Project Genesis

Basics of Judaism

G-d and Torah

How does a rationalist believe in miracles?

Question: I have trouble believing in miracles. How can a rationalist believe that food fell from the sky and fed the Jewish people in the desert? That the red sea split? That frogs fell out of the sky? Thanks.

Answer: That’s a really fair and reasonable question.

I would start to answer it by suggesting that your understanding of both the concept of “miracles” and the specific stories is based on a non-Jewish society’s take on these concepts (specifically Christian). The only way to see the Jewish understanding is to study the Jewish texts (including the Midrash). Moreover, to understand the concept of a miracle, it is necessary to begin with an understanding of what we mean when we say “God”. This is the necessary starting point for a truly rationalist approach to spirituality.

For starters, I would recommend a book by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, If You Were God. Second, I would recommend The Art of Amazement: Judaism’s Forgotten Spirituality. (Full disclosure: I am the author; however, I do not profit from your buying the book, and I obviously believe in it. But don’t take my word for it, read the reviews.)

Good luck, and feel free to contact me for follow-up after you have read either of these two books.

Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld,

[Reposted from the Archives]

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