On November 9, 1989, I witnessed a miracle. Glued to the television I watched as people on both sides of the Berlin Wall tore down this massive symbol of the global power struggle between dictatorship and democracy. This event was so unanticipated and unbelievable even news reporters called it a miracle.
The Torah is replete with accounts of miracles that transcend the natural order. I have personally experienced miracles, and I consider the survival of the Jewish people, time and time again against enemies more powerful and numerous than us, to be one of the greatest miracles.
Critics will counter that these events are mere coincidence. Statistically, I find this difficult to accept. However, relying on miracles as proof has limitations. Some of the miracles described in this week’s Torah portion of Va’era (Exodus 6:2–9:35), were replicated by Egyptian sorcerers either by sleight of hand or their occult practices.
This is why the Torah cautions against charlatans, magicians, and false prophets who use “miracles” to mislead us. In a well-known passage, the Torah warns the Jewish people about false prophets who perform a miracle in an attempt to lead us away from following God and the commandments.
“If a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams… give you a sign or wonder, and the sign or wonder comes to pass, saying, ‘let us worship other gods’… you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer because the Lord your God is testing you” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
God may allow a false prophet to perform a miracle in order to test our loyalty. This principle is so crucial to our faith even young children are aware of this passage in Deuteronomy.
In an astonishing “red flag” New Testament story, the question is raised, “how can a sinner [Jesus] perform miracles?” (John 9:16). The Rabbis are portrayed as stymied by this question and do not provide an explanation as simple as he might be a false prophet.
The absence of a response referencing Deuteronomy 13 is so incomprehensible some scholars conclude that this New Testament story was either fabricated or censored.
In our pursuit of spirituality, we must gauge the validity of our experiences by the direction they take us. Faithfulness to the Torah and mitzvos is the proof we rely on.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz
Dedicated in Memory of my Mother
Fayga bas Tzvi Hirsch ז״ל
29 Teves 5778 – January 16, 2018