Thursday, June 28, 2012

any rock will do

I'm very short of time and want to get this in before Shabbos, so apologies in advance for not doing justice to the topic.  In the second hakdamah to Gevuros Hashem the Maharal attacks the wrong ideology of certain philosophers (I assume it's Aristotle that he has in mind) who dismiss the whole notion of miracles as impossible. These philosophers reasoned that the laws of nature are a necessary condition of the existance of the universe, e.g. the universe as we know it would not exist if certain laws of chemistry or certain physical constants were not in place.  G-d cannot break these laws without the entire universe coming to a halt.

Maharal responds by arguing that, "Just as there is an order to nature, so too there is an order to the miraculous." (The Sefas Emes on Pesach quotes this line a number of times.) Miracles do not twist or break the laws of the universe because miracles themselves are built into the fabric of nature. In addition to the law of gravity, Planck's constant, etc, there are other laws like the fact that a Yam can split when the existance of the Jewish people is in jeapordy.  Maharal goes on to say that miracles are few and far between because the "law," or seder, of miracles demands that certain very specific conditions be in place for them to occur.  The time and place must be exactly right to be ripe for a miracle.
I could not help but think of this Maharal when looking at the episode of Mei Meriva in our parsha.  Hashem told Moshe to take his staff and bring water from a rock.  Rashi writes that Moshe began looking around for the specific rock which he identified as the one Hashem intended him to use, but that rock had become mixed in with other boulders.  Bnei Yisrael did not know what was going on -- if Hashem is going to do a miracle, they asked, what difference does it make which rock the water comes from.  Moshe responded, "Hamin ha'selah ha'zeh..." -- "Can this rock produce water?" (20:10)  Even when it comes to miracles, not all rocks are the same!
In other words, Moshe's response was that there is a seder and order to miracles as well.  It's not that Hashem haphazardly breaks the laws of nature, but rather that built into certain times, places, objects, is the ability to do wonderous things under the right conditions.  Therefore, you need exactly the right rock.
But it's apparently not so simple, because there is a beautiful torah of the Ishbitzer that teaches us the maskana.  He writes that Hashem's denying Moshe the right to enter Eretz Yisrael was not really a punishment, but was a midah k'neged midah that fit the crime.  Based on how history should unfold, based on the the "seder" of how events should happen, it could only be Yehoshua who could lead Klal Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael.  So how could Moshe even have a hava amina to ask Hashem that he should take the people into the land?  Because, says the Ishbitzer, Moshe Rabeinu said to Hashem once you are making miracles, once you are doing wonderous things beyond the seder of nature so that Klal Yisrael can conquer the land, does it really have to only be Yehoshua?  Once you throw seder out the window and are doing miracles, can't you let me, Moshe, lead the people even if that too is beyond the normal seder of what should be?
"Dear Moshe Rabeinu," says Hashem, "Hamin ha'sela ha'zeh?"  Remember how you responded to my people when they said asked you why you needed a specific rock -- once you throw seder out the window and rely on miracles, can't Hashem just do anything with any rock?  How those words come back to haunt!
Sure, there are laws that govern nature.  There are even laws and a seder to miracles.  But it's not these laws themselves which are obstacles -- it's the belief that there is nothing higher than those laws that boxes a person in.  You can spend a lifetime searching for just the right rock, the right yeshiva, the right neighborhood, the right shul, thinking only that rock and that rock only will bring mayim chaim into your life.  If that's really what you think, than Hashem will respond accordingly and you won't find bracha till you somehow find that rock.  But once you believe water can come from a rock, once you believe that the life of a Jew is a wonderous miracle anyway, why not believe that it's not the rock that matters, but it's the belief in the One who provides the water?  Then, anything is possible.


  1. Anonymous12:01 AM

    >>> any rock will do

    that's promising news for anyone who's boxed in
    (or bagged up) by childish pagan practices--"I_got_a_rock"
    (then click on image!)

  2. Yasher koach. I used this at the kiddush, and segued into the story that Reb Yakov stopped davenning for his rebbetzin when it became clear that bederech hateva there was no chance of survival.