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by Yoel Spotts    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

From everything that lives, two of each shall you bring into the ark" (Genesis 6:19).



From everything that lives, two of each shall you bring into the ark" (Genesis 6:19).

With this instruction, Noah is commanded to preserve every single species that roams the earth. While certainly this seems like the right thing to do, it also seems like an impossible thing to do. With the dimensions of the ark limited to relatively modest proportions, it appears highly unlikely that all the animals will find room aboard the ship. How then is Noah expected to fulfill such a command?

Fortunately, Noah has nothing to worry about. As the Ramban, one of the leading Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, explains, although according to the normal laws of nature, the given measurements of the ark could in no way support every creature, Hashem in this case suspended those laws so as to preserve His creations. Through this miracle, every animal had ample room aboard the ark.

However, we are immediately presented with another difficulty: Since the necessity for a miracle seems unavoidable, why did Hashem give Noah such precise instructions in this week's Torah portion regarding the measurements and other details of the ark? Why make Noah go through so much trouble? Why not allow Noah to build a simple little raft made out of a couple of 2x4's?

Once again, the Ramban provides the solution. Although a miracle is certainly necessary for the sake of all those animals waiting to board the ark, Hashem wishes to "minimize" that miracle in whatever way possible. Thus, he instructs Noah to build a large, solid ship that can at the very least support many of the animals. Only after the given capacity of the ark has been filled, will Hashem bend the laws of nature to allow the remaining creatures to board.

Clearly, this explanation provides an obvious lesson: As the Ramban states himself, Hashem does not want us to rely on miracles. Man cannot sit back and expect Hashem to provide for his needs. Rather a person must work and struggle to achieve his goal. Only after a person can honestly say, "I have done all that I can," can he hope that Hashem will "bend the rules".

However, there appears to be a deeper message contained within the Ramban's explanation. Rabbeinu Bachya, another leading commentator on the Torah, teaches, "Hashem created the world to operate according to the natural laws of the universe." When we look outside at the world, we see nothing special at first glance. Just the same old plants and trees and other fixtures functioning in their normal manner. Without giving it a second thought, the world appears quite mundane and boring. The natural order of the universe arouses not a spark of excitement within us. It is only once we step back and examine the universe in greater detail that suddenly the world takes on a whole new meaning. The life cycle of man, the workings of the cosmos, the interaction between animals and their environment - all exhibit the beauty and magnificence of nature. Scientists continue to marvel at the preciseness and exactness with which the world runs. Suddenly, those laws which seemed so dull a moment ago now instill a sense of awe for Hashem's creations. Thus, Hashem wishes to maintain the natural order of the world whenever possible. To suspend the laws of nature is to introduce an element of chaos into the spectacular and sensational harmony of the world that already exists.

Many wonder why Hashem performs no miracles for us today. The answer lies not in some long-winded philosophical argument, but rather in simply opening our eyes to a whole new world, for miracles take place every second of every day right around us.


Yoel Spotts, a native Atlantan and graduate of Yeshiva Atlanta, is enrolled in a joint program with Ner Israel Rabbinical College and the University of Maryland, both in Baltimore.

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