Last week, we saw that there can be two very different goals when a miracle occurs. One is when natural occurrences do not seem to be able to produce the desired result — the salvation from the tzarah, the refuah. In such a case, when a miracle occurs, HaShem minimizes the miracle, keeping as close as possible to the “laws of nature” game plan that He designed for the world. But when the purpose of the nes is to publicize the existence and the omnipotence of HaShem, then HaShem magnifies the nes, even performing a “miracle within a miracle” (e.g., the copper serpent healing), which furthers the goal of this type of nes.
It should be noted that the miracles performed by Moshe Rabbeinu, which furthered Klal Yisrael’s belief in G-d and in His servant Moshe, were of this second variety. At the end of Parshas Vezos Habracha (Devarim 34:10-12), the Torah states that there never arose another navi like Moshe, as evidenced by all the signs and wonders that HaShem sent him to perform, and by the strong Hand and the awesome power that Moshe set before Israel. Ramban explains the flow of these pesukim: Never again has a prophet arisen like Moshe, who was able to perform signs and wonders and bring about (i.e. make evident) the strong Hand and awesome power of HaShem. That is to say, that although other prophets might have performed miracles, theirs did not approach Moshe’s, neither in sheer numbers nor in greatness. Never before or after was there the likes of Har Sinai, nor did those other miracles occur over a great length of time as did Moshe’s, lasting through the forty-year journey through the desert.
Ramban is teaching us that the miracles performed by Moshe were to exhibit HaShem’s strong Hand and awesome power, and to showcase Moshe as the non-paralleled navi (which is one of our thirteen tenets of emunah). This is explicit in Ramban (Bereishis 17:1): There are miracles in which there is no noticeable change from the natural course of the world, in contrast to those miracles performed through Moshe Rabbeinu like the ten plagues, the splitting of the sea and others like these, which were wonders that changed nature in an obvious way — miracles which were brought about by Moshe’s knowing the unique Name of HaShem which HaShem taught Moshe.
And so we see that the nature of the nissim performed by Moshe were uniquely different and produced miracles which defied any sense of teva. This was meant to publicize Moshe as the av hanevi’im, whose supremacy in prophecy is unassailable. Hence, all nissim performed by Moshe were designed to go beyond the laws of nature and publicize that HaShem hu Elokim, and Moshe, His faithful servant.
Being that this Shabbos is the 17th of Tammuz, when we normally would be fasting for the specific event of the enemy breaking through the walls of Yerushalayim, culminating in the churban Beis HaMikdash three weeks hence, and also beginning the mourning period known as the Three Weeks, it would be somewhat irresponsible not to take note of the day. It is sad that we have no patience, time, or heart to really mourn, and precious little understanding or appreciation to be broken-hearted over the loss of so much of our essence as a nation of G-d. I saw a beautiful thought by the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt”l (whose yahrtzeit was 3 Tammuz) about the occurrence of Shabbos 17 Tammuz (with relevance of course to three weeks from now, Shabbos Tisha B’Av), and will share it with the readers of this column.
A fast day is actually called a “yom ratzon laShem” (Yeshayahu 58:5), a “day which HaShem favors” or “a day to find favor in the eyes of HaShem.” One would assume that the reference is to fast days which are primarily for teshuvah and atonement which are l’ratzon, but as for the fast days over the churban, which are primarily focused on aveilus (mourning), that is not necessarily the case. But that would be wrong; Rambam in Hilchos Ta’aniyos (Chapter 5) begins by saying that even the four “churban” fast days are “for the purpose of inspiring a person to start doing teshuvah, as these days are a remembrance of the evil ways of our past and present, which ultimately were the cause the tragic events over which we are fasting. And when we remember these things and are stirred by them, we will do teshuvah and better our ways.”
So we see that even the “aveilus” fast days are yemei ratzon in which we have an opportunity to find favor in the eyes of HaShem and attain kaparah, albeit in a way which reminds us of the unpleasant ramifications when we do not do His will. But it is logical to conclude that when Rambam at the end of Hilchos Taaniyos rules lahalacha that which the passuk says (Zecharya 8:19), that in the future, when Mashiach comes, these four days of fasting shall become days of rejoicing (seemingly a puzzling statement; we certainly understand that the mourning will cease, but why will these days become specifically joyous?) the reason is because these dates, as is usually the case with the Jewish calendar, are days whose essence is that of ratzon and hisorerus to draw closer to HaShem! In the present, unfortunately, we are locked into doing that through fasting for tragic events. In the future, with bi’as haMashi’ach and a rebuilt Beis Hamikdash (may it be rebuilt speedily in our days!) our drawing closer to HaShem on these days will be accomplished by other means, the more “normal” means of simchah and joy and basking in the presence of the Shechinah.
When a fast day comes out on Shabbos, halachah dictates that we do not fast. But the day is still the day; it is the 17th of Tammuz. It is still the “eis ratzon” of 17 Tammuz; and it is Shabbos, “me’ein olam haba,” a day in which we are supposed to draw nearer to HaShem through oneg Shabbos, through our physical selves, enjoying, appreciating and savoring the closeness to HaShem that we should be feeling on that special day.
So let us use Shabbos 17 Tammuz to redouble our efforts to eat, drink, and be “mis’anag al HaShem” through those efforts, and through that, be zocheh to bring about the joyous 17 Tammuz that we all await.