Do miracles require a supernatural tour de force or are they often a matter of Divine “timing”? Chemistry Prof. Aryeh Frimer explores the phenomenon from a Torah and science perspective.
“And the [Israelites] arrived at Marah and could not drink from the waters of Marah because they were bitter. And [Moses] cried out to the Lord, and He showed him a tree, which he threw into the waters, and the waters became sweet.” (Exodus 15:23, 25)
In the miracle at Marah, Moses hurls a mysterious tree into the bitter non-potable waters of the desert oasis, and the waters are amazingly sweetened thereby. There has been much discussion as to the identity of the tree Moses used. [Roald Hoffmann and Shira Leibowitz Schmidt, Old Wine, New Flasks: Reflections on Science and Jewish Tradition (New York: W.H. Freeman & Co., 1997), Chapter 4.] The underlying premise of this discussion is that God, even in performing miracles, works as much as possible through the rules of nature which He Himself set up. This view is explicitly stated by R. Hezekiah ben Manoah (Hizkuni), in his commentary ad loc. Similar ideas appear in Maimonides, Gersonides and other Jewish philosophers and commentaries. These scholars also note that miracles are more often a matter of “timing” than of the acts themselves. Divine intervention — just when needed — does not necessarily require a supernatural tour de force.
One classic example of this thesis is the splitting of the Red Sea. Scripture records that this miracle was preceded by the blowing of a “strong east wind all night” which “dried the Sea and split the waters” (Exodus 14:21). If miracles are purely unnatural, why was it necessary for the Almighty to resort to evaporation effected by a strong all-night wind?! Indeed, Drews and Han (http://tinyurl.com/7o8h32l) have carried out computer simulations which show that when strong winds of about 63km/h blow across a model body of water for an extended period, it can cause the water to tilt and recede from the original shoreline. This would leave exposed mud flats on the bottom, closely matching the Exodus account. Again, God using science to effect an outstanding miracle!