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Parshas Noach

The Miracle of Free Will

By Rabbi Elly Broch

"And from all that lives, of all flesh, two of each shall you bring into the ark to keep alive with you; they shall be male and female." (Beraishis/Genesis 6:19)

G-d decided to inundate the earth with a flood due to the corruption of humanity and the animal kingdom. Noah, due to his righteousness, was commanded to build a gigantic craft in which he, his family, and an uncorrupted selection of every type of creature could escape the cataclysmic event.

Ramban (1) explains that although the ark was an extremely big structure, it was only through a miracle that the craft could have contained all the variety of life, plus enough food for an entire year. Why, then, was it necessary for Noah to build such an immense craft? Could G-d have not performed the same miracle with a smaller, less cumbersome ark? Ramban suggests that, beside the fact that only a boat of such magnitude would cause a stir among mankind that a catastrophic event was indeed on the way, this is the way of the miracles described in the Torah and Prophets. Individuals must attempt to perform all that is humanly possible before the creator will supplement it with the miraculous.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller (2) explains that where miracles are deemed necessary, G-d chooses to minimize them. The main purpose of our existence is to utilize our free will to the greatest extent possible. Life is about making decisions, especially in the realm of morality and spirituality, and it is these decisions that promote a relationship between us and our Creator, a connectedness that is our ultimate reward for serving Him. If miracles commonly occurred that could only be attributed to the Divine, mankind would be robbed of their freewill and the reward that it yields. We understand the notion that proportionate to the exertion and effort expended to achieve an objective is the value of that achievement. This is also the case in the spiritual world: the more effort invested in gaining an awareness of the Creator the greater the intensity of the relationship. Thus, even miraculous events contain natural aspects and can be rationalized and attributed to natural causes, serving as a challenge to us, facilitating our growth.

If we look around us we are confronted with these types of mundane miracles every day. Why should we consider it any less miraculous when food grows from the ground than if it descends from the sky? The number of precise processes and steps are astounding and all point to miraculous plan and purpose. We are now experiencing the seasonal transition to autumn, commonly known as "fall" because the leaves fall from the trees. This phenomenon is extremely important because the leaves that fall decay into the ground and provide essential nutrients which the earth lost during the summer months of production. Also, it becomes cooler with less direct sunlight as we advance into winter, which stops the earth from producing crops and vegetation allowing rest and replenishment for the earth. If this did not occur the earth would turn into a barren desert due to overproduction and lack of nutrients. The plan and purpose are evident.

In order to maintain our free will, the miracles of life are seemingly mundane, automatic and perpetual. Our challenge is to think objectively and to investigate the world around us to the best of our abilities through the Torah's lens, thereby uncovering the Divine in all aspects of life.

Have a Good Shabbos!

(1) acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, Nachmanides; 1194-1270; native of Gerona, Spain, he was one the leading scholars of the Middle Ages and successfully defended Judaism at the famed debate in Barcelona in 1263

(2) 1908-2001; a prolific author and popular speaker who specialized in mussar (introspective Jewish self-improvement) and Jewish history, Rabbi Miller commanded a worldwide following through his books and tapes: of the tens of thousands of Torah lectures he delivered, more than 2,000 were preserved on cassettes


Text Copyright 2004 by Rabbi Elly Broch and Torah.org.

Kol HaKollel is a publication of The Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish Studies 5007 West Keefe Avenue Milwaukee, Wisconsin 414-447-7999


 


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