Minority Report

March 9, 2011 | By

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News reports can be famously subjective. An event that’s described as a violent uprising by one person could be an inspirational revolution by others.

The Bible also features competing accounts of the same incident. When the Israelites crossed the Reed Sea, the water parted to allow them through, but then closed on the Egyptians. The Torah‘s primary account of this event highlights its supernatural and vengeful nature: “The waters flowed back and covered the army of Pharaoh. Not one of them survived…By the blast of Your nostrils, the waters piled up” (Exodus 15:8).

A few verses earlier, however, the Torah reports a different version of the story. Instead of an angry God deploying the Sea as a means of execution, the waters were “driven back all night with a strong east wind” and “turned into dry land” (Exodus 14:21)–giving a simple, natural explanation for the waters parting.

To see the event only one way or only the other, says Jonathan Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the U.K., is to miss the point entirely. “A miracle is not necessarily something that suspends natural law,” he writes in his book Covenant and Conversation.“It is, rather, an event for which there may be a natural explanation, but which fundamentally evokes wonder. The weak are saved; those in danger, delivered.”

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