Monday, October 3, 2022

Nature doesn't change

Rabbeinu Bachya (Devarim 32:1) A Midrashic approach to our verses, based on Sifri Haazinu the words האזינו השמים are an introduction to G’d saying to Israel: “take a look at the heaven and the earth which I created to be useful to you; did either heaven or earth change their ways? Did you sow seed and it did not grow, did you sow wheat and barley came up? Or, has a cow stopped ploughing or threshing? Has the donkey ceased being a beast of burden? If these planets, or animals which do not receive a reward for performing their duties and which do not even get punished for failing to do their duty have not refused to do them, how much more so could you people who are rewarded for doing your duty and who are being punished for failing to do your duty be expected to be smart enough not to deviate and rebel against Me?” The meaning of this Midrash is that all natural phenomena do not change their norms. If Moses singled out only heaven and earth as examples to illustrate this principle, it was because they, more than any other phenomena in our universe, are charged with preserving the laws of nature which ensure continued existence of the world as we know it. Just as if the oceans would break out of their assigned role and parameters would bring in the wake of such departure of the norm immediate calamity upon earth, so if heaven and earth were to disobey the rules laid down for them the result would be even more catastrophic. What is true of inert phenomena such as heaven and earth, is also true of living creatures such as cows and asses which are the mainstays of the farmer on earth. If all these creatures do not change their habits, man must certainly not change his habits and thereby endanger not only his surroundings but himself. 

Sifrei (Devarim 306) "Listen, O heavens, and I will speak": The Holy One Blessed be He said to Moses: Tell Israel: Look at the heavens that I have created to serve you. Have they changed their courses? Does the solar orb ever cease from rising in the east and lighting the entire world, viz. (Koheleth 1:15) "and the sun rises and the sun sets"? And, what is more, it revels in doing My will, viz. (Psalms 19:6) "He is like a groom emerging from his bridal canopy, rejoicing like a hero to run the course!" "and hear, O earth, the words of My mouth": Look at the earth that I have created to serve you. Has it ever changed its ways? Have you ever sowed and it has not sprouted? Have you ever sowed wheat and it sprouted barley? Or is there an ox that does not thresh or plow today, or an ass that is not laden and does not go? And thus of the sea it is written (Jeremiah 5:22) "Will you not fear Me? says the L-rd. Will you not tremble before Me? For I have set sand as a bound against the sea, etc." Has it ever changed its ways and said I will rise up and flood the world? No! As it is written (Iyyov 38:10-11) "… and I imposed My law upon it … and I said: Until here shall you go and no further!" Not only that, but it grieves and can do nothing, viz. (Jeremiah, Ibid.) "Its waves rage but cannot cross it." Now does this not follow a fortiori? If these (waves), which were created neither for reward nor punishment — if they are meritorious, they are not rewarded, and if they sin, they are not punished, and they do not pity their sons and daughters — if these have not changed their ways — then you, who, if you are meritorious, are rewarded, and who, if you sin, are punished, and you do pity your sons and daughters — how much more so should you not change your ways!

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