Firm and abiding are the laws of nature

The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer


“Let us take a loaf of bread. It is the product of climate, soil and the work of the farmer, merchant and baker. If it were our intention to extol the forces that concurred in producing a loaf of bread, we would have to give praise to the sun and the rain, to the soil and to the intelligence of man. However, it is not these that we praise before breaking bread. We say, “Blessed be Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” Empirically speaking, would it not be more correct to give credit to the farmer, the merchant and the baker? To our eyes, it is they who bring forth the bread.

Just as we pass over the mystery of vegetation, we go beyond the miracle of cultivation. We bless Him who makes possible both nature and civilization. It is not important to dwell each time on what bread is empirically, namely “an article of food made of the flour of grain, mixed with water, to which yeast is commonly added to produce fermentation, the mixture being needed and baked in loaves. It is important to dwell each time on what bread is ultimately.

Firm and abiding are the laws of nature. And yet, we are told that a farmer scattering seeds in the earth for the purpose of growth must do so by faith in God, not by faith in nature. For this is the essence of faith: even what appears to us as a natural necessity is an act of God.”

from God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism by Abraham Joseph Heschel

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