Sunday, September 18, 2022

Ramban's view of nature?

 The Ramban is widely believed to view that there is no nature but everything is a miracle. Is this true?

Ramban (Devarim 13:16) ”Through the great open miracles, one comes to admit the hidden miracles which constitute the foundation of the whole Torah, for no one can have a part in the Torah of Moses our teacher unless he believes that all our words and our events, [as dictated in the Torah], are miraculous in scope, there being no natural or customary way of the world in them, whether affecting the public or the individual. Instead, if a person observes the commandments, His reward will bring him success, and if he violates them, His punishment will cause his extinction. It is all by decree of the Most High, as I have already mentioned. The hidden miracles done to the public come to be known as is mentioned in the assurances of the Torah on the subject of the blessings and imprecations,

וכשאנו מעיינין יפה, אנו רואין, שאין לאדם חלק בתורת משה רבינו ע"ה עד שיאמין שכל דברינו ומעשינו כלם נסים, אין בהם טבע ומנהגו של עולם, שהרי יעודי התורה כלה נסים ומופתים גמורים הם... (תורת ה' תמימה, וראה שם עוד)

Ramban (Vayikra 26:11) Now we have already that all these blessings are miracles, for it is not natural that the rains should come in their due season, and that we should have peace from our enemies, and that they should have faintness of heart so that a hundred of them flee before five, as a result of us observing the statutes and commandments of G-d, nor that everything should be the opposite i.e., that none of these things should happen because of us planting in the Seventh year [which we are forbidden to do]. But although they are hidden miracles, for they are brought about by means of the natural events of the world occurring according to their habit, yet the Torah mentions them separately because they come to be known as miracles because of their constant and continuous occurrence in the whole Land. For if one righteous man lives and G-d takes away sickness from him, and he lives out his days, this also happens to some wicked people and is thus not acknowledged as miraculous. But when an entire land and a whole people always have rains coming in their season, and plenitude, security, peace, health, strength and defeat of their enemies, in a manner unparalleled in the whole world, it becomes known to all that this is the Eternal’s doing.. Therefore He said in connection with these blessings And all the peoples shall see that the Name of the Eternal is called upon thee, and they shall be afraid of thee.. And the opposite of this will occur because of the curses, when punishments will come upon the whole Land, just as He said, and I will make your heaven as iron,. and punishments of sickness, as He said, and sore sickness, and of long continuance,. meaning that the food will be spoiled and bring about sickness, and thus the miracle will be made known to all because of its continued existence amongst the whole people. Therefore it is written, And the generation to come, your children that shall rise up after you, and the foreigner that shall come from a far land, shall say when they see the plagues of that Land, and its sicknesses.. For they will not wonder at that [single] man upon whom all the curse that is written in this book shall lie. for it happens many times in the natural order of the world, among all nations, that bad happenings come upon a certain individual. It is only with reference to that Land that they will wonder, and that all the nations will ask, Wherefore hath the Eternal done thus unto this Land? for all will see and understand that the hand of the Eternal hath done this. And [by way of reply] they will say, Because they forsook the covenant of the Eternal, the G-d of their fathers.In general then, when Israel is in perfect accord with G-d, constituting a large number, their affairs are not conducted at all by the natural order of things, neither in connection with themselves, nor with reference to their Land, neither collectively nor individually, for G-d blesses their bread and their water, and removes sickness from their midst, so that they do not need a physician and do not have to observe any of the rules of medicine, just as He said, for I am the Eternal that healeth thee.. And so did the righteous ones act at the time when prophecy [existed], so that even if a mishap of iniquity overtook them, causing them sickness, they did not turn to the physicians, but only to the prophets, as was the case with Hezekiah when he was sick.. And Scripture states of Asa, king of Judah, by way of rebuke, Yet in his disease he sought not to the Eternal, but to the physicians.. Now had the practice of consulting physicians been customary among them, why should the verse mention as a sinful act Asa’s consulting the physicians, since his guilt was only because he did not [also] seek G-d? But the verse can be compared to someone saying: “That person did not eat unleavened bread on the Festival of Passover, but instead [ate] leavened bread.”. For he who seeks the Eternal through a prophet, will not consult the physicians. And what part do the physicians have in the house of those who do the will of G-d, after He has assured us, and He will bless thy bread, and thy water, and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee,. whereas the physicians are concerned [mostly] with food and drink, warning [the patient] against [eating] certain foods and commanding him [to eat] others. Thus also the Rabbis said: During all the twenty-two years that Rabbah reigned [as head of the Academy at Pumbeditha], Rav Yoseph did not call even a blood letter to his house” as he, being a righteous person, was protected directly by G-d and needed no physicians, and they also say by way of proverb “A gate which is not open for the commandments i.e., a house wherein the commandments are not observed is open for the physician.” This is also the meaning of their saying: “People should not have to take medicaments, but they have become accustomed to do so.” That is to say: had they not accustomed themselves to taking medicines, people would become sick according to the degree of punishment corresponding to their sin, and would be healed by the will of G-d, but since they accustomed themselves to medicaments, G-d has left them to natural happenings. This is also the intent of the Rabbis’ interpretation: a. “And he shall cause him to be thoroughly healed. From here [you deduce the principle] that permission has been given to the physician to heal.” They did not say that “permission was given to the sick to be healed” [by the physician], but instead they stated [by implication] that since the person who became sick comes [to the physician] to be healed, because he has accustomed himself to seeking medical help and he was not of the congregation of the Eternal whose portion is in this life,. the physician should not refrain from healing him; whether because of fear that he might die under his hand, since he is qualified in this profession, or because he says that it is G-d alone Who is the Healer of all flesh, since after all people have already accustomed themselves to seeking such help. Therefore when men contend and one smites the other with a stone or his fist. the one who smote must pay for the healing,. for the Torah does not base its laws upon miracles, just as it said, for the poor shall never cease out of the Land, knowing beforehand that such will be the case. But when a man’s ways please the Eternal, he need have no concern with physicians.
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler: There is no difference between miracle and nature. Everything is nature! The entire world exists only because of Hashem's will, and His will is His doing and leadership. Since everything that He wills manifests itself. What we call a "miracle" are simply the manifestations of Hashem's will that we are not accustomed to, and therefore that novelty is viewed as a miracle from our point of view. What we call "nature" are things that Hashem's will is consistently manifesting and we are accustomed to...

It is an ultimate test for man. The "nature" is a "miracle" in disguise. Everything is Hashem's direct will, and "nature" is an optical illusion, in order for man to have free will and have a place to make mistakes and choose the true path.


  1. 1) Title refers to Maimonides, text cites Nachmanides...

    2) Is what true? The thesis on nature, or whether Nachmanides holds this opinion?

    3) Also, it does not address Tzaddik v ra lo, or the opposite, rasha v'tov lo, where a complete atheist, sonneh Hashem, who eats chazir and commits adultery, benefits from nature/miracles, whilst a Tzaddik, who is careful in his speech, bears insults, and is strict with every matter of halacha, yet suffers in this world.

  2. corrected title thanks
    The issue is whr=ether the Ramban held teva is an illussion because everything is a miracle?

  3. there is a distinction betwen Teva and miracles, since teva is supposed to be cause and effect - we plant seeds, eat food, and expect everything to go well. But another aspect of teva, is that there are wars, pestilence, famine, disease etc - look at Ukraine, covid, inflation etc.

    There ae several ways to categorize miracles v nature.

    If we keep the mitzvot, we are assured that Teva will serve us in a good way, our crops, health, parnassah will all be in order, and there will be no wars or diseases. these are through teva, but are miraculous because regular teva has very a nasty downside.

    And also the opposite, if we do nto keep the Mitzvot, nature will conspire against us, so we suffer from war, famine dispersion etc.

    Then there are miracles which are above teva, ie they cannot easily be explained by teva -the parting of the red sea - if it opened as 2 walls, that goes against all the laws of nature.

    There are other things which we might call miraculous, but are doenthrough knowledge of science, which is teva - so when new cures to diseases are discovered, that is a miracle. When something like Entebbe happens, it can be called a miracle.

    Scientists will also , at least some of them , see the miracle in nature itself. why things work the way they do. But the two are not the same -

    Hassidic thought says something similar to what Rav Dessler says, that there is G-dliness in everything, but it is concealed with klipot.

  4. If Ramban is talking about physicians vs asking G-d or a prophet to heal, then he accepts there is a natural way as well. We do not have an option other than physicians, since there is no navi to heal us.


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