Nature, particularly woods and trees, has always been my greatest connector to God. The peaceful silence, the majesty of the trees, the natural goodness of it all, helps me feel God’s love, expansiveness and peace. So in times like this, when my heart breaks on the daily for what my people are going through yet again, when my mind can no longer process reality, I seek God through my senses. This morning, I touched the heavens through the cold drizzle that fell on my skin. I wrapped my soul in the rich autumn colors. I ran to the song of the birds’ morning chatter. And I grounded my racing mind with the solid earth under my feet. I was even treated to an encounter with three bucks protecting one doe – silent, regal, protective, elegant and watchful. And I started to think more clearly about my people and my land – the Jewish nation and the State of Israel – both of which I love so much.
We often think of a miracle as an act of God that is outwardly and immediately good. In recent Jewish history, we think of the swift victory of the Six Day War and the salvation in the Yom Kippur War, even the existence of the State of Israel itself, to be miracles. But what does a miracle really mean? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a miracle as ‘an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.’ In other words, a miracle is any act of God that is significant and defies the natural order of the world.
According to that definition, the October 7 massacre in Israel was a miracle. It defies all logic how an attack of that magnitude and horror could have happened to a nation with one of the best intelligence systems in the world. How no one, absolutely no one, in Israel saw this coming. That thousands of Hamas terrorists could literally pour into Israel unfettered, that they could take over police stations and army bases, that they could overtake so many communities and slaughter and dismember so many innocent civilians, reflects nothing short of acts of God. Knowing what we know about Israeli security, there is simply no way that this would have happened in the natural order of things.
According to this definition, antisemitism is also a miracle. It defies all logic and rationalism (though we keep trying to rationalize with the haters). Antisemites hate us because we are successful. They hate us when we are poor and relegated to ghettos. They hate us when we are weak and passive. And they hate us when we are strong. (Thank you, IDF, Shabak, and Mossad!). They hate us because we are 0.2% of the world population, which makes no sense. They hate us because of our traditions while professing liberal values of inclusion. They hate us when we agree with them and they hate us when we disagree with them. They hate Israel when they’ve never stepped foot in the country to see the freedoms Arabs actually have there. And they support Gazans without knowing what they stand for.
Friends, antisemitism is not rational. It is a miracle. The hatred of the Jewish people and the continued existence of the Jewish people are plainly and simply the inexplicable will of God. They are flip sides of the same coin manifesting divine intervention in human affairs. They are the fulfillment of the promise from God to the Jewish people that began with Abraham and has played out word for word in the last two thousand years of our history. And they will continue to play out until the final redemption.
What is the purpose of miracles? Sometimes it’s to leap frog history forward, jumping over normal time spans. And sometimes it’s God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. In the case of the October 7 massacre, as horrific as the means were, God’s intervention ended the infighting in Israel, unified the Jewish people around the world, brought all the antisemitism lurking below the surface to the fore for everyone to see, and galvanized the Jewish people’s spiritual and physical resources to blot out an evil that threatens the entire world. (You’re welcome, world, for doing the hard work for you.)
So what now? What do we do with these divine interventions? If antisemitism and Jewish survival are both acts of God, it behooves us to turn to God for direction on how to handle ourselves in these miraculous times. Fortunately for us, God lent the Jewish people the playbook for our team.
As the Sabbath begins, Jews say the “Kiddush” prayer, sanctifying the start of the holy day. As the Sabbath ends, we say the “Havdalah” prayer, differentiating between the holy day and the regular weekday. There is an expression that, ‘If the Jews don’t make Kiddush (make themselves holy), the non-Jews will make Havdalah (remind us who we are supposed to be).” The answer to being attacked for being Jewish or living in the State of Israel is not to argue with irrational antisemites. Debating the haters and justifying our existence has never worked. Neither has laying down and playing dead. The answer is to remember who we are and to act on that knowing. Like our ancestors in ancient times, we must prepare ourselves physically and spiritually for battle. How do we do that?
The Shield of Abraham is embracing all that it means to be Jewish – Torah, mitzvoth, caring for one another, and always looking up for guidance, not “out there”. We are one people with one heart. We are servants and children of God. When we come together as one people, when we put aside our differences, reaching for one another as we reach towards God, when we fight valiantly for all that is important to us, we will merit to see the ultimate miracle of redemption and the final peace.
May it come speedily in our time. Amen.