1) THE BEARS AND THE FOREST
QUESTION: The Gemara relates the story of the young sinners who cursed Elisha the Navi and how Hash-m punished them. Hash-m caused two bears to emerge from a forest and attack the sinners. The Gemara says that according to one opinion, Hash-m created at that moment both the bears and the forest. It was a "Nes b'Toch Nes," a miracle within a miracle. The Gemara asks why Hash-m needed to make a forest as part of the miracle to punish the sinners. The Gemara answers that He made the forest so that the bears would not be afraid to attack (since bears are afraid to attack in the open).
Why did Hash-m not simply create bears that were not afraid to attack in the open?
ANSWER: RAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY shlit'a (in SEFER TA'AMA D'KRA) quotes his father, the STEIPLER GA'ON zt'l, who explains that Hash-m created a forest -- and did not simply create bears that were unafraid to attack in the open -- because He wanted to teach the sinners a lesson. The reason why the sinners cursed Elisha was that they claimed that he had deprived them of their livelihood. They thought that it was their own hard work that provided them with their sustenance. When Elisha made the waters become sweet and it was no longer necessary for the water-carriers to draw water for the nearby town, they viewed Elisha as the one who caused them to lose their livelihood.
They failed to acknowledge that the truth is that whenever a person earns a livelihood, it is a miracle. It is a decree from heaven and is not a natural occurrence. It is merely disguised within the natural world and gives the appearance of natural cause and effect. The sinners in the time of Elisha did not recognize that it was Hash-m who gave them their sustenance. In order to show them their error, Hash-m made one obvious miracle and created bears to attack them, and He made a second miracle -- a forest into which the bears could flee and thus be able to attack in a natural way. Hash-m clothed the obvious miracle (the bears) in a natural environment (the forest) so that the sinners would realize that every person's livelihood is also a "Nes b'Toch Nes," a miracle within nature (nature itself being a miracle). Hash-m showed them that they were unjustified in condemning Elisha for depriving them of their livelihood, because it is Hash-m Who provides, and withholds, man's sustenance. (See a different approach in MINCHAS SOTAH.)