Reply to Professor Kamenetz

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2 Responses

  1. YHM says:

    I have no way of knowing whether you share my belief that if enough people had, at some point in time before the tsunami, done enough to elevate the world, the tsunami would not have occurred.
    Do you mean the tsunami, or the subsequent deaths? I can certainly believe the latter,i.e. that in a better world G-d might influenced humanity to prepare better against such catastrophes. But the former implies a major miracle, on an order far greater than kri’at yam suf. For G-d to prevent the tsunami he would have to change the very surface of the earth (i.e. the tectonic plates). On what basis can you say that such miracles will occur for humanity at-large? Granted verse in Isaiah such as “solu solu panu derech … ” (I can’t remember exactly where it is), imply that G-d might affect nature itself to bring Israel home, but even there, Isaiah is describing Y’mot Hamashiach. Did you mean elevate the world to the point of redemption? If so, are you talking about Am Yisroel doing so, or all of humanity?

  2. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    I certainly mean the former, and I don’t believe that this involves a major miracle, at least not according to one definition. Building roughly on the foundation of Ramban at the end of Bo (the purpose of miracles is to demonstrate that everything is miraculous; the ordinary and commonplace occur only because of G-d’s Will, which is also what creates the unusual events we call “miraculous”), I would argue that a miracle isn’t “major” unless it is perceived as clear Divine intervention, reversing the expected rules of “natural” law. In other words, when Divine intervention is off people’s radar, it isn’t a “major” miracle at all. (See the Shalah HaKadosh, explaining Kesuvos 119 that one who lives outside of Israel is as if he did not have a G-d. Shalah explains that the kind of Divine Providence sent to individuals in Israel simply can’t take place outside the Land, where too many people would notice the different treatment of His people, which would then constitute miraculous intervention.)
    Maharal’s point, it seems to me, is that Hashem created the earth (or plate tectonics) in such a way that seismic activity would have a tendency to occur from time to unspecified time, but that our mitzvos could in fact delay the next cataclysmic episode. I do not mean to restrict this to a messianic age at all. It is a simple fact of the higher nature of things, that “natural” law itself marches lock-step with human conduct. When we become a bit more perfect, the laws of nature seem to do the same.
    Do non-Jews have a role in this? Theoretically, there is no reason to assume that they don’t. Netziv, however, opines that the rejection of the Noachide laws by so many non-Jews shifted the primary responsibility for the spiritual upkeep of the world to the Jews. The force of the Noachide laws remains as instrument of societal cohesion and perhaps individual spiritual progress. The elevation of the universe, at least for the moment, belongs to those who assumed the burden of Torah and mitzvos.

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