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Shabbat Parashat Shemot 5772

Ein Ayah: The Lessons of Communal and Individual Miracle

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:3)

Gemara:  We make a blessing on a miracle that occurred to many people, but not to one that occurred to an individual. But didn’t Rava tell a person who … was saved from a lion to make the blessing, “… Who did a miracle for me in this place”? On a miracle that happened to many people, everyone is required to recite the blessing; on a miracle that occurred to an individual, only that person is required to recite the blessing.


Ein Ayah:  The simple explanation of the distinction between the individual and the masses is that the masses are not affected by the miracle that occurred to an individual, whereas everyone is included in the miracle that happened to the masses. However, this would not be taking into account the goal of blessings on miracles, which is to make it be known that Hashem is behind the miracles that occur. This can be achieved even when people are aware of a miracle that transpired to an individual. Indeed, besides the idea that miracles save someone or some group from a situation of grave danger, they also serve the function of saving people eternally by strengthening the ethical side of either the group or the individual. We need to know how to look at a miracle in order to know what lessons to extract from it.

Nature is also a means to know Hashem for one who contemplates. Since “that which is common comes before that which is uncommon,” it behooves us to give more attention to the Divine Hand that we can see within nature, which is common.  One can receive great spiritual gain from contemplating nature, as p’sukim say: “Raise your eyes and see Who created these” (Yeshaya 40:26) and “You have made me with happy with Your actions, in the work of Your hands I will rejoice” (Tehillim 92:5).

On the other hand, man needs to awaken the dormant feeling and intellectual/spiritual elements within him, and this can be accomplished by means of miracles that come at the right time to help the right person in the right way. In order to awaken these dormant feelings, only something that comes rarely can be effective. Just as miracles serve their ethical purpose only if they are performed rarely, so too recalling them is effective only when one does so on a non-consistent basis.

Regarding miracles for the masses, it is appropriate for people to be inspired by them when the Divine Providence brings people to the specific place in which they occurred. However, if he made a blessing every time someone came to a place where a miracle occurred to any individual, then there would be so many opportunities to make a blessing on the miracles that it would no longer have the desired effect. On a regular basis, one is supposed to be impacted by the knowledge that Hashem runs the world with perfect wisdom in a set, natural manner, not by contemplating miracles. That is why the Rabbis said: “Whoever says Hallel (the psalms reserved for special times) everyday, is like a blasphemer” (Shabbat 118b). Rather, on a daily basis one should be inspired by the way Hashem created and maintains the wonderful natural world.

Regarding the individual to whom the miracle transpired, the matter is different. Certainly he witnessed the miracle because it was something that was fitting for him. Therefore, when Divine Providence brings him to the place where a miracle happened to him, bringing with it a reinvigorated emotional connection to Hashem, he should fulfill his obligation to be thankful and in the process help improve himself.

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