Fundamentals of the Jewish Faith
Chapter Nine: Miracles (Part 1)
We’ve come to learn that reality has its limits, since there’ll come a
time when the entire center, outer rim, and each side of our world will be
otherwise. Quite logically then, Ramchal chose to explain here the Jewish
understanding of miracles, so as to clarify the difference between the
ordinary and the extraordinary.
To that end he begins this chapter with the statement that “things only
exist because G-d wants them to”. While that seems to be a rather simple
reiteration of the fact that G-d created everything, it’s actually quite a
bold idea. It also implies that nothing exists here and now without G-d’s
Now, among other things, that suggests that everything that exists must be
alright with G-d -- including wrongdoing. It also connotes that everything
meets with G-d’s approval moment by moment or else it wouldn’t continue to
exist, which signifies that G-d is behind everything -- as well as within
it, and surrounding it.
The whole subject is huge and chock-full of tremendous theological and
philosophical repercussions. Suffice it to say for our purposes that while
G-d can be said to “approve” of wrongdoing, that doesn’t mean that evil
and meanness is therefore OK. The point is that G-d has decided that there
are instances when wrongdoing is a “necessary evil”, as the expression
goes, in the grand scheme of things, in order to bring about the ultimate
and perfect good.
And while G-d does indeed stand behind, within, and around everything,
which seems to give the impression that He is all that is, that’s not so.
For if all there was, was G-d, then human free choice and individual
responsibility would be a sham, G-d forbid. Understand instead that while
G-d is indeed present everywhere, He also “steps to the side”, if you
will -- hides Himself, and works in the background -- so as to allow for
our presence here, too. But again, all of this is far afield from the
point at hand … albeit thorny and fascinating.
In any event, Ramchal’s next point is that the same is true of “all rules
(of nature) and all characteristics”. That’s to say that all measured and
perceived phenomena, as well as all the ways they act and interact, have
been instituted by G-d, and only continue by His constant assent. And just
as “He ordained these rules, He is likewise able to suspend or change them
at will, at any time” -- that is, nothing is set in stone unless G-
d “engraves” it, and everything is open for reconsideration at any time.
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason
Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various
locations on the Web.