Rabbi Yonah Burr
Lech Lecha: When the Supernatural Becomes Natural
By Rabbi Yonah Burr
ויצא אתו החוצה ויאמר הבט נא השמימה וספר הכוכבים אם תוכל לספר אתם ויאמר לו כה יהיה זרעך
“And Hashem took him outside and said, gaze towards the heavens, and count the stars; are you able to count them? And He said, so shall be your children”
Why did Hashem take Avram outside? Simply, to compare his future offspring to the stars. Rashi, citing the medrash, states, “Hashem said to Avram, I know you checked your mazel, and have determined that it is impossible for you to have children with Sarai. Yet, “step outside” of your stargazing- for Avram is not destined to have children, but Avraham is; it is not in the stars for Sarai to have children, but for Sarah it is”.
Hashem was telling Avram, the future Avraham, that by changing his name, he will change his destiny. Although currently it seems impossible to ever father children with Sarai, you can change your essence, rise above your mazel, and become a new man.
Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l wonders why would it be necessary for Hashem to have to ‘change’ Avram’s name to circumvent the mazel. Why can’t Hashem simply overrule it and perform a miracle for them to have children in spite of the mazel?
Rav Moshe answers with a well-known principle. It is always better to ‘minimize’ the visibility of a miracle. Rather than force something through against the laws of nature, Hashem would rather cause it to happen in a way that semi-conforms to the laws of nature.
Perhaps we can suggest another perspective. The Jewish people’s survival throughout the generations has always been nothing but miraculous. Withstanding pogroms, exiles, persecution, and more, our mere existence is testimony to the special protection we are afforded by Hashem.
Hashem wanted to show Avraham that we as a people have the ability to rise above our mazel, the natural order of things, and are not bound by the laws of statistics or nature. From the very beginning of our existence, we were born against all odds and are able to circumvent the laws of nature.
It is not isolated out-of-the-ordinary miracles that keep us going. It is simply that we are not subject to the natural order of things at all.
This comes from our unique mission in this world, and the power of the Torah. The world was created to promote the honor of Hashem, and even the laws of nature will not hold us back!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!