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December 22, 1989 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

COMMENT

We need your help
to feed the hungry

Some Miracles Make
The Ordinary Sacred

HAROLD M. SCHULWEIS

Special to The Jewish News

T

Food Bank of Oakland County

YES! I/we want to help provide nutritious food
to the needy of my community.

I/we have enclosed:



$5

❑ $10

❑ $25

I/we prefer to contribute $
Please send additional envelopes.

❑ $50

❑ $100

❑ Other

each: ❑ month, 1:1 quarter.

Name

Address

City/State/Zip -

Checks should be made out to

Food Bank of Oakland County

All gifts are tax deductible

6

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1989

150 Osmun
Pontiac, MI 48056
332-1473

Thanks for your support.

he second blessing
over the Chanukah
lights praises God for
performing miracles "in those
days at this season." The rab-
bis questioned the propriety
of this benediction for the first
evening.
For if the miracle refers to
the small amount of oil in the
sanctuary lamp that lasted
seven days beyond its normal
capacity, why speak of mira-
cles on the first night? After
all, on the first night there
was sufficient oil present and
its burning was natural
enough. That part of the
blessing on the first evening
appears superfluous. The
benediction for miracles then
should only be recited on the
second night.
One commentator explains
that the reason we recite the
blessing for miracles even on
the first night is because
there are all kinds of miracles
in the world. Creation, for ex-
ample, is a miracle in which
something is created out of
nothing. Theologians call
such an act creatio ex nihilo or
in Hebrew yesh m'ayin. But
there are other miracles that
refer to acts that create
something out of something
(yesh m'yesh).
The first night's blessing
over the oil illustrates the sec-
ond type of miracle, one that
makes something out of
something; something sacred
out of some ordinary material
already existing. Those kinds
of miracles require human in-
itiative and activity. Humans
do not create the world out of
nothing.
The world is given to us.
But humans can change the
world, shape it according to
whatever image is in our
heart and mind. And when
the transformation is done for
the sake of God and goodness
it is miraculous. -
On the first evening of
Chanukah before the match
is struck to light the candle,
we are literally in the dark.
We cannot make out faces or
things in that unlit room.
There are obstacles all about
us, partitions, walls, pieces of
furniture. When the candle is
lit we see that nothing in the
room has changed. Things are
as they were in the dark. But
with that instant illumina-
tion we experience a revela-

Rabbi Schulweis is spiritual
leader of Temple Valley Beth
Shalom in Encino, California.

tion. In the flash of that
momentary light we know
where things are, what
obstacles are to be avoided. In
that moment we are oriented
to the world about us.
Nothing new has been
created except our awareness
of the environment that gives
us greater opportunity to
choose, to know where to
stand and where to move. We
can make something out of
something.
That capacity to discover
wonders and signs is a gift for
which we offer thanks thrice
daily: "Thou gracest the
human being with knowledge
and givest him to under-
stand."
In many cultures, miracles
signify strange, mysterious,
unnatural events like a man
walking on water or flying in
the air. But in the language
of our tradition, the Hebrew
word for miracle is nes. It
means "sign," from whose
root the term "significance" is
derived. T3 witness the mi-
raculous is to observe in an
ordinary event extraordinary
significance, an event so im-
portant that it cries to be
raised up and celebrated.
The victory in the second
century over the Greek-
Syrian forces that sought to
extinguish Jewish freedom is
a nes, a sign-post in our
history that points to the
direction of our lives.
Chanukah is the celebrated
significance of the Jewish
ideal of religious freedom.
The world in which we live
is real. The swords and spears
and elephants of the Greek-
Syrians are real as are the
strengths of the Maccabeans.
Miracles are experienced
through the capacity of
human beings to turn the
real into the ideal. Miracles
create something out of
something, something
transcendent out of
something ordinary. The
paragraph added to the
Amidah prayer during the
eight days of Chanukah cele-
brates the significance of
transformation, "for you have
delivered the strong into the
hands of the weak, the many
into the hands of the few."
The sense of "sign-signifi-
cance" applies to our daily
lives. We cannot often in our
lives create or alter the
"given," change the diseases,
accidents, misfortunes dealt
out to us. We can more often
than we expect make some-
thing out of them, create
something out of something.
Negative experiences can be
converted into affirmations.

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