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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Beshalach

The Miracles In Our Midst

Rabbi Stewart WeissShvat 11 5776
165
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When weighing the advisability of declaring the State, David Ben-Gurion sought the opinion of several foreign military experts. Their gloomy conclusion: "It will take a miracle for Israel to win this war!" Ben-Gurion smiled back at them, "That should present no problem; we are a people of miracles!"

True enough. But what is the greatest miracle of all? Certainly, a prime contender for that title would be Kriat Yam Suf, the Splitting of the Sea described in our sedra. Not only did it have spectacular "special effects" – thunder, lightning, a tepestuous east wind – but it produced amazing results: the liberation of Am Yisrael, & the destruction of Egypt’s army.

But something here mystifies me: I understand why it took a miracle to make the water rise into walls on either side of Bnei Yisrael; that defies gravity & so goes starkly against nature. But why did it take a special Divine command & Moshe’s out-stretched arm to return the sea to its former state? That should have been an easy, natural, automatic act, for water always seeks its own level.

In fact, if one looks carefully at the p’sukim dealing with the "rise and fall" of the water, it takes just one verse (14:21) to actually split the sea, but TWO verses (14:27-28) to bring the sea back to "normal!" Why??

I suggest that the Torah is telling us - & Hashem was specifically teaching Bnei Yisrael – that there is no such thing as "normal" in the universe. Whatever events occur in life – despite their seeming adherence to science, despite their consistent regularity – cannot be taken for granted. Do not assume for a moment that just because the sun rose yesterday it will rise again today; do not assume that gravity always "works;" and do not assume that a slave people, weak & dispirited, are incapable of over-throwing the most powerful regime in
the land, & rising to become history’s preeminent nation.

Rav Dessler, in his classic treatise Michtav M’Eliyahu, makes the case that it is the Mahn, & not Kriat Yam Suf, that wins 1st prize in the miracle sweepstakes. Not only because it embodied numerous "mini-miracles" within it – tasting like virtually any food at all, dropping right at one’s doorstep, etc. – but because it fed an entire people for 40 full years. He compares it to fruit – which literally grows on trees! –
which he calls the "modern-day miracle of Mahn."

This Sunday night-Monday is Tu B’Shvat. That’s the perfect time to acknowledge all the great miracles that surround us each day. By appreciating the gifts which Hashem sends our way on a regular basis, we can perhaps discern what may be G-d’s greatest miracle of
all: The return of the People of Israel to the Land of Israel forever.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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