The Real Miracle

And Yaakov sent angels before him… (Ber. 32:4)

Rashi: Literally angels

The decades-long separation of the twin brothers was about to end. Yaakov had left home alone and was returning as the wealthy patriarch of a large family. He feared the animosity of his brother had not subsided, so he proactively sent messengers to reconnoiter the situation and assess the mindset of his powerful sibling. In identifying Yaakov’s agents, the Torah uses the word “malachim — angels” rather than “messengers.” Rashi comments that the word is used because Yaakov sent actual angels on this mission.

Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, asks: “Why would Yaakov invoke a supernatural means of accomplishing this mission if human messengers were just as suitable as angels to get the job done? Yaakov was quite aware of the fact that using angels would cost him many valuable merits he had earned through hard spiritual work.”

Rav Moshe proposes that a man of “spiritual perfection” senses no difference between “natural” and “miraculous.” One who has learned how the world really works understands that everything is a manifestation of the Will of Hashem. Nature is a recurring or a constant miracle. The sun rising, one’s eyes seeing or a seed growing are all miracles. The fact that these miracles recur consistently makes one view them as natural and, therefore, not miraculous. When one reaches the level that our patriarch Yaakov did, then one ceases to distinguish between the one-time miracle and the recurring event. One who is so sensitive to Hashem’s control of all that takes place realizes that everything is a manifestation of Hashem’s Will. To a person of this caliber, seeing an unusual “miracle” is a flaw in his perfection!

The Gemara relates that Rabi Chanina ben Dosa, a poverty-stricken Sage, did not have oil to light for Shabbat. He asked his daughter what they did have and when she advised him that all they possessed was vinegar, he told her to light it. “The one who makes oil light will make the vinegar burn.” And so it was! For Rabi Chanina, everything was miraculous; oil burning was no less miraculous than vinegar igniting.

In Perek Chelek, Sanhedrin 94, it states that Hashem considered Chizkiyahu the king of Yehudah to bring the Final Geulah (Mashiach) and his adversary, Sancheriv, the King of Ashur, to act as the king of Gog and Magog (the forces of evil). The power of Din (strict justice) complained, saying, “If Hashem passed over David Hamelech, who sang the ultimate praises to Hashem, how could He make Chizkiyahu Mashiach if he did not sing the praises of Hashem at all?” Hashem accepted the complaint.

What does this Gemara mean? It’s true Chizkiyahu did not sing the praises of Hashem even though he witnessed many miracles. The question is, why didn’t he sing? The holy king saw everything as a miracle and therefore the natural and the supernatural impressed him to an equal degree. Once-in-a-lifetime miracles were the same to him as the daily miracles we all see but take for granted and, therefore, did not prompt him to sing.

As we approach the days of Chanukah, which commemorate the miracle of the flask of oil which should have burned for one night but burned for eight days, let us take note that it is also a miracle.