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Shabbat Parashat Eikev | 5768

Wonders and Miracles Until This Day

Parashat Hashavua

Harav Yosef Carmel

In the course of his long speech, Moshe urged all generations to contemplate Hashem’s mercy upon His nation through such miracles as the splitting of the sea. The pasuk says: “… which He did to the army of Egypt, to the horses and chariots, over whom He swept the waters of Yam Suf when they were chasing after you, and Hashem destroyed them until this day” (Devarim 11:4). It is difficult to understand the final phrase, “until this day,” which usually means until the time the matter was written. Since it is referring to the death of the Egyptians, it seems irrelevant to say they are still destroyed. Would we think they were since reincarnated?
The early commentators suggested different explanations for this phrase. Ibn Ezra relates the phrase to the descendants of those killed 40 years earlier, who did not restore past Egyptian glory. The Ramban expands this, saying that the name of those who had the gall to chase after those redeemed by Hashem was permanently destroyed. The Ramban, though, does not see the scriptural basis for these ideas. He suggests that the lasting destruction refers to the previously legendary Egyptian fleet of horses and chariots, which never recovered. This is a sign of the lowliness of Egyptian society after 40 years of potential recovery time.
The Meshech Chochma paves a different “path through the sea.” He says that Moshe was combating those who said that the splitting of the sea was an event that was reconcilable with nature by means of ebbs and flows. Moshe sent Bnei Yisrael to check if in the course of the subsequent 40 years, the phenomenon had occurred and reported that the event was unique “until this day.” This proved that the event was a Divine miracle.
This point reminds us of a major philosophical debate. How should one relate to an apparently unexplainable miracle? One approach is that a miracle is a Divine divergence from the laws of nature and that it is inappropriate to look for a natural explanation. Another understanding is that the unusual events were prepared from the time of creation to occur as a built-in exception. A third approach is that there are physical explanations for miracles based on natural forces. For example, a volcanic eruption could have caused a thick veil of ashes that could have blackened Egypt. For it to have come at the time Moshe said it would made it a miracle. According to the final approach, we would not care if tides and winds could split the sea. Each approachwill read our p’sukim differently.
Let us remember that we believe in the Creator’s Divine Providence in all of the miracles that have occurred to our nation in our times – according to whatever approach above one takes. We recall the rule that “whoever does not believe in miracles in the Middle East is not a realist.”
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