Would you like to see a miracle, something to convince you beyond all doubt of the presence of God?This week, the priests are commanded to light a fire each day on the altar in the Temple. This is strange since a miraculous divine fire consumed all of the sacrifices. What was the point of the human conflagration?
The Sefer Hachinuch explains that biblical miracles always took place in a veiled way, leaving room for sceptics to deny their supernatural character and attribute everything to rational science and coincidence. Even when parting the Red Sea, one of the greatest miracles, God used an east wind to obscure the divine intervention.
Our priests are commanded to be co-conspirators with God, helping to mask the miraculous divine flames by lighting their own natural ones. Paradoxically, the people charged with proclaiming the greatness of God and attributing all good things to Him are also the people whose job it is to disguise God's miracles.
The Sefer Hachinuch explains that the reason for this paradox is that God does not wish to act alone. He wants the Jewish people to be agents for performing His will. As we left Egypt and trembled on the banks of the Red Sea, God instructed us not to hang about waiting for a miracle, but to dive in to the sea. We must act, and then God will be our partner. At the heart of our religion lies not God's miracles, but His will and our responsibility to perform it.
Our world desperately needs miracles: over 20,000 die daily of poverty-related causes, across the world children endure slavery, Israelis and Palestinians suffer because of the Middle East conflict. There is plenty for us to do.