This article was prepared from a number of the author's shmuessim published by his son and talmidim yblc'ta.
The following ma'amar is a combination of many different shmuessim that were said by Reb Dovid zt"l over the years as the mashgiach in Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore. This ma'amar was recently edited and printed together with many other hitherto unpublished shmuessim in two volumes entitled Sichos Chochmah Umussar. This shmuess was chosen to translate and print because of its insight to our present day situation — in particular of the innumerable, seemingly difficult to understand, tragedies that have become commonplace.
The shmuess itself has quotations from seforim whose ideas are profound and consequently very difficult to understand, unless one is familiar with them. Therefore explanations and clarifications were added to the translations of the quotations themselves to explain various parts, even though those comments are not in the original Hebrew text as printed in the Sichos Chochmah Umussar.
Editor's Note: We would like to acknowledge the tremendous efforts that were invested in this important piece by so many, starting with the original translation work almost two years ago before the 25th yahrtzeit, and through the editing and review by many people since then.
I: Miracles Teach the Majority of the Foundations of Emunah
The Ramban writes in his commentary on the Torah (end of parshas Bo, Shemos 13:16):
"In the times of Enosh, when avoda zorah entered the world, people's understanding of emunah began to become corrupt. Some were kofer be'ikar, claiming the world was not created by Hashem but had always existed. They denied Hashem's existence and claimed that [Divine creation] was an invention [of men's imaginations]. Some questioned whether Hashem is aware of what every individual does. They asked: `How can it be that Hashem knows what will happen in the future or what is happening in the present?' Others admitted that Hashem knows [what each individual does and what will be in the future] but denied hashgocho: `[Hashem] makes men like the fish of the sea' (Chavakuk 1:14) — Hashem does not scrutinize [their deeds], and people are neither punished nor do they receive reward. They argued that Hashem deserted the world [and left it to run according to blind natural law].
"When Elokim desires to choose [i.e. shows good will to] a community or individual and does a miracle for them by changing the world's normal conduct, then everyone understands clearly how mistaken all these ideologies are. The wondrous occurrence shows there is an Elokim in the world, He created and He recreates it [constantly], He knows [everything], scrutinizes [the world], and can do [whatever He wishes]. When the wonder is decreed beforehand by a novi it will furthermore show the authenticity of prophesy — `that Hashem does talk with man' (Devorim 5:21) — and reveals His secret to His servants the nevi'im, and through this [thorough knowledge of emunah] the whole Torah is established."
The Ramban enumerates five foundations of emunah that are elucidated through the miracles Hashem does in the world. (1) The world has an Elokim — ruler — Hashem's presence; (2) Hashem constantly renews the world — HaKodosh Boruch Hu created the world from nothing and maintains it in existence; (3) He is all-knowing — omniscient: Hashem is aware of past and future happenings; (4) He scrutinizes everything, is all-seeing — He sees what people do and rewards or punishes them as appropriate; (5) He can do anything He wants — He is omnipotent.
Since a miracle is a change in the natural world-order, we thereby realize His existence and infinite capability (principles 1 & 5) — that He can do with the world as He wishes.
Since Hashem is the world's Creator and Renewer (principle 2), and He created the whole universe from nothing and constantly renews its existence, therefore when He renews His creation He can do with it as He likes. As such He undoubtedly knows what his creations have done in the past and, through the existence of prophecy we understand that He knows what all his creations will do in the future (principles 3 & 4).
Through miracles, all the abovementioned principles of faith are implanted, deriving one from the other within us. These are the principles against which various sects of heretics have arisen over the ages.
These principles embrace all of emunah, as the Ramban writes: " . . . and through this the whole Torah is established." This happens when "the wonder is decreed beforehand by a novi" and the sixth principle — the authenticity of nevu'ah — also becomes known: "that Hashem does talk with man' (Devorim 5:21) and reveals His secret to His servants the nevi'im. Since this includes within it the will of Hashem to reward and punish, thereby the principle of reward and punishment is established.
"After we believe that Hashem is all-knowing and that there is Divine Providence, we will gain, through this emunah, [an understanding that] the [spiritual level] of nevu'ah [must also exist]. We will believe that Hashem knows [all], scrutinizes [the world], commands and forbids [people as to what to do or not to do]. He commands us to do what is good and just, forbids us to do evil and protects us. All of the Torah's promises for the future will be fulfilled for us. He punishes those who transgress His will with all the retribution that He decrees for them" (Ramban in his introduction to Iyov).
What Appears to Man as Nature is Really Also Miracle
The Ramban later continues: "Through great known, public miracles a person [learns to] admit the hidden miracles which are the foundation of the whole Torah. A person does not have any share in the Torah of Moshe Rabbenu unless he believes that everything that is done and that happens to us, as individuals or as a people, is not a matter of nature and the way the world naturally conducts itself. If he does mitzvos his reward will be success, and if he transgresses them his punishment will be his destruction. Everything happens by Heavenly decree . . . "
Hashem has so declared in the Torah, but it is hard for one to see the fulfillment of this in practice. Therefore this is proven by Hashem having done open, undisputable miracles, that is, He changed and manipulated nature. Through that, we come to believe that He constantly controls and manipulates all nature, as it says in the Torah, even when it appears that things work according to laws of nature.
The Ramban is trying to dislodge us from a mistaken notion that many hold. A person might think that although HaKodosh Boruch Hu is certainly the renewer of the world, is omniscient, has infinite awareness of what has happened, and through His hashgocho He rewards and punishes, and has the power to change Creation through miracles, still (one may think), when Hashem does not make any changes in nature, the world proceeds according to the course determined by the mazolos (stars, constellations and other heavenly bodies), and other forces of nature. One might think that the Creator has set forth in the firmament how the mazolos should run Creation, and provided them with power to influence the lowly creatures on earth. According to these Divinely preset arrangements, the mazolos would then bring benefit or harm in Olom Hazeh; everything would depend upon them with no direction from Hashem.
We should reject such an improper theory; indeed, anyone who thinks that way has no share in Moshe's Torah. That is the Ramban's vital message to us. The Torah clarification that all seemingly natural occurrences as they affect man are really overt miracles, elucidates to us that the entire Creation is dependent upon reward and punishment. Such conduct cannot possibly be carried out by the mazolos. Hashem is above all, and He has — and uses — the power to enforce or annul the domination of the mazolos — which is in itself a covert miracle. From this we see that the innumerable references to reward and punishment in the Torah which seem to come in a natural way, really refer to hashgocho protis from Hashem.
End of Part I
HaRav Dovid Kronglas zt'l, whose yahrtzeit is on 11 Teves, (5733), was the Rosh Mesivta and Menahel Ruchani in Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore for twenty- five years.