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Jewish Thinking

Do Miracles Still Happen Nowadays?

Published on Sunday January 10th, 2021

What is the exact definition of a miracle? Where is the invisible dividing line that distinguishes a miracle from a normal occurrence?

Rabbi Mordechai Neugroschel, one of the most prominent Jewish thought educators of our time, was interviewed during the festival of Chanukah regarding the essence of historical miracles and the nature of miracles transpiring in our day.

Here are his formidable answers to our questions:

What Is a Miracle in the Real Sense of the Term?

There are in fact three types of miracles: miracles camouflaged in nature, miracles that defy the laws of physics as we know them and miracles that depart from the existing order.

What Does This Mean?

A miracle embedded in nature does not challenge nature’s normal course. Let’s quote as an example the chain of events leading to the rescue of the Jewish People at the time of Mordechai and Esther.

In this chain of events, each separate episode seems perfectly natural and mundane. But when all the pieces of the puzzle come together, we realize that each incident (each piece of the puzzle) was intent in contributing to the rescue of the Jewish People and the eradication of its enemies. This type of miracle can only be observed coherently in a historical perspective. The latter may take years or decades as in the case of Yosef’s sale. Other miracles will only become evident and rationally coherent after hundreds of years.

The second type of miracle manifests itself in an alteration of the physical laws of nature. One example is the Nile’s waters turning into blood, the millions of frogs emerging from the Nile and the parting of the Red Sea. These miracles are set in motion by prophetic foreboding to reveal the truth to the world and save the Jewish People, proving once again that these People is singled out among the nations.

The third type of miracle is characterized by a total annulment of the laws of physics.

Let’s consider, for example, the supernatural survival of the Hebrews during their forty-year journey in an arid desert, surrounded by the clouds of glory and drinking water gushing from the rock. All these miracles which secured their survival in the midst of the desert can only happen when the Jewish People reach a level of exceptional closeness to Hashem.

Why doesn’t the Almighty perform miracles in our day? Miracles could certainly bring many people closer to His Torah?

Isn’t nature more impressive than exceptional miracles? Ask a simple question: who is greater? One who applies effort to create a masterpiece once in a lifetime or one who creates a masterpiece every minute of the day?

That being said, most people will refuse to reflect or draw conclusions on what they see. They will find a pretext to avoid this type of question. These individuals will only marvel when something “extraordinary” happens. But soon, the novelty will wear off and the old bad habits will resume.

One must bear in mind that the world operates on fixed natural laws that conceal the imminent presence of God. Therefore, natural laws are very seldom annulled, except in exceptional cases.

Miracles are a double-edged sword: on the one hand, they strengthen faith in God and in His service, but on the other, they can be dangerous. When people are not considered with merit despite the miracle they experienced, they make themselves further exposed to divine wrath and justice.  

Therefore, each time the Jewish People act against the will of God, the Divine Presence further conceals itself to attenuate the accusation against the Jewish People.

Despite the Above, Miracles Have Happened, Haven’t They?

During the Exodus from Egypt, when the Jewish People were beginning to reinforce their faith in God, prophets enjoyed miracles confirming their revelations. Likewise, some highly spiritual individuals, such as Chanina ben Dossa, who didn’t need to be spared by God’s effacement and concealment behind the laws of nature, witnessed open miracles.

The miracle of the oil flask during Chanukah is singled out because it transpired at a moment in time where supernatural miracles had ceased to occur. It is thus considered as the last supernatural miracle. Ever since, many miracles have occurred behind the concealment of the laws of nature, in favour of individuals and to the benefit of groups of people.

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