Halacha for Wednesday 9 Sivan 5778 May 23 2018

Praying for a Miracle

Question: May one request that Hashem perform a miracle for him in a supernatural way?

Answer: The will of Hashem is that this world run according to the laws of nature, as the great Rishonim (including Rabbeinu Sa’adia Gaon in his book and the Ran in his discourses) write. Similarly, the Gemara in Masechet Ta’anit (25a) states that Hashem does not wish to change the laws of nature even slightly except for certain select situations.

In the previous Halacha, we have discussed the statement of the Gemara in the beginning of the ninth chapter of Masechet Berachot that if one’s wife is pregnant and one prays (during her pregnancy) that one’s wife should give birth to a baby boy, this is considered a prayer in vain since the gender of the child has already been determined and it is improper to pray for miracles. The Gemara records the incident regarding our Matriarch, Leah, where the fetus in her womb was originally a boy and turned into a girl, and our Sages teach us that this was indeed a miraculous event and one should not mention miraculous events (in his one’s prayer). Based on this, it would seem that one should not pray for miraculous events to occur.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l uses this idea to question the words of the Rama (in Chapters 187 & 682) who rules that one who forgets to mention the “Al Ha’Nissim” text in Birkat Hamazon during Chanukah (for which one does not repeat Birkat Hamazon) should recite at the end of Birkat Hamazon, “May the Merciful One perform ‘miracles and wonders’ for us, just as he has performed for our forefathers during those days at this time. In the days of Matityah son of Yochanan etc.” (A similar text is quoted earlier by Rav Hai Gaon and in Machzor Vitri.) The difficulty with this is that the Gemara states that one should not request miraculous events in one’s prayer.

Maran zt”l answers this question based on the words of Hagaon Bechor Shor (Shabbat 21b) who writes that although the defeat of the Greeks by the Hashmonai family was certainly miraculous, nevertheless, this miracle can still be considered “natural,” for it is conceivable that a few individuals who are brave-hearted may defeat many, even naturally. Regarding such a miracle, one may request that Hashem perform such a miracle for us. Alternatively, only a person praying on his own behalf should not request a miracle; however, one may request for actual miraculous events to occur to the Jewish nation as a whole.

Thus, based on what we have discussed above, the answer to our question will be that it is permissible to pray for a miracle which is in the confines of the laws of nature, although it seems farfetched that such an event will occur naturally. Similarly, one may even pray for a complete miracle to occur to the Jewish nation collectively; however, one should not request a complete miracle for a single person. It is therefore permissible to pray to Hashem to heal an ill person although according to the doctors, the patient’s chances of survival are almost none, since such an event can conceivably occur within the confines of a “natural event.”

Similarly, when the Arab nations joined forces to fight against the Jewish nation, although the chances of victory against them was almost none because they completely outnumbered us, nevertheless, it was permissible to pray to Hashem for the salvation of Israel, for such a miracle would apply to the entire Jewish nation collectively and not merely to some individuals. Indeed, the Jewish nation is worthy of Hashem performing miracles and wonders for them out of His tremendous love for them.

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