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Shabbat Parashat Behar 5776

Ein Ayah: Decreased Activity for One who Relies on Miracle

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:194)

Gemara: Rabbi Yannai said: One should never put himself into a situation of danger and saying that a miracle will occur, as it is possible that the miracle will not occur, and if the miracle occurs, his merits will be lessened. This is what the pasuk [said by Yaakov] means: “I have become smaller due to all the kindness and the truth that You have done for Your servant” (Bereishit 32:11).


Ein Ayah: On one level, there is a practical advantage of someone refraining from relying on miracles, for Hashem wants the world to operate based on nature. Additionally, there is a spiritual reason, which stems from the fact that man himself was one of the things that Hashem created with wisdom based on the rules of nature that He placed into His world. Therefore, it is proper that man should love nature, as it allows him to be active and not to be the object to which things happen. Even when man is ostensibly acting himself, he is actually acting together with Hashem (see Yeshaya 26:12). This desire to be one who acts is part of a person’s shleimut (completeness). When the desire to act combines with knowledge, then he will know how to act properly, and nature affords him the opportunity to do so.   

In contrast, a miracle turns a person into the object upon which forces operate, and this actually takes away from his power, as he cannot do anything in this regard. What are merits if not the wide variety of good actions that a person does? When a person acts according to the path that Hashem sets out for him, his merits increase, and while they increase they certainly do not decrease. But when the miracle is happening to him, and as a recipient, that which occurs to him is a function of the past merits that he has accumulated, the miracle subtracts from the existing past storehouse of merits. After all, Hashem put limits even on the moral powers that He put in the world, and that which has been gained by proper actions that a person has done can go only so far, whether in the physical or the spiritual realm.

As long as a person is acting in the proper way, he can continue to succeed on an ongoing basis, as the pasuk says: “The work of your hands shall you eat, you are fortunate and it is good for you” (Tehillim 128:2). He will experience the full joy and success, and he loses nothing because he is only asking to continue living properly.

Therefore, one should always have an internal love of nature. This can be fully significant only when he knows clearly that miracles exist and that they are great, yet he sees the value of the sustainable situation of living based on healthy, natural actions. Then his actions are connected to complete truth and true freedom.

There are times when a person needs, for a variety of reasons, to become “smaller” by receiving miracles from Hashem. However, the ultimate goal is to grow again. Indeed, Yaakov, while acknowledging the impact of having received, also was told that his life was one of profound actions, as his new name (Yisrael) connoted that he had acted successfully with dominion among angels and with men (Bereishit 32:29).

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