Parshiyos Tazriya Umetzora 5758 - '98

Outline Vol. 2, # 26

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Hashem's Help -- Ezer Eloki

Tzora'as, a leprous-type disease, occurred in a miraculous manner. It came largely as a result of error or transgression, and could only be diagnosed by a Kohein, not a physician. We have discussed this concept at length in previous years.

One question in this regard has always disturbed me. The Ramban (end of parshas Bo), states emphatically that "there is no such thing as nature," but everything that occurs is miraculous. He makes a distinction between "hidden miracles" -- everyday occurrences, and "open miracles" -- extraordinary events.

Elsewhere, it is clear from Ramban's writing that the "hidden miracles" -- the everyday occurrences -- are what we generally refer to as "nature."

Granted that it is important to recognize G-d's hand in the "natural world," but what is the meaning of the statement "there is no such thing as nature"? Isn't this just a matter of semantics? Ramban himself refers to nature several times!

Sidur of Rav Yaakov Emden (Tefilas Al Hanisim)

Years ago, I came across the words of Rav Shlomo Kluger, who made the distinction between man's point of view and Hashem's. In man's eyes, extraordinary events seem miraculous; everyday occurrences seem to be natural. To Hashem's outlook, however, there is no such distinction -- everything was planned long ago; extraordinary events are just as natural as everyday occurrences.

This year, the words of Rav Yerucham Lebovitz caught my attention.

Da'as Chochmo Umussar, Volume One

There is no real difference between nature and events beyond nature. In the one realm, miracles come about less directly, in the other realm, miracles come about in a more direct fashion. Hashem helps us all the time; yet, it is only at Pesach that we say: Lo al yedei malach, lo al yedei saraph, v'lo al yedei shliach -- "Not through an angel, nor messenger, nor agent," rak Hashem b'atzmo ubichvodo -- "only Hashem, Himself, in His full Glory." The "open miracles" show a direct connection; this is what we refer to as the ezer Eloki, "G-d's help."

Chasom Sofer made a similar distinction.

The Difference Between Moshe and Yehoshua

In Sefer Yehoshua (Book of Joshua), a malach (angel) came to Yehoshua and declared that he (the angel) would fight the wars on behalf of Hashem's people. Chasom Sofer, in his chidushim to tractate Megilah, noted a discrepancy. From the verses, the angel's declaration seemed to be a blessing, yet the Talmud declares that it was a punishment due to lack of Torah study!

Both are correct. The commentaries relate in parshas Mishpatim, that when Hashem offered to send Moshe a malach, Moshe protested. He did not want any angel; he desired only Hashem's direct guidance. Hashem acquiesced, but promised that the angel would have to suffice in the days of Yehoshua.

When the angel did, indeed, appear to Yehoshua, Yehoshua also protested. The angel responded: "Your master rejected me; do you also want to reject me?" He would not budge. The result was that Yehoshua would not have the direct help from Hashem b'atzmo ubichvodo -- "Hashem, Himself, in His full Glory," but through an intermediary.

Why? Had the generation applied themselves to Torah study as diligently as possible, they would have merited a level of prophecy akin to that of Moshe, which was called "face to face," i.e., direct. Instead, they would be relegated to an indirect sort of help.

Da'as Chochmo Umussar

Rav Yerucham Lebovitz discussed the relationship between the two levels of Divine assistance. Everything, he held, comes about through nature. We are unable to change nature, and the Torah commands us to respect nature and protect our lives. To attempt to transcend the laws of nature would be tantamount to defying Hashem's world. Quite the contrary -- we find that the Avos (forefathers) were working men, and the Mishnah states: Yafeh Torah im derech eretz -- "Torah study, combined with an occupation, is fine." Rather, by devoting ourselves to the natural, earthy world -- in an attempt to fulfill our duties -- we can merit a higher level of assistance, the Ezer Eloki -- Hashem's help.

We have previously discussed this attitude of Rav Lebovitz and the Alter of Kelm -- that relying purely on miracles shows a lack of emunah (faith). Our faith is not that Hashem will help us in a purely supernatural manner, but that our endeavors will receive assistance. If we strive properly, in this world, we, too, may merit the aid of Lo al yedei malach, lo al yedei saraph, v'lo al yedei shliach -- "Not through an angel, nor messenger, nor agent," rak Hashem b'atzmo ubichvodo -- "only Hashem, Himself, in His full Glory."


Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156
E-mail: [email protected]

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.

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