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I've heard it said that both Ramban and Rambam believed that Hashem causes miracles to occur through natural means, but I've never seen this. What exactly do they (and other significant Rabbonim) say about this?

I've always understood this to mean that the event itself was something that did not contravene the laws of science, but
a) it may have been very unlikely to occur and
b) the fact that it occurred exactly at the right time were what made it miraculous. Is this what they meant or am I misunderstanding something?

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    In Ramban at the end of Parashat Bo he explains this. But this type of miracles is not the only one. In Rambam, I do not remember. But he explain that this is the Hashgacha. – kouty Apr 27 '16 at 10:57
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    i think the ramban says there is no nature. it is all miracles – ray Apr 27 '16 at 11:16
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    An example is krias Yam Suf where a "natural" wind blew all night and uncovered the path. Modern scientists have actually calculated what intensity of wind can do this at that spot and found it is possible. – sabbahillel Apr 27 '16 at 13:23
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    the story of purim is a classic example. On the surface it looks like a series of coincidences, that naturally resulted in the salvation of the Jewish people – Menachem Apr 27 '16 at 15:30
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    The Ralbag has an "extremist" position and explain Kriat yam suf as you wrote in b) and half of the world wrote severe criticism. Rivash, Maharal – kouty Apr 27 '16 at 22:15
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I have read that one of the reasons for "natural" means is to allow people to refuse to believe that hashem caused the nes. That is, if a miracle occured, then it would prevent bechiras chofshis (free will). In order to allow for free will, hashem has the miracle appear to use "natural law" but occur at precisely the time needed and in precisely the way it is needed. Many meforshim (such as Rav Hirsch or Rabbi Avigdor Miller) explain that the nature of the miracles was not what impressed the Egyptians, but the precision of the miracles. They occurred precisely when Moshe Rabbeinu stated, ended precisely when he said they would and covered exactly the area and the people that were to be affected. For example, the plague of frogs was the "original green line" and showed the precise borders of Egypt. There is a medrash that the frogs were used to settly some border disputes at that time.

Three Natural Miracles shows the various types of miracles that can occur.

A confrontational miracle, which overpowers and displaces the natural norm, creating a reality that is completely contrary nature’s laws.

A natural miracle, which, though it may be no less “impossible” by the standard norms, and no less obvious a display of the hand of G‑d, nevertheless occurs by natural means, employing natural phenomena and processes to achieve its end.

As an example, there actually is a "scientific" explanation for the splitting of the Yam Suf. The point is that a wind could have blown and uncovered a ridge of land across the sea. Hashem took this and changed it to be sufficient for the entire Bnei Yisrael as well as adding the miracles specified by the midrashim. It also kept the Egyptians away until they crossed as well as making the timing exact.

Scientists Explain Red Sea Parting and Other Miracles

In the latest attempt to lend scientific credence to a supernatural event, Naum Volzinger, a senior researcher at St. Petersburg's Institute of Oceanography, and Alexei Androsov, a colleague based in Hamburg, Germany, analyzed conditions that could have made the parting of the Red Sea possible.

As the biblical story goes: "And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided."

Volzinger and Androsov calculated that a wind blowing at the speed of 67 miles per hour sustained overnight could have exposed a reef that existed close below the ocean surface. The Israelites could have then fled over the passage before the wind died down and waters rose again, blocking the way for pursuing Egyptian soldiers in their wheeled chariots.

Volzinger explains that some 3,500 years ago, the reef would have been closer to the water's surface so it would have been exposed for just the right amount of time.

"It would take the Jews … four hours to cross the 7-kilometer reef that runs from one coast to another," Volzinger told The Moscow Times. "Then, in half an hour, the waters would come back."

A miracle? Perhaps. Great timing? Certainly, argues Colin Humphreys, a physicist at Cambridge University in England and author of the book, The Miracles of Exodus.

"I still say they're miracles," Humphreys said. "But I think the miracle is in the timing."

There is a scientific explanation for the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus

Application of storm surge modeling to Moses' crossing of the Red Sea

Two case studies are presented. A reconstruction of the crossing of the Red Sea by Moses and the Israelites, as described in Exodus 14, shows that the eastern Nile delta of Egypt matches the Biblical narrative and provides a hydrodynamic mechanism for water to remain on both sides of the dry passage. The vulnerability of Manila Bay and the surrounding areas to a Category 3 typhoon is evaluated and shows that the simulated surge heights depend heavily on the wind direction and the coastal topography.

Dynamics of Wind Setdown at Suez and the Eastern Nile Delta

Under a uniform 28 m/s easterly wind forcing in the reconstructed model basin, the ocean model produces an area of exposed mud flats where the river mouth opens into the lake. This land bridge is 3–4 km long and 5 km wide, and it remains open for 4 hours. Model results indicate that navigation in shallow-water harbors can be significantly curtailed by wind setdown when strong winds blow offshore.

  • But can people walk on 67mph winds? – wizzardmr42 Apr 28 '16 at 13:58
  • I don't believe this answers the question (though it partially answers the companion question). – Seth J Apr 28 '16 at 14:41
  • I added a paragraph to give more detail. I had put this in before the companion question had been asked as an example of a "natural" miracle. – sabbahillel Apr 28 '16 at 16:16
  • "scientific credence to a supernatural event" - what is beyond observation is not scientific. – ray Apr 30 '16 at 20:01
  • Very interesting indeed! – Turk Hill Aug 25 at 21:40

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