Supernatural Resolutions?

Friday, 5 January, 2024 - 9:14 am

“Rabbi, which resolution should I take on this year?”

“Rabbi, for some reason I’m never able to keep my resolutions. What should I do?”

These are the types of questions I receive at this time of year.

Of course, I have a whole laundry list of suggestions, starting with Advice for Life.

But, as far as a general approach to resolutions, this parsha might offer some insight. In the opening eponymous parsha of Shemot, we are introduced to the great Jewish leader Moshe.

Moshe’s first encounter with G-d is described in the Torah as follows:

An angel of the L-rd appeared to him in a flame of fire from within the thorn bush, and behold, the thorn bush was burning with fire, but the thorn bush was not being consumed.

If G-d wanted to impress Moshe, why did He appear in a simple burning bush? Yes, it was a miracle, but there are certainly more glamorous options…

One of the interpretations offered is that this miracle was, in fact, greater than other earth-shattering miracles. Instaed of G-d showing Moshe a supernatural miracle, He showed him how nature itself could be supernatural. Yes, the bush was naturally burning. But, it still was not being consumed.

In other words, nature itself was being stretched. It was the greatest miracle of all – the synthesis of the infinite and the finite.

And, the message to Moshe was that this will be the destiny and identity of the Jewish people.

They will be slaves. They will remain a minority nation. They will go through many exiles.

The natural result should be extinction.

Yet, they will prevail. And, they will continue to influence the world. Naturally.

People will try to chalk it up to all types of explanations. Some will say it’s miraculous. Others will say it’s natural.

And, they will both be wrong. Or right.

It’s natural and supernatural all wrapped in one.

And, this has given us our marching orders as well.

When we observe our mission in this world – as well as chunks of it through resolutions – our mandate is clear: Operate within nature, but stay above nature. Strive for something miraculous, but make sure it’s grounded in reality.

Or, as Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad (whose yahrzeit is today), puts in in Tanya – a real servant of G-d is one who stretches themselves one extra miles beyond their highest expectations and dreams.

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