Reader: Why can't I believe that the Lubavitcher Rebbe performed miracles if that is not WHY I believe in him? Once my belief is based on Torah knowledge and wisdom, why do you say that I shouldn't believe that he could do a miracle?
Mesora: First, you must be clear on one point: man cannot perform miracles, not even Moses, and certainly not the Lubavitcher Rebbe. This is because man is a “created being”, and has arrived on the world’s stage after G-d has already established the properties of all existences: “A statute and time (G-d) gave to them, that they shall not deviate from their appointment.” (Excerpt: Sanctification of the New Moon blessing) This quote teaches that man cannot override G-d’s laws and create miracles - a suspension in nature’s laws. True, prophets like Moses were ‘involved’ in miracles. But no one – not even the greatest of men, Moses - could partake in a miracle, unless G-d performed it. So without G-d’s intervention, man is as a weak as a worm.
I am quite familiar; this theory of rebbes doing miracles is widespread. I have heard rabbis espousing this belief. I have even heard first hand, a rabbi claim that an event of finding a book was unnatural. In other words, he was saying that a miracle occurred for him. I found this quite haughty, while his congregants enjoyed it. Where is the “tznius” (modesty) of our leaders? “And humbly shall you walk with your G-d.” (Micha, 6:8)
One must not be moved by stories, even when our leaders buy into this deceptive and destructive hype. I feel one reason for their belief is based on misinterpretations of Talmudic accounts where metaphors depict Talmudic sages doing miraculous feats. Such stories create a void in present day congregants – they want ‘their’ Rebbe to be on par with the ancients. Therefore, they spread fables to elevate their reputations. And those prophets, for whom G-d did in fact perform miracles, be mindful of what high level such an individual was on. So when we hear stories that these very Rebbes gave poor advice, saying someone would live, but in fact died (as I have heard first hand) is such a false prediction from G-d’s chosen one, for whom He would enact a miracle? This does not make sense. G-d will not lend His miracles to those who mislead others.
Let’s briefly think of the possibilities you suggest: A) a miracle did occur for a Rebbe, but not in front of others. In such a case, I ask: is it that the Rebbe himself told others of his miraculous experience? This cannot be, for this is not the circulating story. Surely such a quote would be heard. Therefore, it can only be that others repeat that a miracle happened. But if it was not performed in front of others, and the Rebbe didn’t repeat it, how would others know? B) The miracle did happen in front of others. If so, where are the corroborating witnesses? We never hear someone telling us “I saw the miracle”, but rather, “I heard there was a miracle.” These first two possibilities are therefore dismissed, leaving one other: C) the miracle did not happen but a story was concocted.
But is this what G-d desires, that we accept the “popular”, in place of reason? This is absurd. Additionally, do not be impressed by “who” believes in such stories, even if titled “rabbi”. Here is a good rule to follow: “Much applause cannot alter illusion into reality.” Meaning, although believed by members of his audience to have caused an elephant to vanish, the magician is simply a manipulator – never capable of a drop more. Both, the audience’s size, and status of attendees cannot make the magician more than what he is – human. So too, when it comes to Jews believing that Rebbes perform miracles. Regardless of the masses of believers, or their rank in Jewish society, we follow reason, which teaches that man is powerless.
You cannot be truly “based on Torah knowledge and wisdom” as you suggest, while believing unproven miracles were performed by man. I will explain. Judaism is not based on belief, but on proof. This is its essential difference from all other religions. For this reason, G-d gave man intelligence - the gift for discerning fact from fiction. Reason and provability would not have been given to man, had G-d simply desired simple, blind faith.
G-d's enactment of Revelation at Sinai was for the very purpose of affording man some means by which to fulfill the first of the Ten Commandments – the command of Knowing G-d. Revelation at Sinai was manifested in front of millions through undeniable miracles, for a great reason: to conclusively prove G-d's existence. G-d created this event, as He desires mankind – throughout all generations – to have a rational proof for His existence. G-d desires that man use reason to arrive at his religious convictions, and all other truths.
This also means that G-d demands that we do not follow that which is bereft of proof. Directing man to follow only what is proven means that G-d desires that we do not follow what is unproven. If G-d did not care whether man followed unproven miracles, Sinai would not be needed. But we see the opposite is the case. For this reason, we do not follow unproven stories, as it is a direct violation of G-d's will.
What would be your argument against a Christian who believes that Jesus performed miracles? According to you, you must applaud a Christian who does so. Why should he be any different than you? You would support idolatry, if you remain in your current position. But Judaism's view is to follow reality, not imagination. Therefore, you must not support any other religion, and you must not support the belief in miracles, other than those proven.
It is irrelevant whether belief in the Lubavitcher Rebbe (or others) to work miracles, forms your religious belief or not. The crime is no less harmful if you arrive at a belief in miracle workers, even after accepting Judaism without it. For when you accept stories of miracle workers - at any point in life - you thereby abandon the proof of Sinai as an exclusive proof of G-d’s will. You essentially deny the unique nature of Sinai, which then allows you to view any story of miracles – even with no witnesses – equally viable as Sinai. And when you do so, your entire proof of Judaism tumbles downward. You will be no better than any other religionists.
Exodus 19:9 reads, “Behold I come to you in thick cloud, so that the people shall hear when I speak with you, and (so also) that the people believe in you forever…” G-d clearly teaches us the purpose of Revelation at Sinai. It alone provided the people proof in G-d, and in Moses. These are G-d’s words.
In his Laws of the Fundamentals of Torah, (8:1) Maimonides writes, “The Jews did not believe in Moses our teacher because of the wonders he performed. For one who believes based on wonders, there is doubt in his heart, ‘perhaps the sign was done secretly or with sleight of hand’.” He continues a few sentences after, “And with what did the Jews believe in him? With Revelation at Sinai, that our eyes saw it and not a stranger, and our ears heard it and none other…”
The Jews believed in Moses and G-d because of Revelation at Sinai. This alone must form our foundation for our beliefs. We thereby learn, that only those events that carry absolute proof – such as Sinai – are what G-d desires we accept as truth. G-d desires we denounce all other accounts. Based on this principle given to us by G-d, we denounce Jesus, Mohammed, and all other false prophets.
This principle, that Judaism is a system built on proof and reason alone, must guide our every thought and action. However, once we betray reality, once we wed cultural deviances, Judaism is widowed by her mate’s estranged love for aliens. We have abandoned Judaism entirely, regardless of how well we mimic the commands with our actions. Samuel said, “Is G-d desirous of burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as following His word?” (Samuel I, 15:22) Meaning, simply acting out commands, while not adhering to the Torah’s underlying fundamentals, is not desirable before G-d. For with such corruption where man betrays reason, he no longer relates to G-d, or Judaism.
I don’t know from where there originated this story you mention of the Rebbe performing miracles. But I ask you, is it a small thing to you, that our founding Patriarch Abraham was astounded that G-d would perform a miracle for him, giving him a child at 100 years of age? Yet, you so easily accept stories from others that someone - not a prophet (the Talmud teaches prophecy ended) - is not only unsurprised by miracles, but also, performs them?
No intelligent man will ever tell another person that he can override G-d, and perform miracles. And if someone says that G-d commanded him to do miracles, or that he can do miracles, he does that which is similar – in my mind – to a false prophet like Jesus, the punishment being death. For even if unlike the False Prophet, he says, “I will do miracles to support the Torah’s words”, he is saying that he received some communication from G-d, when in fact, he has not. For man cannot do miracles, without G-d’s intervention. By saying G-d has instructed him to perform miracles when G-d has not, he falsely claims prophecy. Jesus did the same thing.
So you see, accepting stories that the Rebbe did miracles is no small matter. And if the stories were not corroborated by the Rebbe himself, you malign him in the process. It is preferable to be silent, than to repeat unproven stories. The truth of someone’s life experiences eventually surfaces, and his reputation does not require our subsequent deification. If we have no conclusive proof about some matter, repeating it will not make it truer. And if a person was so great that G-d did in fact intervene with miracles, G-d knows his greatness and rewards him. That is all that matters. It is irrelevant whether or not we hear or repeat such a story. If G-d desires, and publicizes a miracle as He has done with the prophets, then there will be no doubt about it. So, there is nothing gained by repeating unproven events. It is poor judgment that leads to talking about that for which no proof exists, to fabricate a reputation with miraculous fables, and to focus on man instead of G-d.
G-d does not desire to create deified reputations of man, nor does a righteous man desire it. G-d requires that the focus of our lives is He alone, as this is the goal of Torah. The prophets shunned the spotlight, as seen from the account of Elisha and Naaman. When Naaman requested Elisha to rid him of his leprosy, Elisha did not leave the house, but rather, he sent a messenger to instruct Naaman to bathe, and this would remove his ailment. Naaman was upset with Elisha, that he did not come out, call upon G-d's name, and "wave his hand over the place of the leprosy and remove it". A friend suggested wisely, that Elisha desired that G-d retain the grandeur for such a miracle, therefore, Elisha did not leave the house. Elisha avoided the spotlight, as he knew that G-d was the performer of all miracles, and did not want to mislead Naaman. Elisha was aware that people desire to believe in man as a miracle worker. Elisha therefore avoided credit for that which man has no connection with.
If the prophets properly shunned any credit for miracles, we must also assume that a Torah leader will learn from Elisha, and follow his modest and truthful lead. I do not believe any Talmid Chocham - a wise Torah scholar - would take credit or announce a miracle that happened to him, for the wise are humble, and Moses being the most humble of all men proves this point. Surely, one who might boast, would never have a miracle enacted for him.
You must realize the magnitude of the destruction to Judaism, and yourself, when deifying man.