Parasha Bo


Parasha Bo

In Parasha Bo, the Torah describes the last three of the ten plagues brought upon the Egyptians. The plague of locusts – multitudes of locusts invading Egypt, covering her sky. The plague of darkness – three days during which the sun did not shine in Egypt. And the plague of firstborns – sudden death of all Egypt’s firstborn sons in one moment. Then, the Torah describe the greatest miracle of all – the liberation of the people of Israel from Egypt.

When we read about these miracles, we sometimes feel them at a distance, or even alienated from those events which took place in distant history. As we don’t experience miracles in our everyday life, living in a world where the laws of nature govern, what do we gain from the Torah’s description of such great deviations from the laws of nature?

According to Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, Nahmanides, Girona Spain 13th Century), all of nature is one big miracle! There are two types of miracles, there are visible miracles – NES GALUY, like the miracles we read about in our parashot and there are hidden miracles – NES NISTAR, which are actually the laws of nature.

Countless scientists, for thousands of years, have studied and are studying the natural sciences.  As a result of these studies, humanity has progressed in many diverse fields – progress that is expanding at an accelerated rate from generation to generation.  But no scientist has answered one question: “Why is this so?” Science deals with questions such as “what” and “how”, but not with the question “why?”.

Contrary to science, the Torah deals only with the question “why” and not with the questions “what” and “how”.  This is the real reason why people who are well involved with both the Torah and the world of science are not moved by claims about apparent contradictions between the Torah and science, since they understand that the Torah and science do not deal in a common field, therefore, there can be no contradictions between them.

Ramban defines the laws of nature also as “miracles,” because if we don’t know the reason why they were established, then, there is actually no difference between nature and a miracle.  Nature could have operated regularly according to laws other than those known to us, and the Creator of the world decided that it would operate and conduct itself in a certain way.  At certain rare times, the creator of the world decides to operate nature according to certain other rules – which we call “miracles.” But basically every “miracle” is a determination of a law of nature which works, temporarily, in a different way from the normal laws of nature.

Ramban teaches us, when we read in the Torah about miracles that occurred somewhere in history, that we must conclude that all the laws of nature are actually one big “miracle” to which we have become accustomed. The fact that we have become accustomed to the laws of nature does not lead us to wonder about them.

Talmud tells us a beautiful story that once, on a Shabbat evening, Rabbi Hanina Ben Dosa finds his daughter sad.  When he asked her why she was sad, she told him that she accidentally used vinegar instead of oil to light the Shabbat candle.  Her father answered her, He who said to oil to burn, will say to vinegar to burn.  Indeed, a miracle happened, and the Shabbat candle burned until Shabbat evening, and from there they even lit the Havdalah candle.

Our Parasha reminds us that the Creator of the world, who managed nature at different times by different rules, is the One who decided to establish the rules according to which nature always operates.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Refael Cohen

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