Vayishlach: When the Supernatural is Natural II
Updated: Dec 1
וישלח יעקב מלאכים לפניו אל עשיו אחיו
And Yaakov sent messengers before him to Eisav his brother
The Torah uses the word מלאכים usually translated as ‘angels’ to describe the messengers that Yaakov sent to his brother, Eisav.
Indeed, Rashi brings from the medrash two opinions: either they indeed were real angels, or they were mere mortal messengers, described as angels.
Either way, it would seem perplexing; if they really were angels, how could Yaakov utilize angels for his own personal use? Wouldn’t he be afraid the miraculous agency would diminish his merit? After all, Yaakov himself expresses concern that all the kindness G-d bestowed upon him already cost him merit!
And if the messengers were common men, why would the Torah refer to them as angels? Both opinions seem hard to understand.
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l explains, that uncommon, supernatural miracles impress us because we see something we never saw before. We are inspired to see the Hand and Might of Hashem. look how powerful Hashem is! He can even change the laws of nature!
However, inherent in this excitement, is actually a lack of faith- if we would truly understand Hashem’s Greatness we would realize that the ‘natural’ is just as special as the ‘supernatural’. The fact that Hashem renews our world day after day, even minute after minute, is the greatest miracle of all. Hashem is always present; His Hand is always evident.
We find that great people, such as Rav Chanina ben Dosa, were totally unimpressed and unruffled by the supernatural; the gemara tells us the story, that Rav Chanina’s daughter once mistakenly lit vinegar instead of oil- distraught, she explained her error to her father. Unfazed, Rav Chanina responded, “the One who decreed that oil should burn can just as easily decree that vinegar can burn!”
For great people, miracle and natural are the same. Their perception of Hashem’s involvement is so vivid and clear that to them there really is no difference! It doesn’t diminish their merit at all, it’s all the same. Whether they were real angels, or natural men, to Yaakov it made no difference.
The Gemara in Sanhedrin relates, that Chizkiyahu neglected to sing praise when Sancheriv’s army perished at sea; for a while, this was held against king Chizkiyahu, until the earth said ‘I will sing Shira instead!’
Rav Moshe explains this beautifully; Chizkiya himself was faced with a dilemma – if I seem impressed with this great miraculous salvation, it might indicate my lack of perception of Hashem the rest of the time! This void and uncertainty were unresolved until it was made clear that indeed the very earth, even the ‘natural’ itself is the greatest song of praise! When the earth ‘sang’ shira, when people were able to realize that Hashem is always present, even in the natural, this validated Chizkiyahu’s feelings and was his tikkun.
The miracle of Chanuka included these two elements as well; the war, that was fought and won, was a miracle within the laws of nature, while the menorah, was supernatural. It is our job to learn from the supernatural, to see the Hand of Hashem even in that which appears ordinary and natural.
May we merit a salvation in whichever form Hashem chooses to bring it, and see the Hand of Hashem in our daily lives!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!