Do we believe in miracles?

Dear Families,

Hanukkah is a holiday celebrating a miracle — the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days rather than the one day that was expected. If you read more about Hanukkah you know that it was also a miracle that the small group of Maccabees was victorious over the king’s soldiers. It is even more miraculous when you find that it took about eight years for them to be successful. This leads to questioning: What is a miracle? Do we still believe in miracles? Do Jews believe in miracles and do the different movements view them differently?

In the November/December 2020 edition of Moment magazine, this question was asked, and the answers from the many movements said a resounding YES! Here are a few of the different thoughts:

· Independent: Our nationhood is based on lots of miraculous events from the Red Sea on. “If we don’t believe in miracles, none of those events ever happened and we’re a complete fraud.”

· Humanist: “Humanistic Jews believe that all miracles, whether biblical or modern, are the pure products of human imagination. There is not now and never has been any sufficient evidence of supernatural intervention in the natural world.”

· Reconstructionist: “Great miracle stories suspend the natural order, like crossing the Reed Sea days after leaving slavery or rededicating the Temple with awesome oil. Maybe these happened as described; maybe not. Either way, real Passover and Hanukkah miracles include oppressed people overcoming challenges, successfully organizing for justice and freedom.”

· Reform: “As 21st-century Jews with knowledge of life, physical and earth sciences, we may be able to rationalize what our ancestors called out as miracles. Yet does that make any of these experiences any less miraculous??”

· Conservative: “Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch argued that the greatest example of a miracle is the survival of the Jewish people, despite countless ruthless attempts to obliterate the Jews physically and spiritually.”

· Orthodox: If a miracle is when God intervenes and produces results that could not be predicted, then Jewish tradition unequivocally believes in miracles.”

· Chabad: “Miracles are a central part of Jewish existence. While the Talmud warns us not to rely on them, our odyssey as a people is replete with them, going back to our exodus from Egypt even before we became a nation and received the Torah at Sinai.”

Lots of different thoughts on miracles answer the question of whether Jews believe in miracles. Let’s go back to Hanukkah for a moment. There is much discussion on the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days — did it really happen is a good question. Does it matter is perhaps a better question. Each generation must look to our story and find meaning. An important lesson for Hanukkah is to stand up for what you believe. Celebrating the miracle of our strength to continue standing up for ourselves and for all people is essential. The last question now is DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES? Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

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