Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Duel Versions


Yesterday, I read in the Talmud (B'rachot 5B) a story about a sage who unknowingly erred and once behaved beneath the expectation for someone on his spiritual level. This sage made his living selling wine. Compassionately, the Creator brought his attention to his accidental misbehavior, signaling him to make amends. Suddenly, his stock of four hundred wine barrels turned into vinegar  - losing most of their value.

He asked his fellow sages, "Why did this happen to me?"

They helped him examine his deeds until the incident which he was oblivious to had surfaced. At first, he defended his behavior. His colleagues broke through his defenses, forcing him to face up to what he did. Then he realized that he should have handled the situation differently. 

When he resolved to make amends, a miracle occurred. There are two versions of this miracle. One version is that all the vinegar turned back to wine. Another version is that the price of vinegar rose to match the price of wine. Thus, he was able to sell his stock without incurring a loss.

Often enough when a story has two versions, I am left wondering, "Well, which one is correct?"

In this case, I am thrilled that there are two versions of how his impending loss was averted. Between the duel versions of the story lies a valuable lesson. One version, the vinegar turning back to wine is a miracle beyond nature, as it's unnatural for vinegar to revert to wine. The other version, the price of vinegar rising to match the price of wine is a miracle within nature. It's easy to point to market forces which can occasionally fluctuate in an unpredictable pattern, temporarily bringing up the price of the unexpected commodity.

The lesson is that the Creator can achieve the exact same goal with either kind of miracle, whether beyond nature or within nature. Therefore, we shouldn't feel less cared for by Him if nature isn't overturned to meet our needs. Most miracles today are disguised as natural occurrences. We just need to keep our eyes open to appreciate them.


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