What is a miracle and what is a part of nature? Are they not both from God?
Many people may find this question naive. Of course everything is from God, they will reply. Nature is simply the law God established at the time of creation, which regulates the processes of this world in accordance with the principle of cause and effect.
This is how this world operates, they will tell us. On rare occasions, because of some special need, and for someone who has extraordinary merits, God will override the laws He has written into the cosmos and will perform open miracles which have no physical cause.
This is the case with all the miracles mentioned in the bible.
The Definition Of Nature
We may ask them: What precisely is “cause and effect”? Why does the effect proceed from the cause? For example, what causes grain to grow? The reply will be: Surely it’s obvious! Once the soil is prepared by ploughing, the seed has been sown and the ground properly watered, all the natural causes are present which bring about the growth of the grain.
If we venture to ask: But why do these factors cause the growth of the grain, they are likely to laugh at us and reply: But you can see it always happens like that. It is perfectly obvious that these are the causes that God has implanted in creation to bring about the growth of grain. This is what we mean by nature.
But when we go into this more deeply we must face the following question. It must be admitted that we have no answer to the question of why the effect follows the cause. All we know is that this is what invariably happens. Would it not be valid to say that this is a constant miracle which we happen to have gotten used to?
Let us imagine that we saw a dead person laid to rest in his grave. The body decomposes and turns to dust. Then slowly, from the depths of the grave, something begins to grow.
We see something like a human body forming and protruding above the ground. Eventually the earth is thrust aside and a complete, living human being shakes himself free of the earth and emerges from the grave. What would we say? We would be absolutely sure that we had witnessed the great miracle of the resurrection of a dead person.
But then why do we not see the same miracle in the growth of a seed, which likewise is sown in the earth and rots away, until a new shoot comes forth out of the rotting material? Why should not this event, too, be considered a resurrection of the dead? In fact it is.
The only difference is that we are used to the resurrection of seeds but we are not used to the resurrection of people. If the situation were reversed, we would call the resurrection of bodies “nature” and the resurrection of seeds “miracle.”
Miracles Happen Everyday
The truth is that there is no essential difference between the natural and the miraculous. Everything that occurs is a miracle. The world has no other cause but the will of God. His deeds and His conduct of the world are the immediate consequence of His will. What He wills comes into being without need of any intermediary.
We call God’s act a “miracle” when He wills an occurrence which is novel and unfamiliar to us and which consequently makes us aware of the hand of God.
We call God’s acts “nature” when He wills that certain events should occur in a recognizable pattern with which we become familiar.
This familiarity presents us with a challenge. We can choose to recognize that these events too have as their sole and immediate cause the unfettered will of God. Or we can imagine that God has delegated certain powers to “Nature,” and that within the realm of Nature man too has the ability to influence events by the process of cause and effect.
The whole concept of “nature” is thus nothing but a test for the human being. Nature has no objective existence; it is merely an illusion which gives man a choice to exercise his free will: to err, or to choose the truth.
R. Eliyahu Dessler