands of cell-phone conversations are passing right through your head as you read this. Yet you are totally unaware of any of this. How can this be? You simply lack the proper tools for detecting the waves. Given the right tools, these waves are instantly receivable and understandable. In the same manner, we may not have developed the ‘tools’ to ‘receive’ G-d.
One last thought. Might it not be that you are receiving but you are simply tuned to the wrong station? G-d is broadcasting! As He said to Adam, “Ayeka?” “Where are you?” G-d is calling out to us, “ARE YOU THERE? IS ANYBODY HOME? HEL-LO-O.”