During a Friday night service discussion, the following issue arose: wouldn’t God know of an entity and cause it to occur miraculously, even if we think we know that it did not exist in biblical times? What a great question!! In this particular case, the issue centered around tzara’at, which used to be translated as leprosy and is now often translated as scales. While in this case I think the text wanted us to look at a larger message, it doesn’t negate believing in miracles.
Some will contend, that once we can explain something, that it falls into the rational realm. However, just because science can explain how DNA functions, it does not reduce the miracle of its functionality. Every time an allele or gene shifts, we are reminded of how miraculous it is when they don’t. Meteorologist help us understand weather patterns, but that certainly doesn’t help us control them or their effects. The whirlwind in Moore, Oklahoma was no less daunting than the whirlwind from which God spoke to Job. The volcanic eruption in 2011 that closed European airspace for six days, or the recent one in the Philippines that killed 5 climbers, shook the ground and vibrated in ears as did Mt. Sinai when we received revelation. The question that should be asked is, was anyone gleaning lessons?
I am not speaking here of the scientific lessons. There is no doubt that the scientist are crunching numbers and analyzing data. What about the rest of us? Are we looking around and seeing that we are connected through all these actions. The gene shifts don’t take place in a vacuum. The reverberations of earthquakes, the ash from fires and volcanic eruption, the tsunamis, the whirlwinds in hurricanes, tornadoes and dust storms have global effects. They reach into the physical reality of our planet’s life, the sustainability of our cultural patterns, the financial stability of our global economy, and the health of our humanity. Are we listening, seeing, absorbing the message or are we still sending someone else to receive the instructions while we worship at a golden calf?
Ultimately, with billions of planets, stars, and other celestial objects, we know how miraculous it is that life exists on earth. If we awaken everyday with that knowledge, we cannot help but want to connect to the Divinity within that miracle. This connection begins with knowing we are b’tzelem elohim, in the image of the Divine. There is no conflict with coming to understand the miracles and helping them to continue. It could be that that is what Rabbi Tarfon meant when he said, “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.” (Avot 2:21).