The Unexpected Miracle That Saved My Life
I was attracted to martial arts more than 50 years ago when I was 12 years old. Over the years, I studied various techniques and was on my high school wrestling team and college judo team. Most recently, I trained extensively in Israeli Krav Maga with world-renowned expert Amir Perets.
Getting kicked is part of any workout. However, during a February 16, 2020 training with a former Navy Seal, I was surprised when he unexpectedly kicked my inside right thigh.
A few days later, I noticed a lump and assumed it was a bruise. When the lump grew rather than disappear, I showed it to my doctor. An MRI and CT scan revealed a tumor that had to be surgically removed and treated with seven weeks of radiation.
I always believed in miracles, and I believe the “accidental kick to the thigh” was not a coincidence; rather it was a miracle that, thank God, saved my life.
In addition to the personal miracles I have experienced, I have also witnessed events I consider miraculous. For example, on November 9, 1989, I watched on TV as people on both sides of the Berlin Wall tore down this massive symbol of the global struggle between dictatorship and democracy. This event was so unbelievable and unanticipated that even news reporters at the time called it a miracle.
Skeptics may counter that these events are mere natural occurring events. However, statistically, I find this difficult to accept. For example, the Jewish people’s survival, time and time again against enemies more powerful and numerous than us, defies all odds, and may be one of the greatest ongoing miracles.
The Torah is replete with accounts of miracles that transcend the natural order. Yet, despite Judaism’s belief in miracles, the Torah cautions us not to rely on them as proof that our beliefs are true. Simply put, ‘miracles’ could be real or a hoax.
In this week’s Torah portion Va’era (Exodus 6:2–9:35), we see that certain genuine miracles were replicated by Egyptian sorcerers either by sleight of hand or occult practices.
It is not surprising that the Torah cautions against following charlatans, magicians, and false prophets who may perform “miracles” in an attempt to lead us away from following God.
“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).
In this case, God may allow a false prophet to perform a miracle to test our loyalty. This principle is so crucial to proper faith that even young children are made aware of this passage in Deuteronomy. We are also aware, as Maimonides points out, that the Jews did not believe in Moses because of the miracles he performed, rather, because he brought them “to worship God at Mt. Sinai” (Exodus 3:12), and only then did they “believe in you [Moses] forever” (Exodus 19:9).
The familiarity with the role of miracles and the reality of false prophets is the best refutation to missionaries who attribute miracles to Jesus.
The false prophet argument is so powerful it is incomprehensible that the rabbis would fail to offer this obvious response when the question was asked, “how can a sinner [Jesus] perform miracles?” (John 9:16). Some scholars conclude that the blatant omission of this answer demonstrates that this New Testament story may have been fabricated or censored.
A true pursuit of God and spirituality and the measurement of the validity of our experiences’ is the direction they take us. Will we allow ourselves to be led astray or will we pursue a faithful observance of the Torah with its timeless commandments, moral values, and universal insights?
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz
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