16 Feb What is the Reason-Rational Explanations
You recently reacted to someone offering a rational explanation for some of the miracles of the Bible by saying, “Sounds like Dr Feiner and the Chatam Sofer.” Can you please explain what you meant? C.B.
My father zt”l told me a story of a certain Dr. Feiner who asked the for permission to translate the Talmud into German. After receiving permission he published the first volume. He added some of his insights on the bottom of each page. When the Talmud told the story of Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya being appointed Prince at the tender age of 18, we are told that a great miracle occurred and he woke up with 18 rows of white hairs in his beard. Dr. Feiner explained that this was a natural occurrence because we are told that when Napoleon imprisoned the Pope, a local priest was so terrified and heartbroken that all his hair fell out overnight. If someone can lose his hair overnight, certainly his hair can turn white overnight, and therefore, explained Dr. Feiner, there is a perfectly rational explanation woke up for how the Rabbi with white hair.
When the Chatam Sofer heard about this “explanation,” he immediately withdrew his permission because by offering a rational explanation Dr. Feiner was minimizing a miracle.