Shelach 5771 — Miracles and Wonders

And the Lord said to Moses, How long will this people provoke me? And how long will it be before they believe me, for all the signs which I have shown among them?   …Numbers 14:11

It’s pretty rare to see God seem to get something wrong.  Maybe it’s why God gave us free will; He likes to keep things unpredictable! J

In this week’s Torah reading once again we see the nascent Israelite nation kvetching, complaining, and generally sounding pretty ungrateful.  The spies come back with their report that Israel is indeed a land flowing with milk and honey, but they also say there are giants there, we don’t stand a chance against them.  And the people cry, “oy, why did we come out to the desert to die? We would have been better off staying in Egypt, let’s appoint a new leader and go back!”  And God responds with surprise.

After all, the people have witnessed miracle after miracle: plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, bitter water made sweet, fed by mannah from heaven.  So God, not surprisingly, wonders “How come they still don’t have faith in me?  After all these signs I’ve shown them? What does it take to make them believe?”

What God seems to have missed (OK, God presumably knew, and he was asking Moses a rhetorical question….still…) is that faith does not come from something “outside.” Faith comes from what is “inside.”

As I write this I’m sitting in the lap of luxury (thanks, God, for upgrades!) at 32,000 feet above sea level, outside air temperature 60 degrees below zero, crossing South Dakota at the rate of over 8 miles every minute.  I’m typing on a device that contains the entire Talmud, Torah, and Midrash Rabbah in Hebrew and English, thousands of songs and pictures, capable of doing the calculations needed to send a rocket into space (it’s more powerful than the computers they used to use for that purpose back in the 60s). My body has billions of cells all functioning in sufficient harmony for me to live, love, think, and do all the many other things I do.

How many more miracles do we need? OK, if that’s not enough we also have the miracle of love, of friends and family of relationships that endure even beyond death as we are all imprinted with the genes, personality, and souls of those who have gone before and touched our lives.

In one of our central prayers that we recite three times a day, the Amidah, we praise God “for the miracles that are with us daily.”  If you can’t see the miracles in being alive, not to mention flying through the air with the greatest of ease, you’re still not going to see miracles when it involves talking donkeys or parting seas.  The miracles are always there: we only have to open our hearts to them for our faith in God to grow.

Shabbat shalom!


Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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