Thursday, June 17, 2004

Parshat Korach: Miracles and the natural order

It has been a tough week at work, leaving little time for parshablogging. I spent much of the week considering the issue of miracles and the natural order.

There is an assumption that miracles are outside of the natural order. That does not mean that, in Jewish tradition, there are no bounds. For example, Hashem lays out some guidelines as to how He interacts with the world, and sticks within those boundaries even while performing miracles.

Consider. The creation of Man, and Woman from the first Man, was miraculous. However, we see an interesting Midrash on Bereishit. Chava (Eve) had already eaten of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and was trying to get Adam to eat of the fruit as well. Adam does eat of the fruit, and Hashem punishes him, saying, (Bereishit 3:17: כִּי-שָׁמַעְתָּ לְקוֹל אִשְׁתֶּךָ, "'Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife."

The full pasuk is:

וּלְאָדָם אָמַר, כִּי-שָׁמַעְתָּ לְקוֹל אִשְׁתֶּךָ, וַתֹּאכַל מִן-הָעֵץ, אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לֵאמֹר לֹא תֹאכַל מִמֶּנּוּ--אֲרוּרָה הָאֲדָמָה, בַּעֲבוּרֶךָ, בְּעִצָּבוֹן תֹּאכְלֶנָּה, כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ.
And unto Adam He said: 'Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying: Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.

A Midrash I mention in the group of midrashic texts in the post below offers two competing explanations of what exactly Chava did to persaude Adam to eat the fruit.

וּלְאָדָם אָמַר, כִּי-שָׁמַעְתָּ לְקוֹל אִשְׁתֶּךָ רבי שמלאי אומר בישוב הדעת באת עליו א"ל מה את סבר שאני מתה וחוה אחרת נבראת לך (קהלת א) (וְ)אֵין כָּל-חָדָשׁ, תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ מה את סבור שאני מתה ואתה יושב לך הטליס (ישעיה מה) לֹא-תֹהוּ בְרָאָהּ, לָשֶׁבֶת יְצָרָהּ רבנן אמרין התחילה מיללת עליו בקולה הה"ד ולאדם אמר כי שמעת לדברי אשתך אין כתיב כאן אלא לקול אשתך וגו

Rabbi Simlai says, with a thought-out argument she came upon him. She said to him, 'What do you think? That I will die and another Eve will be created for you? (Kohelet 1:9) There is nothing new under the sun*! What do you think? That I will die and you will sit in solitude? (Isaiah 45:18) 'He created it not a waste, He formed it to be inhabited.'

The rabbis responded, she began to wail with her voice. This is what is written, 'And unto Adam He said: 'Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife...'

The verse from Kohelet reads in full:
מַה-שֶּׁהָיָה, הוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה, וּמַה-שֶּׁנַּעֲשָׂה, הוּא שֶׁיֵּעָשֶׂה; וְאֵין כָּל-חָדָשׁ, תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ.
"That which hath been is that which shall be, and that which hath been done is that which shall be done; and there is nothing new under the sun."

On a pshat level, it means that there is no real purpose in trying to innovate or gather wealth or really accomplish anything, because life and history are cyclical, and all that is done will be undone, and was done by others before you.

However, on a midrashic level, וְאֵין כָּל-חָדָשׁ, תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ, "there is nothing new under the sun," or I would say the entire pasuk, is saying that all that will be made or will exist is that which has existed in the past, and is talking about Hashem's creation. That is, there was a period of Creation in which Hashem created the world and the various creatures.

This is what Chava's argument seems based upon. In terms of *Creation*, in this pasuk Hashem is promising that all Creatures that are to be miraculously created have been Created during the 6 days of Creation. Thus, Chava says, you cannot expect Hashem to create a new Chava for you out of another of your ribs.

(In terms of violating laws of physics Created in the Genesis, that is another matter, which this Midrash on this pasuk in Koheleth does not seem to directly address.)

This is an issue in parashat Korach as well. Moshe seems to call for a new creation to destroy Datan and Aviram.

Bamidbar 16:28-31ff
וַיֹּאמֶר, מֹשֶׁה, בְּזֹאת תֵּדְעוּן, כִּי-ה שְׁלָחַנִי לַעֲשׂוֹת אֵת כָּל-הַמַּעֲשִׂים הָאֵלֶּה: כִּי-לֹא, מִלִּבִּי.
אִם-כְּמוֹת כָּל-הָאָדָם, יְמֻתוּן אֵלֶּה, וּפְקֻדַּת כָּל-הָאָדָם, יִפָּקֵד עֲלֵיהֶם--לֹא ה, שְׁלָחָנִי.
וְאִם-בְּרִיאָה ה, וּפָצְתָה הָאֲדָמָה אֶת-פִּיהָ וּבָלְעָה אֹתָם וְאֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם, וְיָרְדוּ חַיִּים, שְׁאֹלָה--וִידַעְתֶּם, כִּי נִאֲצוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה אֶת-ה.
וַיְהִי, כְּכַלֹּתוֹ, לְדַבֵּר, אֵת כָּל-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה; וַתִּבָּקַע הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר תַּחְתֵּיהֶם.
"And Moses said: 'Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works, and that I have not done them of mine own mind.
If these men die the common death of all men, and be visited after the visitation of all men, then the LORD hath not sent Me.
But if the LORD make a new thing, and the ground open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down alive into the pit, then ye shall understand that these men have despised the LORD.'
And it came to pass, as he made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground did cleave asunder that was under them."

So, Moshe seems to be asking for Hashem to make a new Creation - a mouth for the Earth.

Let us see Midrash Rabba on Bamidbar, on parashat Korach.
דרש רבא מאי דכתיב (במדבר טז) אם בריאה יברא ה' אמר משה רבון העולמים אם בריאה גיהנם מוטב ואם לאו יברא ה' למאי אילימא למברייה ממש והכתיב (קהלת א) אין כל חדש תחת השמש אלא לאקרובי פיתחא

Rava darshened, the pasuk states, אם בריאה יברא ה, "If Hashem creates a Creation..." Moshe said, Master of the Universe, if Gehennim was created - אם בריאה, well and good. And if not, יברא ה, Hashem should create. How so? If to actually create, the verse in Kohelet stated that אין כל חדש תחת השמש, there is nothing new under the sun. Rather, to bring the mouth of the earth near.

Rava is deconstructing the pasuk. One can read it on a pshat level - if Hashem creates a new creation, then it will show something - namely, that Hashem sent Moshe. However, Midrashically, אם בריאה need not mean "If a creation," to be followed by a verb, but rather can be taken, in a grammatically accurate matter (working really locally) to mean "If it has been created." יברא ה still means "Hashem should create." But why should Hashem create if it has been created? Thus, the two phrases are separate. If it has been created, then nothing needs be done but bring it forth. If not, Hashem should create.

I have a feeling that this is really the extent of Rava's drash. The question and answer seems stamaitic in nature to me. It asks, on the second possibility, how Hashem could make a new Creation after the 6 days of Creation, and answers that a new Creation is not meant, but rather the miraculous phenomenon of the mouth coming closer. That is, the mouth to Gehinnom is usually in one spot, and here it was moved closer, to their actual location.

This question and answer is not present in Midrash Rabba in Devarim. Further, the first part of the Midrash that Rava says is in Hebrew while the question and answer is in Aramaic. Further, this problem of "nothing new under the sun" is *specifically* that problem of being created during the 6 days of Creation or not. That is the plain meaning/import behind Rava's drash. If it was Creation, no big deal. If not, even though in general You do not Create things anew, here please do so.

We see this reflected in Pirkei Avot:

Ten things were created at twilight on the eve of the first Sabbath:
the mouth of the earth (Numbers 16:32);
the mouth of the well (Numbers 21:16);
the mouth of the ass (Numbers 22:28);
the rainbow;
the manna;
Aaron's staff;
the Shamir, writing;
the inscription on the tablets of the Ten Commandments;
and the tablets themselves.
Some also include the evil spirits, the grave of Moses, the ram of Abraham; and others add the original tongs, for tongs must be made with tongs.

"Twilight on the eve of the first Sabbath" means just as the last of the 6 days of Creation was going out, Hashem created it. Why? Because there was to be "nothing new under the sun," so anything that would in the future go out of the bounds was not really - Hashem already created it.

This goes according to אם בריאה - if it had already been created. The opposite opinion would naturally be that this mouth was created later, not that it had been created but Moshe was asking for it to be moved over.

Perhaps more later. It is 12:30 and I've had a long day...

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin