Rabbi Moshe Pinchuk
Former Rosh Kollel (Melbourne, 1998-2001)
Currently Head of the Beit Midrash in Netanya College
Judaism has identified and defined two distinct modes of Divine intervention in worldly life: An evident miracle – God reveals himself as sole creator and owner of nature and it’s laws. He invades the world in a fury of action, breaking barriers, nullifying existing laws of nature, replacing them with new ones. The splitting of the Red Sea is an example par excellence of such an intervention.
At other times divine intervention occurs in a more subtle way, on the surface the chain of events seem natural and inevitable, one incident causes the next. But behind the curtains, the faint silhouette of G-D’s hand can be seen, tugging on the strings of the events. Megillat Estheris a vivid account of one such hidden miracle.
The Ramban (Ex. 6, 3) associates twodistinct names with these modes – The divine name of Havaya refers tomiraculous intervention:”But I have not revealed to them (theforefathers) my name of Yod – Heh with which all has come into existence,through which new is created whilst changing the old, therefore go teach themmy great name for with it I will do awesome things”. The divine name of Shaddai applies to hidden intervention:”G-D has revealed himself to theforefathers only with this name (Shaddai) when he uses the laws of nature tobring about the desired outcome without changing the order of nature…for theyare all miracles but are veiled with the cloak of nature”. Nature itself is miracles in disguise!
How do these two types of miracles measure up one to the other? To the speculative Agnostic the evident miracle is more impressive and persuasive than the hidden miracle. To be sure, a hidden miracle can be ignored and attributed to the hand of chance. But in the presence of an evident miracle, when the sea is torn apart, when fire and brimstone pour down from heaven, even a firm atheist must bow his head in acknowledgment of divine presence! But to a devout believer a hidden miracle is greater than an outright violation of the laws of nature! God has created the world and its laws it is no wonder that he can change them at his will. What is more impressive, is that nature and its laws have been created in such a way that they need not be changed or violated when the need arises. Rather, nature itself is synchronized in advance to achieve the desired results when they are needed.
The Hungarian “Rubik Cube” is a perfect illustration of these different miracles: Twenty-seven small cubes make up a larger cube, each face is of a different color. The faces of the cube can be rotated in every direction, the aim is to restore color-order and have each face of a solid color. This objective can be achieved in one of two ways: By adroitly and skillfully rotating the faces the small cubes can be properly positioned thus restoring order. This is the hidden miracle, the laws of rotation of the cube are applied in order to achieve the desired result. Alternatively, one can dismantle the cube into twenty-seven small cubes and then rebuild the cube in the proper order. This is the evident miracle, the internal laws of the system are violated, the cube is dismantled and then reconstructed. A person capable of reorganizing the cube colors the first way impresses everybody; nobody is impressed the second way!
Throughout history there have been those who have endeavored to demonstrate that the miracles recorded in Torah are natural phenomenon occurring at the right time at the right place. Simple physical oceanographic processes explain the splitting of the Red Sea. Velikovsky’s, “Worlds in collision” explains the entire exodus in astronomic terms. Paradoxically, these works serve only to enhance and strengthen the believer’s belief. They demonstrate that evident miracles are natural processes, hidden miracles. G-D’s grand design is more perfect than we thought – not a single natural law had to be violated or changed during the entire Exodus – everything was meticulously planned for in advance – natural, physical, astronomical and geological processes were set in motion to occur precisely where and when they were needed. G-D’s Rubik cube has been solved the first way!
Rabbi Joseph Karo posed a simple riddle concerning Chanukah: We light candles for eight days to commemorate the miracle that oil sufficient for one day lasted for eight. But since the oil would have naturally lasted for one day in any event the miracle was in fact only for seven days, hence Chanukah should last for seven days not eight?
I would like to suggest a simple answer – the fact that the oil would have naturally lasted for one day is also a miracle, a hidden miracle. To take a single event of candles burning for eight days and slice it with a razor sharp knife by claiming that the first day was merely nature without any divine involvement and only the last seven days have divine intervention as suggested by the riddle, almost borders on sacrilege! On Chanukah we celebrate the union and continuity of the hidden and the evident miracles – for eight days!