“Al Hanisim” – “And For The Miracles“

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The observant among us will read the title humming a familiar melody from the Hanukkah or Purim prayers. For the secular, it will mean less.

Al Hanisim is included in the daily prayer, and also recited during the grace after meals. The prayer praises God for miraculously delivering the Jews from the hands of the Greeks in the time of the Maccabees.

I accept that even for most religiously observant people, the concept of “a miracle” is not necessarily divine intervention in our daily lives. That makes it simplistic and ridiculous.

Like saying: “Wow! He miraculously survived a terrible accident!” … We would all prefer the “miracle” to have prevented the accident in the first place, rather than having to endure it. Furthermore, what’s a “miracle” for one, can be a disaster for someone else. What then, exactly, is the concept of a “miracle“ for an educated, either religious or secular person?

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I think the observant person is more at ease than the secular one on the subject of thanksgiving. “Al Hanisim” is a great example of prayer which honors God for miracles. It satisfies a human and positive need of appreciation for the good, and for which there are those who say thank you.

Not sure God actually intervened in my favor and sorted things out for me, but nonetheless, there is an “address” to personally thank for the personal good fortune that I experienced against all odds.

I too would like an address. But I took full advantage of my freedom of choice and it turns out that I am a “devout secularist” and for me a miracle is an objective personal feeling.

The universe unintentionally, showed me a small gesture that resonates for me, based on my experience, my desires, my plans, my hopes and dreams, or just an extraordinary reflection.

I received a hint, a reminder – not necessarily from some supreme power. It could be as tiny as a butterfly fluttering among the flowers, or as large as a bus that almost ran me down – both echo a message to me that I am lucky to be alive.

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Observant as secular, I am not foolish to “trust in miracles.” I’m not waiting for “Him” and I certainly will not rely on “Him”.

I think a “positive miracle” is one that brings us to action, to think, the create, perhaps even to change a particular way of thinking or behaving, and not the other way around: one that neutralizes us, drugs us and obscures clear thought expecting the outcome we desire…like a gambler hoping for that lucky streak.

A “positive miracle” will make us feel for and appreciate those around us: family, friends and community, and no so much matters of personal benefit coming at the expense of others.

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Today’s miracles are small; they no longer dividing the sea, and we are content with just finding parking in Tel-Aviv. No longer following that Pillar of Fire. Every miracle has a completely plausible probabilistic explanation and there is really nothing special about it except one important fact:

It is personal. It happened to you.

What is clear is that modern media – let alone the Internet – has ruined the Festival of miracles and supernatural phenomena. Every event, every claim, is published globally and is immediately exposed to criticism. There is no more room for belief or fantasy, or reliance on fickle human sensibility. Facts and facts only.

It is good? I don’t really know. It’s hard to put your finger, whether you are observant or secular, on what exactly we have lost in the current era of “no-miracles”. The innocence? Faith? The “Oral laws” that accompanied humanity for thousands of years and through which human knowledge was passed on in stories and traditions, that until the “Enlightenment Period ” no one asked whether they were historically correct or not, because perhaps this was not the writers’ intention in the first place.

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My miracle is that I am here, a collection of molecules built according to gene instructions I inherited from my parents; I am thinking, living in a small town, in a tiny country, on one medium-sized planet orbiting a fairly average star somewhere in the suburbs of one galaxy among 100 billion others.

More intervention of the universe in my favor, I cannot imagine.

Happy Hanukkah.

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