Monday, January 11, 2010

Cleanliness and Miracles

I'm not a particularly neat person by nature, but I'm not exactly the messiest girl on the block. But I, like most other people, work better in a neat environment.

For ages, my room has looked like it was struck by a hurricane. The number of times I attempted to clean it up are too numerous to count. A very good friend of mine came over with her sister in a last ditch attempt to get my room straightened out. They left me, after four hours, to a cleaned room with last instructions that were to be filled that night.

I followed their instructions, and I went to bed that night smiling. For days afterward, I smiled every time I stepped foot into my room. My day wasn't going so well, that's OK – my room was clean; I wasn't feeling well – my room was a haven to heal my sickness. No matter what went wrong, my room was the panacea.

After a while, I noticed a strange phenomenon: I didn't smile every time I came into my room. The sight of the swept floor and vacuumed rugs did not inspire joy. The neatness of my bookshelves and bed didn't make me want to thank my friends profusely for the gift they had given me in helping me clean up.

From my experience, I gained an insight into human nature: People only acknowledge what they don't expect. If it's "coming to them," there's no need to thank the one who took it from the potential to the actual.

When a baby begins to grow, his first, and most fascinating, toys are his own hands and feet. He is overcome with amazement and wonder of the complexity of Hashem's world. Everything he sees is new and exciting – a leaf, a cloud, his nose etc. Everything is seen as a gift special for him. As he grows up, he gets used to seeing the world as it is, so it no longer inspires such admiration. That's just the way the world is – nothing special about it, nothing new, nothing to express thanks for because this is the way it's supposed to be.

Everything in this world that is labeled "nature" or "natural" is really an oft-occurring miracle. Waking, breathing, sleeping, eating … the list is endless. If only we could go back to our babyhood as adults so we can recognize the good in our lives and thank the One who gave it to us!


itsagift said...

Wow! That's so beautiful!
Thanks for the reminder! Yes, we can remember all the good Hashem gave us - we just have to spend some time to think about them ;-)

Staying Afloat said...

Well put. If every time you see something, you realize it could be the other way, it's going to bring you joy- wow, I can walk. Or I know how to talk to people.

BTW, Rabbi Tatz says that the origin of all humor is surprise. That would explain the smiling.

Bookworm said...

There is a difference between miracles and nature. That is how the Avos knew Hashem, through tevah(Shakai) while Moshe knew Him through nissim (Elokim).

The Avos viewed the nature on this earth as testimony in itself of Hashem's existence. We are told not to expect nissim in our day to day lives. If Hashem has to change the perfection of His nature for a nes, that is not good, and it is considered not necessarily a maaleh, since our emunah was apparently lacking.

Staying Afloat said...

There's a machlokes between the Rambam and the Ramban as to what's a miracle. Bookworm, I'm hearing Rambam in what you say. Ramban, on the other hand, says that every little thing that happens is a miracle- there are just different kinds. For a decent summary, see:

MusingMaidel said...

Sorry I haven't been responding to all your comments lately - I've been so busy, it's taken all my free time just to post ☺

itsagift - thanks. It's something to think about.

sa - I didn't know that - and thanks for defending me.

bookworm - I was actually holding (as sa said) with the Ramban. One of my teachers in high school made us memorize a whole paragraph from him at the end of parshas bo, which is what I was thinking of when I wrote this.

ck said...

that was soo well written!! you really expressed ur self well and i really understood what you said!

David_on_the_Lake said...

So true.
I think an artist is someone that has that unique ability to see things others don't. An ability to stop and just notice the way a tree is framing a particular cloud for one fleeting and stop and smile and this little masterpiece.

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