ain somchin al ha’nes — praying for a miracle
Rashi quotes from Chazal that Leah was supposed to have another son, but given that there were going to be only 12 shevatim, she realized that if she has a baby boy, it would mean that Rachel would be the mother of even fewer shevatim than the shefachos. Leah therefore davened that her baby be switched to become a girl, and Dinah was born.
The gemara asks how such a thing is possible. The Mishna in Brachos writes that a person who says a ye’hi ratzon and asks for his pregnant wife to give birth to a boy is wasting his breath. Once the fetus’ sex is fixed, there is no going back. The gemara gives two answers: 1) what happened to Leah was a miracle; 2) the sex of the fetus is fixed only after 40 days from conception and Leah davened within the 40 day window.
The Midrash Tanchuma raises the same issue but gives a very different answer. Nothing is impossible for G-d, says the Midrash (a very frum answer!) – even changing the sex of the fetus in utero.
Some of the meforshei Rashi understand that the gemara and Tanchuma are at odds. The Mishna holds that what Leah asked for was impossible; the Midrash holds that G-d can do anything. There must be some braysa or other Tanna out there that the Tanchuma relies on in contradiction to the Mishna. (It would be interesting to speculate what the nekudas hamachlokes here might be. Is this like the question of whether G-d can make a square circle? It doesn’t sound like the same question.)
The Taz (here), however, writes that there is no contradiction. The gemara in Brachos, explains the Taz, is addressing the question of how it is possible for the sex of a baby to change – a practical question. To that, the gemara answers that it must have been a miracle (or before 40 days). But there is another question that the gemara does not address: given that what Leah was asking for could only come about through a miracle, how could she ask for it? Why was it not a tefilas shav, a waste of breath, like the case in the Mishna? It must be, says the Taz, that there is a difference between saying a ye’hi ratzon for the baby to be born a boy when you know the fetus is a girl vs. asking Hashem to change the sex of the fetus. One is a request for a square circle — a girl that is a boy. The other is a request for the circle to be transformed into a square — a different metziyus. True, that would take a miracle — but, explains the Tanchuma, there is nothing that says you can’t pray for a miracle.
Ain somchin al ha’nes, says the Taz, only applies to the realm of action. When it comes to tefilah, you can shoot for the stars, even if it would take a miracle to get what you want. (See Maharasha in Kidushin 29b as well).
One other point on tefilah: “Vayizkor Elokim es Rachel vayishma eileha Elokim…” (30:22) At first glance you would expect the two clauses to be reversed, i.e. first “vayishma,” Hashem would hear Rachel’s tefilah, and then “vayizkor,” he would remember to do something for her. But that’s not how it works. The Ohr haChaim explains that first there is the “vayizkor,” Hashem “remembering” that he wants to do something for Rachel. But, as we discussed back here also from the Ohr haChaim, even when Hashem wants to give a person something, it’s not a freebie — the person still has to earn the gift. Hashem helps out by providing the opportunity to do so. Rachel still had to do her part, in this case davening, so that “vayishma eileha…”
The Sages, seeing that his mind was clear, entered his chamber and sat down at a distance of four cubits. ‘Why have ye come?’ said he to them. ‘To study the Torah’, they replied; ‘And why did ye not come before now’, he asked? They answered, ‘We had no time’. He then said, ‘I will be surprised if these die a natural death’. R. Akiba asked him, ‘And what will my death be?’ and he answered, ‘Yours will be more cruel than theirs’. He then put his two arms over his heart, and bewailed them, saying, ‘Woe to you, two arms of mine, that have been like two Scrolls of the Law that are wrapped up. Much Torah have I studied, and much have I taught. Much Torah have I learnt, yet have I but skimmed from the knowledge of my teachers as much as a dog lapping from the sea. Much Torah have I taught, yet my disciples have only drawn from me as much as a painting stick from its tube.
And My Master Yeshua of Nazareth is the Greatest of them all.
The following MSS text was found in Istanbul, Turkey within the last decades. Note it is titled Acts 29, which would be the chapter which follows the canonical Acts of the Apostles in Holy Scripture. Also not the “Amen” at the end. All of the New Testament Epistles end with this, to indicate the book is complete in itself. There are only two others which do not have the Amen added at the end.
1- And Saul, full of the blessings of Messiah, and abounding in the spirit, departed out of Rome, determining to go into Spain, for he had a long time proposed to journey thenceforward, and was minded also to go from thence to Britain.
2- For he had heard in Phoenicia that certain of the children of Israel, about the time of the Assyrian captivity, had escaped by sea to “The Isles afar off” as spoken be the Prophet [Esdra], and called by the Romans – Britain.
3- And the Lord commanded the gospel to be preached far hence to the Gentiles [nations], and to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. [Act 9:15, 22:21]
4- And no man hindered Saul; for he testified boldly of Yah’shua before the tribunes and among the people; and he took with him certain of the brethren which abode with him at Rome, and they took shipping at Ostrium and having the winds fair, were brought safely into a haven of Spain.
5- And much people were gathered together from the towns and villages, and the hill country; for they had heard of the conversion to the Apostles, and the many miracles which he had wrought.
6- And Saul preached mightily in Spain, and great multitudes believed and were converted, for they perceived he was an apostle sent from God.
7- And they departed out of Spain, and Saul and his company finding a ship in Armorica sailing unto Britain, they were therein, and passing along the south Coast, they reached a port called Raphinus. (This is the Roman name for Sandwich, in Kent. In Saxon times there was, still standing in Sandwich, and old house called the “House of the Apostles: and tradition has it that Saul was one of the Apostles).
8- Now when it was voiced abroad that the Apostle had landed on their coast, great multitudes of the inhabitants met him, and they treated Saul courteously and he entered in at the east gate of their city, and lodged in the house of a Hebrew and one of his own nation.
9- And on the morrow he came and stood upon Mount Lud (Ludgate Hill and Broadway where St. Saul’s Cathedral stands in London, England) and the people thronged at the gate, and assembled in the Broadway, and he preached Messiah unto them, and they believed the Word and the testimony of Yah’shua.
10- And at even the w‟Rookha d‟Qoodsha fell upon Saul, and he prophesied, saying, Behold in the last days the God of Peace shall dwell in the cities, and the inhabitants thereof shall be numbered: and in the seventh numbering of the people, their eyes shall be opened, and the glory of their inheritance shine forth before them. The nations shall come up to worship on the mount the testified of the patience and long suffering of a servant of the Lord.
11- And in the latter days new tidings of the Gospel shall issue forth out of Jerusalem, and the hearts of the people shall rejoice, and behold, fountains shall be opened, and there shall be no more plague.
12- In those days there shall be wars and rumors of war; and a king shall rise up, and his sword, shall be for the healing of the nations, and his peacemaking shall abide, and the glory of his kingdom a wonder among princes.
13- And it came to pass that certain of the Druids came unto Saul privately, and showed by their rites and ceremonies they were descended from the Jews [Judahites] which escaped from bondage in the land of Egypt, and the apostle believed these things, and he gave them the kiss of peace.
14- And Saul abode in his lodgings three months confirming in the faith and preaching Messiah continually.
15- And after these things Saul and his brethren departed from Raphinus and sailed unto Atium in Gaul.
16- And Saul preached in the Roman garrison and among the people, exhorting all men to repent and confess their sins.
17- And there came to him certain of the Belgae to enquirer of him of the new doctrine, and of the man Yah’shua; And Saul opened his heart unto them and told them all things that had befallen him, howbeit, that Messiah Yah’shua came into the world to save sinners; and they departed pondering among themselves upon the things which they had heard.
18- And after much preaching and toil, Saul and his fellow laborers passed into Helvetia, and came to Mount Pontius Pilate, where he who condemned the Lord Yah’shua dashed himself down headlong, and so miserably perished.
19- Immediately a torrent gushed out of the mountain and washed his body, broken in pieces, into a lake.
20- And Saul stretched forth his hands upon the water, and prayed unto the Lord, saying O Lord God, give a sign unto all nations that here Pontius Pilate which condemned thine only-begotten son, plunged down headlong into the pit.
21- And while Saul was yet speaking, behold, there came a great earthquake, and the face of the waters was changed, and the form of the lake like unto the Son of Man hanging in an agony upon the Cross.
22- And a voice came out of heaven saying, Even Pilate hath escaped the wrath to come for he washed his hands before the multitude at the blood-shedding of the Lord Yah’shua
23- When, therefore, Saul and those that were with him saw the earthquake, and heard the voice of the angel, they glorified God, they were mightily strengthened in the spirit.
24- And they journeyed and came to Mount Julius where stood two pillars, one on the right hand and one on the left hand, erected by Caesar Augustus.
25- And Saul, filled with the w‟Rookha d‟Qoodsha, stood up between the two pillars, saying, Men and brethren these stones which ye see this day shall testify of my journey hence; and verily I say, they shall remain until the outpouring of the spirit upon all nations, neither shall the way be hindered throughout all generations.
26- And they went forth and came unto Illtricum, intending to go by Macedonia into Asia, and grace was found in all the churches, and they prospered and had peace. Amen!
The best known Roman governor of Judea to later history because of his role in the accounts of Yah’shua’ execution. Pilate probably came from the ranks of cavalry officers [equites] from which Rome regularly drew the prefects of smaller occupied provinces like Judea.
His appointment as prefect of Judea in the latter half of the reign of Tiberius—when the brutal Praetorian captain Sejanus was de facto ruler of Rome—is confirmed by reports in Josephus & a stone found in 1962 at Caesarea Maritima [the capitol of the Roman province of Palestine], inscribed: “[Thi]s Tiberieum [Pon]tius Pilatus, Prefect of Judea, [mad]e.”
The Pilate described by Josephus & the Roman historian Tacitus was a strong willed, inflexible military governor who was insensitive to the religious scruples of his Jewish & Samaritan subjects & relentless in suppressing any potential disturbance. This stands in sharp contrast to the impression conveyed in the Christian gospels which, for apologetic reasons, portray him as reluctant to execute Yah’shua. Pilate’s decade long tenure [26-36 CE] testifies to both his relative effectiveness in maintaining order & to the aging emperor’s lack of personal attention to administrative affairs.
The ruthless slaughter of thousands of Samaritan pilgrims by Pilate’s cavalry [ca. 36 CE], however, led to such a strong Palestinian protest that Pilate was eventually recalled to Rome. Tiberius died before his return; but the new emperor [Caligula] relieved Pilate of his command & exiled him to Gaul [Vienne-on-Rhone]. In good Roman military fashion, as one who had suffered defeat & public disgrace, he committed suicide.
Modern experts recognize that the years 29, 30, and 31 AD were the years in which Pilate’s coins were minted. And this simultaneously indicates the time frame for the trial and death of Yah’shua. These particular coins where struck in Jerusalem, the city in which the events took place. Pontius Pilate himself designed and put the coins into circulation, and conducted the trial and ordered the crucifixion of Yah’shua of Nazareth.
Shema, Yisra’el! YHVH ELOHAYNU YHVH echad. U’ahavtah YHVH ELOHAYCHA, v’kole levav’cha, v’kole nefeshcah, v’kole meod’cha; v’ahav’cha l’reacha kemo’cha. Baruch atah ADONAI ELOHAYNU, melek ha’olam, asher natan lanu simcha YHVH, v’ha’tiferah EASHOA, v’berekah shel ha’RUACH HA’QODESH.
Hear now and do, Yisra’el! YHVH our ELOHIYM, YHVH, is one. And you shall love YHVH your ELOHIYM, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all yourself; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Blessed are you ADONAI and ELOHIYM, king of all time, for giving us the joy of YHVH, the beauty of EASHOA, and the blessing of the RUACH HA’QODESH.
Barachu ADONAI, ha’me’verach l’olam vaed, asher natan lanu RUACH SHALOM, b’RUACH MASHIACH.
Blessed are you ADONAI, forever and ever, for giving us the spirit of peace, by the Spirit of Messiah.
Baruch atah YHVH TSEVA’OTH, bara ha’shamayim v’ha’aretz, ELOHAYCHEM shel Avraham, Yitshaq, v’Ya’akov, ELOHAYNU v’ al qadosh echad Yisra’el, ELOHAI, v’yishei, asher natan lanu ha’RUACH GEVURAH.
Blessed are you YHVH of the armies, creator of the heavens and the earth, the ELOHIYM of Avraham, Yitshaq, and Ya’akov, our ELOHIYM, the Holy One of Yisra’el, my EL, and my salvation, for giving us the Spirit of Strength.
Shema, Yisra’el! YHVH ELOHAYNU YHVH echad. U’ahavtah YHVH ELOHAYCHA, v’kole levav’cha, v’kole nefeshcah, v’kole meod’cha; v’ahav’cha l’reacha kemo’cha. Baruch atah ADONAI ELOHAYNU, melek ha’olam, asher natan lanu chayim sharats.
Hear now and do, Yisra’el! YHVH our ELOHIYM, YHVH, is one. And you shall love YHVH your ELOHIYM, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all yourself; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Blessed are you ADONAI and ELOHIYM, king of all time, for giving us life abundantly.
Blessed are you ADONAI, forever and ever, for giving us the path of righteousness in your Word.
Baruch atah YHVH TSEVA’OTH, bara ha’shamayim v’ha’aretz, ELOHAYCHEM shel Avraham, Yitshaq, v’Ya’akov, ELOHAYNU v’ al qadosh echad Yisra’el, ELOHAI, v’yishei, asher natan lanu ha’RUACH SHALOM.
Blessed are you YHVH of the armies, creator of the heavens and the earth, the ELOHIYM of Avraham, Yitshaq, and Ya’akov, our ELOHIYM, the Holy One of Yisra’el, my EL, and my salvation, for giving us the Spirit of Peace.