God’s Finger (Vaera)
When I was young, I said to God, god, tell me the mystery of the universe. But God answered, that knowledge is for me alone. So I said, god, tell me the mystery of the peanut. Then God said, well, George, that’s more nearly your size. -George Washington Carver
In the third of what would be the ten plagues to hit Egypt, Pharaoh’s sorcerers insightfully declare “this is God’s finger.” They understood from the third plague, the plague of lice, that this was not some sleight of hand or some conjurers trick. This was direct divine intervention. They would learn, to the point of destruction, that there is an active, involved God who feels free to direct matters and phenomena in a more “personal” fashion and not always leave things up to “nature” or probability.
Rabbeinu Bechaye on Exodus 8:15 (Vaera) quotes Rabbi Saadia Gaon who highlights that there are only two other events in the Hebrew Bible where the finger of God is mentioned. One is when it describes the writing of the Ten Commandments upon the tablets of the law. The second is in a description of the creation of the celestial spheres (Psalms 8:4). This limited and exclusive use of God’s Finger in the biblical text comes to teach a deeper lesson, namely that God is ultimately responsible for everything in our world, big, little, sacred or mundane.
From the largest creations known to man, the planets and the stars, to the smallest visible creature, a gnat; God is the Creator of the massive, the minuscule, and everything in between. However, He is also the scribe of the Tablets of the Law, the material of which was merely the lowly rock, but no earthly item ever possessed such divine radiance.
The reason the term Finger of God is used in all three wildly different aspects is to relay that God is capable of everything. It is all within His capacity. The infinitely large and the infinitely small are equally within His purview. God is involved behind the scenes in creating, overseeing and enabling our reality. His preference is, as with the commandments, that we use the material reality that He provides and sustains to reach for the sacred, the holy and the divine. Then we may have a chance to grasp a part of God.
May we see the finger of God in our reality and appreciate it.
To the memory of Eliezer Ben Yehuda, Father of Modern Hebrew, on his 160th anniversary.