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Beit Midrash Jewish Laws and Thoughts Foundations of Faith

16. God's Hand in Nature

God is like an artist who utilizes various paints to create his work of art. One cannot attribute the profound idea and the beauty of the painting to the paints themselves! Insofar as these matters are concerned, credit must be given to the painter.
Dedicated to the memory of
Hana Bat Haim
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Recognition of God’s greatness can lead to questions: Why should the exalted and transcendent God, the infinite and unbounded Creator of all - why should this King of the Universe possibly concern Himself with the actions and observance of man? True, man is a creature of astounding complexity, yet even the smallest of the insects evidences amazing wisdom. What is it that makes man so special? This question was put to the Rabbi by the King of the Khazars.
Foundations of Faith (50)
Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
-23 - 15. Perceiving God
-22 - 16. God's Hand in Nature
-21 - 17. According to Divine Guidance
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The Rabbi answered, "To whom do you attribute the wisdom evidenced by an ant? Who is responsible for the ant's intricacy?"
"Nature," responded the king.
"And what is nature?" inquired the Rabbi, "Does it create? Does it possess wisdom? Where does nature come from? Who is it that creates all of the wonderful elements of nature which are so full of wisdom? You must admit that it is the Almighty Who created the magnificent world of nature, so full of Divine wisdom."

It is true that the Almighty created the world in such a manner that it operates according to fixed laws, "He made a law which shall not be broken" (Psalms 148:6), "Day and night, summer and winter, they will not cease" (Genesis 8:22). The sun, for example, at once provides heat and illuminates. There is nothing wrong with referring to these unchanging laws as "laws of nature," but the wisdom of creation can only be attributed to the Almighty Himself. God is the "Wise Man" behind every creature in nature, and He is responsible for each creature's unique traits.

At the outset, God created the world in such a way that it operate according to a fixed order, fixed laws which we refer to as the "laws of nature." However, the wisdom evidenced by these laws' complex interaction must be attributed to the all-wise Creator alone. The wisdom that is revealed through the many wonders of nature is God's.

The sages illustrate this idea in a most wonderful anecdote:
A certain matron asked Rabbi Yose bar Chalafta, "In how many days did God create the world."
"Six," her replied. "As it is written, 'For in six days did God do this.'"
"And what has He been doing since then?" she queried the rabbi.
"He has been arranging matches," Rabbi Yose rejoined.
To this the matron responded, "Even I can do that! I have scores of slaves and maidservants and I can arrange matches between them in no time."

The matron took a thousand of her male servants and a thousand of her maidservants and she lined them up. Then she began to announce, "So-and-so shall wed so-and-so...and so-and-so shall wed so-and-so..." In this manner she succeeded in arranging a thousand marriages in one night. On the following morning, the servants came to her, some with a black eyes, others with fractured skulls, still others with broken legs. Male servants were shouting, "I don't want her!" and maidservants were shouting, "I don't want him!" The matron sent for Rabbi Yose. She told him, "I now can testify that your God is the true God, and His Torah is true, for everything that you said to me was sound."

We find, then, that God created the world in six days, and since then He has been "arranging" his creation, interweaving and correlating between the array of forces at work in the world. He is like an artist who utilizes various paints to create his work of art. Clearly, one cannot attribute the profound idea and the beauty of the painting to the paints themselves! Insofar as these matters are concerned, credit must be given to the painter. Likewise, the abundant wisdom and many wonders of creation are not to be attributed to nature's ingredients; they must be attributed to the Almighty Himself Who oversees and arranges them.

Having clarified the nature of God's relation to His creation, we can begin to understand how the actions of man, when carried out according to Divine guidance, can themselves take on a Divine character.

Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh Yeshiva of the Bet El Yeshiva, was the head of the Yesha rabbis board and rabbi of Bet-El, founder and head of Arutz 7.
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