The Miracle of Free Will
By Rabbi Elly Broch
"And from all that lives, of all flesh, two of each shall you bring
the ark to keep alive with you; they shall be male and female."
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
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
Kol HaKollel is a publication of The Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish Studies ∑ 5007 West Keefe Avenue ∑ Milwaukee, Wisconsin ∑ 414-447-7999