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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 24, 2005 / 13 Adar II, 5765

Of Miracles and Nature

By Rabbi Elkanah Schwartz

Some answers focusing on the Purim miracle and other ‘natural events’


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Fundamental to Jewish belief is recognition of Divine control of the universe.


There are no accidents. Everything — literally everything — is so because the Almighty makes it so. The concept of hashgachah peratis (specific supervision) refers to the control of the Divine Being over everything that is and everything that occurs. In fact, this belief is the first of Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Faith: "I firmly believe that the Creator, Blessed is His name, is the Creator and Ruler of all created beings, and that He alone has made, does make, and ever will make all things."


Divine control, however, functions in two patterns, teva, nature, and neis, — miracle.



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"Nature" means that the Almighty moves everything within an identifiable and predictable order; we describe as "natural" those events that occur by Divine control within this order. "Miracle" means "unnatural" — something which, while occurring through Divine control, does not fall within any identifiable or predictable order. Miracles, too, function in two patterns: in one, the neis niglah, Divine control is revealed, and the miracle is recognized as such; in the other, the neis nistar, Divine control is hidden, and the miracle is made to appear as a natural occurrence.


The miracle of Chanukah was through the first pattern; the miracle of Purim, through the second. While the miracle of Chanukah was obvious — a one-day supply of oil burned for eight days — the miracle of Purim was not. The entire Book of Esther reveals nothing miraculous: a pleasant story, of almost fairy-tale outline, telling of a wicked man's downfall, and the triumph of the hero and heroine.


The Rabbis of the Talmud discuss this, reporting that the Book of Esther, which does not mention even once the name of the Almighty, is a case of a miracle camouflaged to appear as a natural occurrence.

NATURE OF HIDDENNESS


One might wonder whether any natural-appearing event is really a camouflaged miracle. If so, is one required to make a holiday for every joyful event, since one cannot always know whether, like Purim, it is a miracle in disguise?


Perhaps so — were it not for our Rabbis who revealed the miraculous nature of the Purim events, thereby teaching faith in the Almighty, to recognize that He is truly directing the circumstances surrounding individual and collective lives along patterns destined for their benefit, though one may not at the time be aware of it — just as Mordechai, Esther, and the other Jews of the time were initially not aware of the miraculous nature of the "natural-appearing'' events of their time. Now that Purim has been identified as a miracle, it is to be treated as such. Many a disguised miracle may be taking place at any time, but we do not treat them as such since they have not been identified.


The unique standing of Purim as a hidden miracle later revealed, is identified in the Talmud (Chullin 139b): "Where is Esther indicated in the Torah? In the verse, For I will surely hide (astir) my face (Deut 31:18)."


Rather than merely developing a play on words (Esther/astir) the Rabbis of the Talmud were teaching "Where is it indicated in the Torah that there can be a miracle in disguise? — in the verse wherein the Almighty tells Moses that He will always guide the Jews through all the tribulations that may befall them except that His hand may not be revealed in the process; that He will never forsake His children, though they may not always be conscious of His presence; that 'Hester Panim,' literally 'Hidden Face,' is also a process of Divine Guidance."


In fact, Sforno comments on that verse: "Wherever the Jews may be, My Divine Presence will be hidden within them." Truly, how can the continued existence of the Jewish people throughout these milliennia of galus (exile) and persecution be explained, other than to recognize the Divine Presence within Jewry, even if it be hidden from them?

UNIVERSAL SIGNIFICANCE


As is well known the miracle of Purim took place outside the Holy Land, in contrast to the miracle of Chanukah, which occurred in Jerusalem. Purim is the reassurance to the Jewish People that they will never succumb, even amid the worst offensives by the nations of the world — on their own terrain.


And while Purim was not the only time that the Almighty helped His children through difficulties by natural-appearing methods, Purim is the only such event whose identity was revealed to give Jews an annual reassurance of the Divine Presence behind the Hester Panim (the "Hidden Face").


That is why the Purim celebration goes beyond celebrating the miracle of Mordechai and Esther, just as Mordechai and Esther willed to the Jewish People that it go beyond that. It must enter the realm of year-round service to the Almighty, to seek greater grasp and deeper understanding of faith in the Almighty.


Purim occurs exactly one month before Passover . The miracles of Passover are recounted for us: in the Torah, in the Haggadah, and every day in our prayers when we speak of remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt. The miracles of Passover occurred not only before the eyes of the Jews but before the eyes of all the world, who recognized the miracles as such: "The peoples have heard, they tremble: pangs have taken hold on the inhabitants of Philistia. Then were the chiefs of Edom frightened; the Mighty men of Moab, trembling takes hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan are melted away. Terror and dread falls upon them; by the greatness of Your arm they are as still as a stone" (Exodus 15:14-16). The miracle of Purim might have slipped by as another of many events where good triumphed over evil, had not the secret been revealed. The reason — to remind us of that important aspect of our faith: the "Hidden Face" of the Almighty, which functions not only on Purim, but eternally.

UNIQUE, YET ORDINARY


Small wonder, then, that the fulfillment of Purim is through acts which appear ordinary, but when understood within the above context become extraordinary. Consider, first, the reading of the Book of Esther:


Every Sabbath and Yom Tov morning, and every fast day following the reading of the Torah at the afternoon Minchah prayers, a selection from the Prophets is read with blessings. Every Tishah B'Av evening, the entire Book of Lammentations is read without the preface of a blessing. Thus, the essential practice of reading Scripture publicly is not unique to Purim, but Purim is the only time one must both read Scripture (other than the Pentateuch) from a parchment scroll and recite blessings over the reading.


Then, comes a second mitzvah (religious duty) of Purim, mishlo'ach manos, sending food packages to a friend; and a third mitzvah, matanos la'evyonim, gifts to the poor; and a fourth mitzvah, seudas Purim, the festive meal. None of these is unique as are blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, handling the lulav and esrog on Succos, or eating marror (bitter herbs) and charoses (the food used to signify the mortar) on Passover. There are other times during the year when we read from the Scriptures; when we send gifts to friends and to the poor; and when we enjoy a hearty meal.


But then, if Purim is a celebration of a miracle disguised as a natural event, then the fulfillment of Purim should also appear as something natural, although in reality it is not. One must be aware, while listening to the reading of the Book of Esther, sending food packages to friends, giving gifts to the poor, or enjoying a festive meal, that all may appear "natural" — but in reality are not. Instead, one must be mindful of loftier meanings. It is simpler to be reminded of faith when doing something exotic; it is more difficult to be so reminded when we are doing something ordinary. But then, once reminded, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.


In a very special way then, Purim is an annual reminder of the very special way the Almighty takes care of His children: He is always there, even when they do not realize it.

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Rabbi Elkanah Schwartz is the spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Israel in Brooklyn, N.Y. Comment by clicking here.

© 2005, Agudath Israel of America