GOOD MORNING! Jewish history is full of miracles. Most people know about the 10 plagues and the splitting of the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds) in our Exodus from Egypt, the defeat of the Seleucid-Greeks and the burning of the flask of oil for 8 days in the Hanukah story. However, if one reads our history in the Prophets, there are so many more miracles -- Gideon's 300 men defeating the Midianite army (Judges 6-8) and the overnight death of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers under Sennacherib besieging Jerusalem (II Kings 18,19).
The miracles have continued for the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years all the way to the present. Surrounded by nations bent on annihilation in a world largely hostile to Israel's existence, it has not only survived, but thrived. Our unique history even caused Mark Twain to ponder, "All things are mortal, but the Jew. All other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?" ("Concerning the Jews," Harper Magazine 1898 -- if you'd like a copy of the article, you may download it from http://tinyurl.com/CTJTwain )
But why not? After all, the Almighty promised Abraham that the Jewish people will be eternal, "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you, throughout the generations, an eternal covenant to be your God, and the God of your descendants after you" (Gen. 17:7). Even though there have been lapses in our connection to the Almighty and doing His will, He declared, "I will neither reject nor spurn them, lest I break My covenant with them by destroying them, for I am their God" (Lev. 26:44).
David Ben Gurion once said, "A Jew who doesn't believe in miracles isn't a realist." The fight for Israeli independence and survival have demonstrated the truth of his statement.
In 1948 in the town of Safad in the northern Galilee several hundred Jews were surrounded by several thousand Arabs. They were running out of ammunition and food. A small home-made mortar called the Davidka was smuggled in to them. The mortar wasn't rifled and thus its shells were not only inaccurate, but they tumbled through the air with great noise. The rumor went out amongst the Arabs that the Jews had the atomic bomb ... and they left. The Jews were bewildered, but grateful.
In 1973 the Syrian tanks cut half way across Israel ... and stopped. Reports afterwards stated that because of the lack of opposition, they feared an ambush. King Solomon wrote, Proverbs 21:1. "The heart of a king is in the hands of God..."
What is a miracle? Merriam-Webster defines it as "an extraordinary event manifesting Divine intervention in human affairs." In short, something out of the ordinary and usual laws of physics.
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, one of the greatest philosophers, mystics and authors the Jewish people has ever produced, writes in his book The Way of God (I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a systematic explanation of the way the Almighty runs the world -- available in English by Feldheim publishers from your local Jewish book store, JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242), "All created things exist only because God's will decrees that they exist. The same is true of all their laws and properties, which exist solely because they were decreed by God's wisdom to be appropriate. Just as He ordained these rules through His will, however, He is likewise able to suspend or change them as He desires, at any time that He pleases. The things that God causes to happen outside the realm of natural law are called miracles."
If nature is God's way of staying anonymous, then miracles are God's way of opening our eyes that He exists and is real. We have free will to choose to believe or not believe in God and whether or not to follow His Torah. However, miracles tip the scale towards belief in God.
The Talmud teaches that we cannot rely on miracles because perhaps we are not worthy of them being performed on our behalf. That is why we must make every intelligent effort in our lives to do the right, the just, the effective thing. However, while we cannot rely on miracles, we certainly may pray for them and they do happen. We Jews have always believed as a people that the Almighty runs the world and our prayers help.
Torah Portion of the Week
Aikev, Deuteronomy 7:12 -11:25
Moshe continues his discourse guaranteeing the Jewish people prosperity and good health if they follow the mitzvot, the commandments. He reminds us to look at our history and to know that we can and should trust in God. However, we should be careful so that we are not distracted by our material success, lest we forget and ignore God.
Moshe warns us against idolatry (the definition of idolatry is the belief that anything other than God has power) and against self-righteousness ("Do not say because of my virtue that God brought me to occupy this land ... but because of the wickedness of these nations that God is driving them out before you.") He then details our rebellions against God during the 40 years in the desert and the giving of the Second Tablets (Moshe broke the first Tablets containing the Ten Commandments during the sin of the Golden Calf.)
This week's portion dispels a common misconception. People think that "Man does not live by bread alone" means that a person needs additional foods beyond bread to survive. The quotation in its entirety is, "Man does not live by bread alone ... but by all that comes out of God's mouth" (Deut. 8:3).
The Torah then answers a question which every human being has asked of himself: What does God want of you? "Only that you remain in awe of God your Lord, so that you will follow all His paths and love Him, serving God your Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. You must keep God's commandments and decrees ... so that all good will be yours" (Deut. 10:12).
* * *
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah states:
"Now, O Israel, what does your God ask of you? Only to fear God" (Dev. 10:12).
What is "fear of God"?
The term "fear of God" is often thought of as fear of being punished for disobeying Him. That is a rather immature concept. Yiras Shamayim (the Hebrew term for "fear of God", literally: fear of Heaven) means fear of losing close contact with God. When a person commits a sin, he sets up a barrier between himself and God. The relationship to God should be as vital to a person as if he were being saved by drowning only because he is holding onto a rope. The rope is his only link to safety, and he fears losing hold of it.
If a person understood that his spiritual life depends on his contact with God and that the mitzvos (commandments) are the only means for that contact, his fear of violating the mitzvos would be like the fear of losing hold of the rope. That is Yiras Shamayim.
CANDLE LIGHTING - July 26
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Guatemala 6:15 - Hong Kong 6:48 - Honolulu 6:55
J'Burg 5:19 - London 8:39 - Los Angeles 7:41
Melbourne 5:09 - Mexico City 7:57 - Miami 7:53
New York 8:00 - Singapore 6:50 - Toronto 8:30
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.
-- Helen Keller
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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