Hanukkah has two miracles: the physical victory of a tiny band of Jews over the Greeks, which had the most powerful army in the world in the second century B.C.E., and the spiritual victory of finding one unspoiled cruse of oil, which miraculously lasted for eight days instead of one.
But what exactly is a miracle, from the Jewish perspective?
In researching this question, I came across an in-depth article in the Merrimack Valley Havurah’s website, “The Jewish View of Miracles,” by Robert D. Kaiser.
In the article, published on Nov. 21, 2001, Kaiser discusses the biblical view; miracles as part of creation preplanned by God; Maimonides’, Nachmanides’ and Gersonides’ views of miracles; and non-literal reinterpretations of miracles.
He writes, “Despite the many different views of miracles … there are some beliefs that most Jews have in common. According to Maimonides and Gersonides, God created a set of laws of nature, and all events occur in accordance with these laws. According to the Hasidic view, all events are miracles.
“Note that common ground does exist: We can consider the laws of physics as miracles in and of themselves, and therefore all of nature is a miracle – and should be appreciated as such. However, nature follows its course and God does not supernaturally intervene. This ideology is expressed in the Modim prayer in the Amidah, the central prayer of every Siddur.”
Based on the Hasidic view that all events are miracles, here are some events that I believe are miracles in my own life:
• I lock myself out of my condo just as my neighbor comes out of their condo and offers to help.
• I am at a local store and see a friend who I haven’t seen for awhile. I share a trying experience, and am immediately offered the help I need.
• I needed extra work, and at that exact moment, I got a phone call from a new client.
Can you relate to any of these?
• You help a friend who is ill and they get better much quicker than expected.
• The person you were just thinking about calls you.
• The stranger in front of you helps to carry your heavy bags.
• You get a letter, hug or gift that gives you (at least) eight days of joy.
These small miracles count as much as the big ones. And sometimes those small acts of kindness can actually save a person’s life.
Happy Hanukkah to all. Here’s to celebrating the miracles in our lives!
PATRICIA RASKIN, owner of Raskin Resources Productions, is an award-winning radio producer, business owner and leader. She is on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence.