Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Seeing the Daily Miracles

With the elections here in Israel now behind us and the political wrangling just beginning, it's a good time to take a step back and look at the larger picture.
Yesterday, Election Day, was for me (and so many others that I know) just glorious. Aside from the day off and the great honor many olim feel at the opportunity to vote in a Jewish homeland, the incredible weather presented a perfect opportunity for the family to take a long hike in a local forest, to marvel at the beauty of our Homeland.
Just the drive itself to the hike took my breath away, as we were surrounded on all sides by the lush green wheat fields. (I also love running in the daylight during this time of year, especially in the fields around Yad Binyamin.) Even after almost five years in Israel, I continue to marvel at the amazing beauty of our country and its amazing accomplishments in its relatively short history.

In his work Tosefet Brachah (which you can actually download here  -  highly recommended!), Rabbi Baruch Halevi Epstein (author of the Torah Temima), asks a very simple question about the opening line of Az Yashir:
אשירה לה' כי גאה גאה, סוס ורכבו רמה וים
I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea
Wonders Rav Epstein: Is that really such a big deal? After all, if you throw a horse and chariot into the sea, you'd expect them to sink to the bottom. How is that miraculous? Moreover, Moshe fails to mention the true miracle of Kriat Yam Suf until the very end of the song.
כי בא סוס פרעה ופרשיו בים, וישב ה' עליהם את מי הים, ובני ישראל הלכו ביבשה בתוך הים
For the horses of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel walked on dry land in the midst of the sea.

The Jews walked on dry land while the Egyptians drowned? That's an impressive miracle! Why then did Moshe not mention it at the beginning of the song, and instead leave it for the very end? Rav Epstein suggests an answer that contains a critical message for each of us, especially today.
The Midrash notes that the song begins in the future tense - אז ישיר - literally meaning that, "Then he will sing." Writes Rav Epstein,
This hints to future generations, that they will sign songs of praise to God for the miracles that He performs for Israel. For this reason it is written, אז ישיר (in the future tense).
Behold, it is known that in future generations during the exile of Israel, explicit overt miracles ceased, and we only [see] miracles like those that emanate from natural events, as if they are clothed in natural clothes. Miracles such as these never ceased and will never cease from Israel, and the person with a discerning eye and understanding heart - he will see and feel through the natural pathways of the lives of Israel among the nations, individually and communally, the shining beams of heavenly guidance.
This is what Moshe wished to convey to us when he began the great Song of Praise on the Yam Suf. While true that the Jewish people saw great miracles at the Reed Sea, the events that they would witness in the future would be no less miraculous. Even the seemingly natural drowning of a horse and its rider in deep waters also depends on the watchful providence of God. The Jewish people would, in the future, witness miracles dressed in the cloak of nature, but with the proper perspective we would be able to see God's guiding hand in those natural events as well.

Who cannot marvel at the hidden miracles that have guided the building of the Jewish State today? It's easier to see when literally hundreds of rockets and missiles fall on our cities and we suffer (relatively) few casualties. But even the green fields, the incredible growth, Israel's thriving economy in difficult times - all of those are miracles as well.
These are the miracles Moshe alluded to so many centuries ago; the miracles that I think about when I run in the fields around my home. These are the miracles that I saw from the hilltop overlooking the Lachish region yesterday.
They might be cloaked in the garments of nature. Wheat does grow in many places around the world. But here, in the Land of Israel, we must use our discerning eyes and knowing hearts to see the guiding hand of the Holy One, making the fields blossom once again.