CATEGORY: EDT Editorials



By Rabbi Eli Hecht

Knight-Ridder News

Whenever the spring holidays come around I think of miracles. Both Jews and Christians celebrate their respective holidays around the same time. Whether it’s Passover or Easter it’s a time for remembering God’s intervention, or miracles. I know that there are skeptics that won’t believe in God’s miracles. They say miracles never happen anymore, and that proves they never happened in the first plafeel that they are dead wrong. As a rabbi I am always on the lookout for miracles.

This month a 10-year-old boy names Josh Carlisle Coffey wandered off into the freezing Ozark Mountains. The youngster, who has Down Syndrome, disappeared while playing in his back yard. Most people would have given up on finding little Josh. The freezing weather and falling snow made for a sure tragedy.

But lo and behold, God had different plans. Stray dogs led surprised rescuers to find Josh. A 2-year-old Beagle stood guard as Josh lay on the ground with his coat over his head. His grandmother said, There is no other way you can look at this than God’s way of protecting him. These dogs were God’s angels.” According to Sheriff Ralph Hendrix, The dogs probably curled up next to him and kept him warm enough to stay alive.” If that’s not a miracle, then tell me what a miracle is!

The reports of Gary Dockery, the 42-year-old policeman who woke up after seven and a half years in a coma, are being explained by a Cornell University neurologist, Dr. John Caronna, as a bit of the normal. Everyone loves to think of this case as Rip Van Winkle, but it wasn’t,” explains Caronna. The doctor seems to be saying that Dockery’s recovery wasn’t a miracle. Rather, that it was a bit of medicine and good luck.

After all, during the seven years, Gary had blinked once for yes and twice for no. Therefore, Gary was really in a twilight zone with some awareness, and this was an indicator for the patient’s eventual return to consciousness. But in reality, there is no real medical explanation as to why he did wake up when he did! Once again we were baffled by the outcome.

Think for a moment: How could a man possibly wake up and talk normally after being sustained by a man after seven and a half years? Isn’t God telling us something; that man’s understanding is limited and not always perfect. If God wants, HE will perform miracles.

I visit many different hospitals and old age homes before the Passover holidays. I bring the patients and residents handmade matzoh, unleavened bread, from Israel. I do this to remind them that they have not been forgotten.

Last Passover the following took place:

I was visiting a friend at the retirement home, bringing him matzo for Passover. His wife had died and having no children he moved into the home. At the home people come and go; it’s hard for many to make good friends. One such person had no family and his friends had forgotten him. After living in a retirement home for years he felt hopeless. However, his faith in God was strong, and he hoped he would meet another Jewish person to speak to. His greatest worry was that he would die and not be buried at a Jewish cemetery.

On my visit to the retirement home I got lost and entered the wrong wing of the center. Being lost in the center I walked up to the nurses’ station and asked directions to see my friend. As I was talking I heard a voice calling me, Rebbe, please come in and say the prayers with me, I have been waiting a long time.”

I met the old man, who told me that he was very sick and that he was going to die soon. He had been praying to God for someone to come and take care of his last request: that he be buried as a Jew. Needless to say, I was in total shock. Here I was, lost in a large retirement home not knowing where I was going and an old Jewish man tells me that God had sent me to say the necessary prayers so he could die as a Jew. You must be the angel that God has sent.”

The Man’s faith in God was outstanding. He expected a miracle and received it!

No,” I protested, I was just doing my visits and made a wrong turn in this retirement home.” He patiently explained: There are no wrong turns when you work for God.”

On Wednesday evening April 3, Jewish people the world over will be celebrating the holiday of Passover. This holiday commemorates the redemption of Jews after years of slavery in the land of Egypt some 3,000 years ago. On this night families gather and observe the holiday by reciting the story of the Jewish exodus and slavery, from a book called the Hagaddah.

The meal is replete with many symbols. The wine represents wealth and happiness. The herbs represent the bitterness of slavery. The Matzo represents bread baked hurriedly by Jews before their departure from Egypt.

The Passover celebration marks the liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage, and commemorates liberation from all oppression and persecution. The holiday shows us how to move ahead and to count our blessings. Most of all it reminds us to recognize the miracles God performs for individuals on a daily basis.

As we celebrate the holidays we pray to God, asking for safe schools, homes, the safety for our children in the service. It would be a real miracle if we would see true peace in our cities and streets. Maybe that’s asking too much, but then again, my Zayde (grandfather) would say, We Jews don’t believe in miracles, we just count on them!”

Rabbi Eli Hecht is vice president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He is director of Chabad of South Bay in Lomita, Calif., where he has established a synagogue, day school, nursery school and outreach program. Rabbi Hecht has been involved in counseling and outreach for more than 25 years. He wrote this for the Long Beach, Calif., Press-Telegram, 604 Pine Ave., Long Beach, Calif., 90844.

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