One of the central themes in the Passover story is the miracles that were an integral part of the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt. The 10 plagues, the splitting of the sea, references to manna – during Passover we recount miracle after miracle after miracle.
We don’t see too many of these supernatural type events in our day and age, although one might argue that the existence of the Jewish people and our return to the Land of Israel is one big fat miracle in of itself. But the bottom line is that Passover is about miracles and indeed the month that it falls out on –Nissan – has the Hebrew word for miracle as its root, nes.
How do we tap into that energy and get some miracle action to happen in our lives? Is it even possible that we have a say in such matters? Aren’t miracles in God’s domain?
Actually we can do something to bring miracles into our lives – maybe not outright miracles, but certainly extraordinary stuff. How so? Simple. One of my favourite lines in the Talmud is: “The path that one chooses to walk on is the one that God will lead you down.” According to Jewish thought, God follows our lead and only after the fact helps us in the direction we have already started. Nothing is more powerful than free choice, and wherever we set off, God helps us to go that way – for better or worse.
So if you want an extraordinary life, God will give you that. And if you don’t want a magical life then He will give you that too. It’s really up to you. That’s why the biggest killer of miracles and magic is … pettiness.
Miracles by definition are above and beyond. They supersede the ordinary, rise above it and take us to new heights that we never thought humanly possible. But if a person is locked in the mundane, the petty, the trivial and the unimportant, then miracles have no room to get in. Magic can be happening right in front of your nose but if you are too small minded to see it, then it completely passes you by.
If you choose extraordinary and magic, then God will make all kinds of miracles in your life.
We are guilty of this all the time when we ignore the miracles in our daily lives. We take for granted the amazing state of our bodies or of nature because we are too busy zeroing in on a tiny five-inch screen on our phone. We miss out on the amazing talents latent within each and every person because we get distracted by some petty flaw they may have in their character, or the way they look or dress.
A person can be at a lavish, joy-filled wedding in a sumptuous setting by the ocean with the most wonderful finery and flowers and surrounded by love, excitement and anticipation – but ignore it all because there is no salt at the table for the first course. “Can you believe this place, there is not salt! No salt! Did you hear me, NO SALT!!!” We’ve all met people like this who completely miss the magic. Worse, we have all been that person.
I feel fortunate that I grew up with two men who had a sense of the extraordinary and lived their lives like that. The founder of Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Noah Weinberg, was a man of vision who always looked above and beyond. He could not stand anything petty or unimportant. His only care and concern was the good and welfare of the Jewish people and doing whatever we can to bring Jews back to Judaism; Jews who did not know of its beauty, wisdom and the greatness of our people and heritage. He didn’t care what “brand” of Judaism you were, or if you wore a black hat, a knit kippah or no kippah at all. All he cared about was “Are you were doing your part to make our people stronger in any way that you can?”
The other person was my father. Growing up in the home with a Holocaust survivor gives one a bit of perspective on what is important and what isn’t. There were lines you just didn’t say growing up with my dad, common things people say that you just didn’t utter around someone who has spent time in death camps.
For instance, you didn’t walk into the house and declare, “OMG, Traffic was such a nightmare!” because you knew you would be met with, “Nightmare? Let me tell you what a nightmare is really like.” Or, “This food is tasteless.” Or “School is hard.” There was no patience or sympathy for your garden variety kvetching and petty complaints. Growing up in the same house with someone who went through hell and back gives one a good sense of first world problems.
Extraordinary things can happen in your life, if you live an extraordinary life and have an extraordinary outlook. That does not happen by visiting exotic places around the globe; it happens by seeing the extraordinary in the every day. It happens by setting your sights a bit higher and looking beyond the silly, the petty, the unimportant and the trivial. It happens when you focus on matters of truth, good and making the word a better place and ignoring the stuff that does not mean much in the long run.
The path you choose to walk on is the one that God will lead you down. If you choose extraordinary and magic, then God will make all kinds of miracles in your life. In sports they call it making your own luck. In Judaism we call it making your own miracles.