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The Nature of the Miraculous

Tanakh is replete with stories of Divine intervention into the lives of mankind. It speaks of miraculously talking serpents and donkeys, the Ten Plagues, the splitting of the Sea, and the stopping of the sun by Yehoshua.  There are many more mundane miracles, as well, such as those wrought by Elisha for lay individuals rather than the nation as a whole. These include the retrieving of a lost ax, the curing of a bitter stew, and the nourishing of a hundred men with but one loaf of bread. Other acts of Divine intervention might not even merit the name miracle, as Hashem aids the nation in battle or the like, without appearing to affect nature at all. 

When does Hashem intervene in the world by suspending the natural order and when does He leave it intact?  Is one method preferred over the other? Are supernatural miracles inherently different than ones which employ the forces of nature? Finally, what is the line between the natural and supernatural anyway?

The Mutability of Nature

It would seem that supernatural events, by definition, violate the laws of nature.  This, though, begs the question: how mutable is nature? Once Hashem established the natural order, how fixed must it remain?  On one hand, since Hashem is the one who created natural law, it might seem obvious that He, of course, can override it. On the other hand, if Hashem in unchanging and perfect, perhaps the laws He established must be unchanging and perfect as well. In addition, if natural law is subject to change, would that not undermine the entire order of the world?

Divine Providence

The existence of miracles testifies to Hashem's providence over and interaction with the world.  How encompassing, though, is this providence?  Is every action of every individual guided from above?  Or, did Hashem create the world, and leave it to basically run itself?  How often does He actively intervene and perform miracles to either protect or punish?  Does He do so in the same manner for every individual, or do different people merit different amounts of providence?  The manner in which one answers these questions will affect how one understands the working of supernatural phenomena.

Related Issues

There are several additional issues which relate to the questions discussed above: