A friend of mine once declared, “I don’t believe in G-d but I do believe in miracles”.
It comes as no surprise that he believes in miracles, after all, they occur every day. The wonder of it is that we may not regard them as such because our MEI (Miracle Expectation Index) is set too high for us to recognize them. Today we are so impressed with our scientific accomplishments that any event short of the parting of the Red Sea does not garner our attention much less fill us with a sense of awe.
Blinded by the luminosity of our own hubris we are unable to distinguish the miraculous from the mundane. In spite of the physical evolution of our species, some of the baser traits have resisted change. The Torah recognized, what it took mankind millennia to discover, that our DNA passes our animal instincts from one generation to another. Therefore the Torah prescribes techniques of how to manage and control brainstem instincts, such as rage, and fear, as well as our higher cognitive and emotional responses to our environment and fellow man. We have been endowed with the ability to make moral judgments and have passed down a legacy of the Divine directives as a user’s guide of how to live a moral life.
Despite the fact that miracles and wonders were performed in plain sight, many of our ancient ancestors deemed them simply anomalous acts of nature. The Israelites bore witness to the Ten Plagues and the parting of the Red Sea but shrugged off those miraculous events as fortunate fortuitous acts of nature. What else could explain their having built a Golden Calf in such a short time after witnessing and experiencing those extraordinary events? Also, when the beleaguered Twelve Tribes plodded through the wilderness, guided during the day by Clouds of Glory and by night by Pillars of Fire leading them to the Promised Land, many did not recognize that they were in the midst of a miraculous journey.
Miracles can save, but not sustain, a people that lack faith in the abilities endowed upon them by their Creator. Consequently, we were vanquished and exiled, our capital Jerusalem was razed, the surrounding countryside scorched, the ground left fallow, and our homeland was stolen. What remained was but a solitary Wall rising above the rubble of defeat, a testament to glories past, which had succumbed to the wages of despair and neglect. Jerusalem’s majestic edifices were reduced to grave markers beneath which were buried millennia of a glorious Jewish history.
For two-thousand years, Israel lay forlorn, waiting for her people to return home. For two-thousand years, Israel anxiously anticipated the warm embrace of her children returning to reclaim their stolen birthright. She was a two-thousand-year-old miracle in waiting, the realization of which came to fruition in nineteen hundred and forty-eight CE. To some, a miracle is no more than the cause and effect of nature, while to others a miracle is an act of G-d. As a species, we are hard-wired to believe in something, even if our belief is in nothing. Ironically, non-belief is like the other side of a coin, be it heads or tails, it is still a belief, albeit a negative one.
Because the Jewish people have been exiled from their homeland, we speak almost as many languages as there are societies. Consequently, we have adopted and adapted to as many customs as there are cultures. Through it all, we have managed to cling to the Biblical roots of our ancestral language Hebrew, which we use daily in the performance of mitzvot, prayer and rituals. Classical Hebrew has been both resurrected and modernized with words like televisia, autobus, radio, telephone to cite but a few.
Forbidden to own land in many countries, we knew little of agriculture and animal husbandry. Excluded from industrial fabrication in Europe and trade guilds, we resorted to other avenues to make a living. Born of necessity we became an amalgam of merchants, financiers, lawyers, doctors and intellectuals, skills of the mind, skills of necessity adopted by the transient wandering Jew. Our tools were portable; we carried them in our heads wherever we went. None of the endeavors as professionals we resorted to were logical pre-requisites for reclaiming the land and building a country from scratch. We needed electricians, farmers, machinists and carpenters. We were in no short supply of brains but what they needed was brawn, perseverance and an indefatigable will to survive.
At the time of our nascent development as a nation, we were not up to the task at hand, so G-d resorted to miracles to help us survive. But G-d also performed miracles to show us that the impossible is possible. Israel today is both the realization of a dream and the miracle of our own doing. It is the Jewish rendezvous with its manifest destiny and the fulfillment of the contract between Jews and our Creator. Created in His image, our endeavors are the manifestation of the miraculous. After two-thousand years, our ancient homeland has been restored to its rightful owners; it is truly the modern incarnation of a miracle in plain sight.