Monday, July 23, 2012

emphasizing the miraculous

The Rambam (and Ralbag and a few other Rishonim that we generally lump together in the "rationalist" camp) generally try to minimize the extent of the miraculous in the Torah.  It is surprising therefore that the Rambam of all people explains that the reason the Torah lists the places Bnei Yisrael traveled in the midbar at the beginning of Parshas Masei is in order to demonstrate that Bnei Yisrael did not stick close to centers of civilization and oases, but rather wandered deep into the desert (as we see from the names of their rest stops) where they had no access to provisions other than the mon and water from the well of Miriam. This explanation (as opposed to some of the others) heightens the nature of our miraculous survival in the midbar.


  1. I haven't learned enough Rambam to know, but is it possible that he tries to minimize *open* miracles but leaves hidden miracles as they are? THis seems to be a hidden miracle.

  2. chaim b.8:12 PM

    Wouldn't such an approach be cutting off your nose to spite your face?

  3. Anonymous2:01 PM

    or was this the most rational of miracles? for His people to avoid
    repeated confrontation & temptation at various centers of civilization,
    & that they skirt disputes at the precious few oases, Hashem would 'logically' need to provide them with exceptional food & water...

    meanwhile, the pedagogical reason fro the mon-- by that which proceeds from the mouth of Hashem does man live (Devarim 8:3) --will be ongoingly revealed BY (as well as to) Bnei Yisrael after the conquest of the land:
    Levites of 42* cities (=42 stations b'midbar) will receive sustenance by order of (from the mouth of) Hashem, with ma'aser rishon as the new mon, min ha'aretz...

    * plus 6 more, corresponding to the sheishes yamim of Shemos 16:26

  4. I can see it from a different point of view. Reading the Midrash one really does get a "Lord of the Rings" flavour (as Rav Slifkin once wrote). You have giant frogs multiplying as they're struck, Bilaam and Pinchas waging an aerial battle, etc. For some it's very much over the top. The rationalists aren't trying to minimize the idea of miracles but prevent them from becoming banal.

  5. Anonymous1:55 PM

    where does Rambam say this?

  6. chaim b.6:39 PM

    >>>where does Rambam say this?

    Look at the first Ramban on the parsha - he quotes the Rambam. Ralbag says the same. See Abarbanel for an alternate view.

    >>>The rationalists aren't trying to minimize the idea of miracles

    By minimize I mean that they opt for natural as opposed to supernatural causes/explanations of events given a choice between the two.