Miracles Abound

The world abounds in miracles, but too often we close our eyes and miss them. A religious Jew begins each day reciting blessings for the “miracle in the every day.” These blessings accompany the mundane first acts of each day: We open our eyes (Blessed are You, God, Who enables us to distinguish day from night), we see (…Who gives sight to the blind), we put something on (…Who clothes the naked), we stretch (…Who releases the bound), we stand up (…Who raises the downtrodden), we take our first steps of the day (…Who guides us on our path). The ability to see the miracle in the mundane is a great religious gift of the sensitive soul. The discipline of reciting these blessings help us to develop sensitive souls.

We might think that opening our eyes, getting dressed, taking our first steps of the day are unremarkable events – until something happens to us that makes these acts painful or impossible – but reciting these blessings teaches us otherwise. It teaches us to see that our lives abound in miracles. It is for us to open our eyes and recognize them.

On Monday evening, Jews around the world will sit down with family and friends to the Passover seder celebration of our redemption from slavery and degradation in Egypt. The seder is not supposed to be a review of history, but rather a re-enactment, a reliving of the miracle of redemption. We are to feel the agony of slavery and the exhilaration of freedom and redemption. As the Haggadah (the liturgy for the Passover seder) tells us, we too came out of Egypt. If we have so much trouble experiencing the miracles that abound in our lives each day, how can we experience a miracle we didn’t actually live through?

There is a midrash (rabbinic expansion of the biblical text) that tells us that even at the climax of redemption, as the Israelites crossed through the Reed Sea, with high walls of water on either side and the Egyptians warriors and chariots bearing down on them, not everyone recognized the miracle happening around them. There were two fellows named Reuven and Shimon who plodded through the mud whining and complaining. “Look at this mess!” “Nothing but mud!” they said as they looked only down at the seabed. Sometimes we cannot see what lies before our eyes and all around us. For Reuven and Shimon no miracle occurred because they failed to recognize the miracle of the parting of the Reed Sea and their redemption from Egypt. In telling us the tale of Reuven and Shimon, the Rabbis warn us that we, too, risk missing miracles if we look only down and see only mud.

Perhaps the place to start is with the every day: Can you see? Can you hear? Can you walk? Do you have loved ones? Do you have friends? Do you have enough to eat? Do you have a place to live? If yes, let’s give thanks to God for the blessings we do enjoy and then let’s look around and ensure that everyone else enjoys these miracles, as well.

Rabbi Scheinerman wrote this article for the Carroll County Times.