GOOD MORNING!  What is a miracle? Here is a story based on an article by Moshe Schapiro appearing on April 19th in Yated Ne'eman, a Jewish newspaper based in Israel:

As we know, the fighting for Jenin was fierce with great loss of life due to booby-trapped buildings. The day after the 13 soldiers died, the Israeli army prepared to make another house to house incursion, though the cost would be high in Israeli casualties. They could have used the American method in Afghanistan of bombing from the air, but it was unthinkable for a Jewish army to cause unnecessary casualties. Thus, when a commander announced over a bullhorn in Arabic that the Arabs should give up or there would be an airstrike by F-16s, the soldiers felt the ruse was ridiculous and were sure the terrorists wouldn't fall for it.

The soldiers were about to enter when there was a loud BOOM. They hit the dirt. One soldier looked up to see a flash of lightning followed by another BOOM and then there was yelling and screaming in Arabic as dozens of fighters came out with their hands up. When asked why he surrendered an Arab replied, "It was those F-16s dropping their bombs. You can't fight against a plane."

Similarly, 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..."

And though I am preoccupied with what is going on now with the war in Israel, there are miracles throughout our history in every age and in every country ... and throughout the Torah, including this week's Torah portion (see below). David Ben Gurion once said, "A Jew who doesn't believe in miracles isn't a realist." So, what is a miracle?

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 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.

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Torah Portion of the Week

Behar begins with the laws of Shemitah, the Sabbatical year, where the Jewish people are commanded not to plant their fields or tend to them in the seventh year. Every 50th year is the Yovel, the Jubilee year, where agricultural activity is also proscribed.

These two commandments fall into one of the seven categories of evidence that God gave the Torah. If the idea is to give the land a rest, then do not plant one-seventh of the land each year. To command an agrarian society to completely stop cultivating every 7th year one has to be either God or a meshugenah (crazy person).

Also included in this portion: redeeming land which was sold, to strengthen your fellow Jew when his economic means are faltering, not to lend to your fellow Jew with interest, the laws of indentured servants. The portion ends with the admonition to not make idols, to observe the Shabbat and to revere the Sanctuary.

The second portion for this week, Bechukotai, begins with the multitude of blessings you will receive for keeping the commandments of the Torah. (Truly worth reading!) It also contains the Tochachah, words of admonition,

"If you will not listen to Me and will not perform all of these commandments..."

There are seven series of seven punishments each. Understand that God does not punish for punishment's sake; He wants to get our attention so that we will introspect, recognize our errors and correct our ways. God does not wish to destroy us or annul His covenant with us. He wants us to know that there are consequences for our every action; He also wants to get our attention so that we do not stray so far away that we assimilate and disappear as a nation. I highly recommend reading Lev. 26:14-45 and Deut. 28.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states, "When you come to the land which I give you, the land shall rest, a rest for the Almighty" (Leviticus 25:2). Why is having the land rest ... "for the Almighty"?

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz of the Mirrer Yeshiva cites the Raavad (Introduction to Baalai Nefesh) that a fundamental principle behind the commandments is that:"they are to remind us constantly that we have a Creator who is our Ruler." The Almighty gave us this earth, but after using the earth for some time a person can mistakenly think that the earth belongs to him; he can forget that the Almighty is the real owner.

Therefore, there are commandments which contain restrictions to show that the Creator is above us. For this, reason, said Rav Yeruchem, the Torah stresses in this verse that the commandment to rest on the seventh year applies to the land which the Almighty gave us. The Almighty gave us a commandment to refrain from work on the land on the seventh year to help us internalize the awareness that He is the true boss of the earth.

This is also the lesson we learn from the weekly Shabbat, said Rav Yeruchem. It show a person that the Almighty is the one who gives him the power to work on the other days of the week. This is a weekly reminder that we have a ruler who is our ultimate authority.

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There are two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle;
one is as though everything is a miracle.
-- Albert Einstein

In Loving Memory of
Avraham ben Nosson Zemel
by Nathan Zemel