Miracles in Our Day and Age

Rabbi Aron Moss contributes regular Q&A commentaries to Gather the Jews.  Rabbi Moss is the proprietor of Nefesh and can be reached at rabbimoss@nefesh.com.au.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rabbi Moss.

Question of the Week:

Why don’t we see miracles today like the Jews saw in the stories of Chanuka and Passover? And don’t tell me that every day is a miracle, childbirth is a miracle, the sunrise is a miracle, blah blah blah. I am talking about splitting seas, dead people coming alive, voices from heaven type of miracles. The really supernatural stuff. What happened to that? Why did the people of biblical times get all the special effects and we don’t? Has G-d retired?

Answer:

Have you ever wished you were a child again? Don’t kids have it made? Their parents do everything for them. The child is hungry and amazingly food appears in front of them. They hurt themselves and the parent is immediately there to kiss them better. They are lovingly put to sleep at night, and taken out of bed in the morning. It is a comforting and secure existence. But it doesn’t last for long.

As the child develops and grows, the parents gradually withdraw. Babies becomes toddlers, they can walk on their own two feet, feed themselves, and look after some of their own needs. Eventually they will grow to be young children, and can even go out of the house for the day, without their parents, and go to school. Then they become teenagers, when they assert their independence even more. Teenagers often brush off their parents’ advice, because they have to find their own way, and they think that they know best. As difficult as it is, the parents have to accept this as a part of their child’s maturation process, and to some extent allow the teenager to make some silly mistakes. Otherwise they will never grow up.

The parents have to let go, because only then can the child finally grow up, and become an adult. Then, as a developed and mature adult, they can relate to their parents with respect and understanding. They don’t need their parents to clothe and feed them anymore, they can do that themselves. But they can enjoy a relationship that is even deeper and more real, because now, as an adult, they have grown to appreciate what their parents have done for them. That they are the person that they are due to the love and attention that their parents devoted to them.

Humanity has taken a similar course. In the early days, G-d was like a loving parent, very apparent and obviously looking after us. He spoke to people to give them directions, He intervened by doing miracles to save His children from harm. The wicked were punished immediately, and the righteous rewarded. That was the era of humanity’s infancy. We had yet to develop the spiritual tools to relate to G-d in any subtle or sublime way, so He spoon-fed us with open miracles.

As humanity developed spiritually, so G-d withdrew His open manifestations in our lives. As a parent allows their child more and more freedom, so G-d removed His open interference in world affairs. But of course, while the parent may not interfere, they never really withdraw their love and attention. They oversee every move their growing child makes, and quietly influence their child’s life direction, albeit from the sidelines. Similarly, as time has moved on, G-d is just as present as before, pulling the strings of history and human destiny this way and that, but not in such an obvious and obtrusive way as through a miracle. He hides behind the coincidences and daily occurrences that seem on the surface to be quite normal. But on reflection, they are not. The hand of G-d is clearly there.

Over the last couple of centuries, humanity went through an adolescent rebellion. We threw off the yoke of our Heavenly Parent and sought independence. Belief in G-d was seen as a childish crutch and an immature myth. But our generation, having learned from the adolescent mistakes of modern history, is starting to mature. We are realising that our Divine Parent’s values are not so bad after all. And we as a generation are seeking to reconnect with G-d and true spirituality, not as children who need miracles to convince us, but as spiritual adults, who can discern the magic behind the everyday, and the Divine within the mundane. We are finally coming of age.

Perhaps this new thirst for G-d is the greatest miracle of all.

Regards,

Rabbi Moss

3 replies
  1. D
    D says:

    Shalom Rabbi Moss, I appreciate your response to the very difficult question posed. With all due respect, though, I don’t believe that people like Gilad Shalit and Ron Arad should have to grope to discern “the magic behind the everyday” as you stated.

    When a child is really down on their luck or actually in serious danger (as no doubt Gilad and Ron have been for far too many years), the parent will stop at nothing to help in every single way possible. Clearly the Shalits and Arads have been steadfastly doing their parts as Gilad and Ron’s physical parents… what has Hashem done at all for these very deserving prisoners as their “spiritual” parent? I can’t think of a single thing.

    Just because we’ve ‘matured’ since the Biblical era doesn’t mean Hashem can’t throw the most deserving an “open miracle” bone once in a while.

    Reply
  2. Stephen Richer
    Stephen Richer says:

    Good question. Fun piece.

    But two concerns if I may.

    I probably will never procreate, but on the off chance that I do, I always thought I would have a laissez-faire approach — let my child makes his mistakes… “The burned hand is the best teacher.”

    But as Rabbi Teitelbaum pointed out in one of his Monday night lectures, you’d never really do this at the extremes. Would I let my child casually experiment with meth? Or, far worse, would I let my child casually experiment with drunk driving? No, this would push my limits. And if I were anything of a decent parent, I would intervene.

    Similarly our spiritual descent. If our spiritual descent (and yes, fewer and fewer people are believing in God) is so bad that it could ruin our lives, why doesn’t God intervene? There are three ready options (and many more I would imagine): 1) Our spiritual descent isn’t really that bad… nowhere near as bad as drunk driving. 2) God doesn’t care too much if we flirt with danger. 3) God dropped the kids off at an orphanage long ago.

    Also, I think the timeline of the analogy should be reversed. We’re not getting religiously older as a race — we’re getting younger. It was the people who were in the desert with Moses who were at the point of revelation/wisdom. They’re not the ones that needed the miracles. We’re the ones that need the miracles because quite frankly, 3000 BCE doesn’t quite cut it for historical certainty, and more and more of us view God’s presentation of the Torah with skepticism. The further we move out from this point, the more we’ll need miracles. At the rate we’re going, there will never be a maturation period where we suddenly exit our irresponsible teen years as Rabbi Moss suggests.

    I also second everything “D” said.

    Reply
  3. Zeev Gotkin
    Zeev Gotkin says:

    Read about this topic just last week! Rabbi Menachem Posner in “Think Jewish” explains that ‘open’ miracles are only performed if they will have a positive effect on those who witness it. The Torah was given before the scientific revolution. Our ancient anscestors were easily able to tap into a spirit of awe or reverence when looking at the natural world. Today (if any of us even get to experience much nature) we relate to nature in one of 2 ways a) seeing it as a product of natural cause and effect or b) utilizing it for our own personal needs. We wouldn’t be filled with belief in G-d upon witnessing things like hail in the desert or a sea splitting. We’d attribute it to some very odd natural phenomena and go about our business. If G-d directly spoke to us, many of us would probably think we were going crazy unless of course the revelation was exceedingly clear. But then that would defeat the purpose of why we were created in the first place – to come recognize and acknowledge G-d and to serve Him out of our own free-will. The state of open miracles was never meant to last. It’s our own time where such things are so rare that we merit to truly live up to the purpose of Creation.

    The Rambam (Maimonides) says that Jewish belief is not dependent upon miracles. We see the reason for this illustrated clearly in the Torah. The generation in the desert witnessed countless miracles, but nonetheless they still sometimes erred and doubted (and even rebelled against) G-d. In fact, the Torah says that if a person comes and claims prophecy and tries to alter the Torah you should not believe him even if he performs open miracles. This was one of the reasons most Jews rejected the claim of prophecy and Messiah-hood of Jesus. Miracles may be impressive, but it’s not what Judaism rests upon.

    We do not need open miracles anymore (until the Moshiach comes, may it be soon). You want to understand the mind of Hashem? Crack open a Chumash, Talmud, Shulchan Aruch, or maamer Chassidus. There’s much to learn! The more we learn, the more we can be sensitive to G-d’s hand in our lives and world. The Baal Shem Tov said that witnessing hashgacha pratis (divine providence) is the main way we connect to Hashem in our own time. Btw tzadikim (exceedingly righteous people) are privy to some open miracles, but that’s another story.

    I truly believe that despite all the negative attitudes being expressed about religion and the increasing secularism around the world, this is the “generation of those who seek Him” (Psalms 24:6). There is a growing thirst for spirtuality today in the Western world and an increasing numbers of returnees to traditional Judaism. I count myself proudly in their number. May we all merit to greet King Moshiach now on the Temple mount.

    Reply

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