Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Beha'alotcha
To dedicate this lesson
Hirsch At Your Table

A Miraculous Non-Miracle

A brief Dvar Torah on the Parsha, based on R. Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Torah Commentary


Rabbi Matityahu Clark

ויאמר ד' אל משה היד ד' תקצר עתה תראה היקרך דברי אם לא. (Nm 11:23)
Moshe might well have assumed that the appointment of the seventy representatives would be the first step in solving the problem of providing meat for the entire Jewish population. As such it would also be assumed that no special act of God would be necessary to give them meat, since presumably he and his new assistants would handle the issue. Nevertheless, even with the promise of help in leading the nation, Moshe was still at a loss as to how he could feed the multitudes without some miracle. God answers him, saying that he will take care of the problem.

Would God provide food for the people through miracles or through natural means? This verse clearly suggests that God will solve the problem without resorting to miracles. The use of the phrase היקרך דברי/my instruction will happen, indicates that a natural solution will evolve and not a supernatural occurrence.

The word יקרך is from the root ק-ר-ה which means "to occur without prior intent". The root connotes a chance happening, absent any planning or scheduling. The Heh/הא that is found at the beginning of the word יקרך is הא השאלה, designating a question. The word דברי is from the root ד-ב-ר which means "to combine separate items" into coherent speech.

This explanation of a solution to the problem that will occur without resorting to miracles, however, seems to contradict an earlier phrase. These words, היד ד' תקצר/is God's hand too short to accomplish this task, strongly indicate that God will be openly involved in providing a solution to the demands for meat. God's open involvement implies miracles.

The word יד is from the root י-ד-ה which means "to cast." The hand is the instrument for doing and achieving. The word תקצר is from the root ק-צ-ר which means "to shorten" and make achievement impossible.

There is an in-between condition between the completely natural and the fully miraculous. The solution will not be supernatural. It will be a natural occurrence in the sense that normal and natural elements, i.e. immense flocks of birds sent by God to the desert, would be used to provide the meat. Nevertheless, it will be a God induced natural occurrence, one that can never be replicated by human effort. Immense flocks of birds covering the desert sky to satisfy the hunger of millions of people can surely be called miraculous, however natural the existence of those birds might be.

But the question remains as to the appointment of these seventy representatives at this time. If they were not to assist in providing a solution to the peoples' demand for meat, why does the Torah mention their appointment in the middle of the food crisis?

The appointment of the seventy elders in the midst of this food controversy constituted a lesson for the Jewish people for generations to come. Moshe could not find a solution to the food crisis by himself. He was commanded to convene this group of seventy. Even though the elders did not provide remedies, nor were they expected to, the gathering of the Sanhedrin had to precede God’s intervention in providing an unprecedented natural solution.

These elders would constitute the Sanhedrin, a body of scholars that would lead the people throughout their history, well after Moshe's death. They would beשליחי ד'/God‘s messengers, projecting His השגחה over the Jewish people. The lesson in this verse is that there will be times when circumstances are so bad that no one can conceive of realistic solutions to the problems facing the Jewish people. Nonetheless, a functioning Sanhedrim will be the key to solutions and survival. As long as the Sanhedrin will function properly in the spirit of Torah, God will continue to provide unusual albeit natural solutions to the problems of His people.

Copyright © 2014, Matityahu Clark. All Rights Reserved. This is an excerpt from the forthcoming Hirsch At Your Table, a collection of brief divrei torah based on R. Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Torah Commentary.
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