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Friday, April 2, 2010

What are Miracles?

One of the things that used to bother me a lot before I gave up Judaism was the question of why are there no miracles today? When we read the Tanach we see miracle after miracle. From page one to the last page. Why are there no miracles around today? The Jewish believer might respond to that by saying because there is no Temple around today anymore. When there was a Temple God performed miracles, after the (first) Temple was destroyed there were no more miracles. Just like there are no prophets after the destruction of the Temple there are no miracles after its destruction. Perhaps, a Jewish believer can say, that the lack of miracles is a punishment for being in the Diaspora.

But there is an obvious problem with such an answer. If we read the Talmud we still find plently of miracles. We read stories about how one Rabbi was able to ressurect another Rabbi from the dead. We read about how a heavenly voice descended over the people and told them the correct ruling of Jewish law. We read about mysterious creatures, such as the fire creature that arises from a flame that was lit for seventy years. A lot of Jewish people claim that the Babi Sali has performed miracles and other 'great' Rabbis.

Not all Jewish people give the answer I gave in the first paragraph, in fact, from my experience, most Jewish believers would simply say, "there are plently of miracles, there are around us all the time, we just have to open our eyes and see them". I have been told that the fact that I am alive is a miracle. I have also been told that children being born is a miracle by itself. Thus, most Jewish believers would tell me, miracles are abundant, I am just not seeing them.

To refute the idea that miracles are around us everywhere and that we only need to see them we need to define what a "miracle" is. A miracle is the suspension of the natural order. A miracle is when the world operates in a way that is contrary with the Laws of Nature. If a sea splits in half and the water stands like a wall then that is a miracle. If, as in the book of Ezekiel, the dead all rise again, that is a miracle. If a person's arms and legs are severed but they soon float into the air to reattach to his body perfectly, that is a miracle. These are miracles because none of these events are in accordance with how the world operates. What is a miracle is not is some amazing event of phenomenon that taken place. There are plenty of amazing and beautiful events that are in accordance with the Natural Laws. Human life is a very amazing structure, the body is so complex, the brain is the most impressive part. Children (or animals in general) being born within the mother is another truly impressive phenomenon. However, they are natural. There is nothing supernatural to them. They can be explained in a scientific manner in accordance with the Natural Laws.

Thus, by the above definition, when a patient is near death and his doctor saves his life that is not a "miracle". It was still in accordance with the natural laws. It would be a miracle, however, if the patient died, stayed dead for a week, and then came back to life. That would completely violate all natural understanding that we have. An interesting question to ask, as I seen an atheist once raise, is why does God not heal amputees. If, as the believer claims, that God performs 'miracles' when a person comes back to life under an operation, then why is it that the very same God never heals a person who was amputated. If an amputee grew an arm the next day, or a new arm just appeared on him, then that would clearly be a sign of a miracle. But we never have seen this ever occur. Nor do we ever see miracles occur in our lives. We do see truly spectacular and amazing things, when the United States beat the Soviet Union in the 1980's Olympics during the Hockey Final it was amazing, but it was not a 'miracle'.

Let me return back my question again. Why do we not see any miracles today? There are constant miracles in the Tanach but none today. Why is that? And if you answer me that because the destruction of the Temple is the punishment of being in the Diaspora then why is that there are still miracles in the Talmud and furthermore Jewish believers report great 'Rabbis' being able to perform miracles? It does not make any sense. What is more likely? That miracles never happen and that only the Jewish religion talks about them as if they are real, or, that miracles happened and then suddenly just disappear? Did miracles miraclously vanish?

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