In this week's parsha (Bereishis, 46, 2), Hashem appears to Yaakov
b'mar'os halayla, in a vision of the night, by definition, a miracle.
The Meshech Chochma, R. Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, points out that these
words, which imply impending darkness, are only used to describe
Hashem's appearance to Yaakov, but never His encounters with Yitzchak
or Avraham. In Yaakov's case he needed to be "miraculously"
reassured as he is about to enter the darkness of the Egyptian exile.
Simultaneously, Yaakov sends Yehudah ahead to Egypt. According
to the Midrash, the purpose was for him to set up a Beis Medrash.Yaakov
does not rely on miraculous promises and he realizes the only way
to assure Jewish continuity during the long Egyptian exile is to
make sure his descendants learn for themselves, engaging their energies
and their minds in Torah. Their own work will be necessary if they
are to spiritually survive.
Ba'alei Mussar have pointed out: Sometimes people say, "If
only G-d would show me a miracle, then I would believe." But
the historical reality is that miracles alone have never had a lasting
religious effect on those who saw them. When Eliyahu HaNavi performed
miracles on Har HaCarmel (Melachim I,18), the Jews all proclaimed,
"Hashem is G-d!" Yet immediately following, the Navi continues
to describe the idol worship which was prevalent in the land of
On the other hand, at the beginning of the Second Temple era,
the Jews were on a very low religious level, violating Shabbos,
etc. (see the Book of Ezra). However, by the time of the Chashmonaim,
we know the Jews valued Shabbos to the point where they were initially
unwilling to fight the Greeks on Shabbos. This was total religious
reversal. What succeeded where miracles failed?
The answer is education. Ezra publicly taught everyone Torah.
This education involved hard work, sweat, and tears, trying to understand
and to internalize the Torah's ideas and ideals. This was not a
"miracle" or a free gift from Hashem, but our own hard
work and that is what has a lasting effect.
It is only through diligent Torah study, ameilus b'Torah, that
we can thrive in our long, dark galus.
May we be zocheh to make a true and lasting commitment to Torah
and mitzvos and merit the time when all Jews will proclaim "Hashem