web analytics
March 28, 2015 / 8 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Miracles And Dreidels: What a Modest Little Spinning Top Can Teach Us about God and History


We live in an age of miracles and wonder.

Does that sound like a ridiculous statement – to characterize the age of the Internet, gene therapy and biological science as an age of miracles? For many people, it does sound ridiculous. To their ears, I might as well be a visitor from medieval times, here to turn science on its head and usher in a decidedly less enlightened worldview.

Judaism and I have the greatest regard for science. That said, I do not believe a genuine and healthy respect for science precludes an embrace of miracles. Far from it. I believe that miracles do happen all the time. The “rub,” as Hamlet might have suggested, is with how “miracle” is defined.

A miracle is anything that “should not” happen in the logical, rational normal course of events. And God should have a hand in a genuine miracle. That said, a miracle is not fantastical. If we limit the things that constitute “miracles” to the earth standing still or events that run contrary to physical law, then we not only tarnish the laws God has established for the physical world but we diminish our ability to see the miracles that play out in our lives every day.

Over three hundred years ago King Louis XIV of France asked Pascal, the great philosopher of his day, to give him proof of the existence of miracles. Without hesitation, Pascal answered, “Why, the Jews, your Majesty. The Jews.”

History does not tell us the king’s reaction, but we do know exactly what Pascal meant because he explained it clearly in his masterwork, Pensees. In that work, he states that the fact that the Jewish people had survived even to his day was proof enough for him that miracles occur. After all, what rational explanation existed to make sense of our continued presence upon the world’s stage?

A more modern historian, Arnold Toynbee, wrote a ten-volume encyclopedia of human history. In the course of those many volumes the one thing that contradicted his “universal” rules governing the inexorable decline of every people on earth was the continued flourishing of the Jewish people.

Only the Jews.

Despite history’s brutal attempts to destroy us, we have managed to defy all predictions and logical expectation of our demise.

Miraculous.

Just as we are able to look back and smile at the famous 1964 Look magazine article that confidently predicted “The Vanishing American Jew” (it is Look that no longer exists), we can search through history with a rueful smile and note the fall of the powerful empires that worked mightily to ensure our demise – from the Akkadians to the Babylonians to the Persians to the Third Reich.

Jewish history – indeed, Jewish existence – defies rational explanation. We are a miracle.

The miraculous is so essential to who we are that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, said “A Jew who does not believe in miracles is not a realist.”

The threats to our existence have come from external forces – and sometimes from within the Jewish community, as when we clamored to assimilate into Hellenistic culture during the early years of the Hellenistic Empire. It was only the miracle of Chanukah – and by that I mean a good deal more than the oil lasting a full eight days – that once again allowed us to survive as a dedicated people.

Yes, we had survived and we had achieved military victory over a much more powerful foe. However, it was not our military victory alone that constituted the miracle. There have been many improbable victories over time that were not miraculous. What makes a miracle a miracle, in addition to being an outcome that shouldn’t have happened, is the hand of God. Our miraculous victory at Chanukah teaches us little about military strategy and everything about ourselves and the world, but about God as well.

Without God, there is no miracle.

Which brings us to our little dreidel. In its modesty, it teaches us a great deal about God. Just as the dreidel spins around a central point and topples when it begins to lose its connection to that point, so too do we begin to lose our footing when we begin to lose our connection to our center, to God.

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran is an educator, author and lecturer. He can be reached at e1948s@aol.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Miracles And Dreidels: What a Modest Little Spinning Top Can Teach Us about God and History

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu to Release Frozen Palestinian Authority Tax Revenue
Latest Indepth Stories
Islamic Relief Worldwide Logo

In November 2014, Islamic Relief Worldwide was classified as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

Safran-032715

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Erica Pelman is a spiritually-driven woman. She is founder and director of “In Shifra’s Arms” (ISA), an organization that offers aid to pregnant Jewish women of all religious backgrounds practically, financially and emotionally. Its arms are open to any pregnant woman in need whether single, divorced, separated, or from a financially-strapped family. “Presently, we are […]

Gerstenfeld-032715

Many so-called “humanitarian NGOs” frequently abuse Israel by applying false moral equivalencies

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

In God’s plan why was it necessary that Moses be raised by Pharaoh, away from his own family&people?

In their zechus may we all come to appreciate that life is a fleeting gift and resolve to spend every precious moment of it as if it were the last.

In any event, Mr. Netanyahu after the election sought to soften his statement on Palestinian statehood and apologized for what he conceded were remarks that “offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli Arab community.”

A worthy idea any way you look at it.

There is something quite distinctive about the biblical approach to time.

The Waqf kept control of the Temple Mount due to Dayan’s “magnanimity in victory” after 6 Day war

The event promotes “1 state” solution (end of Israel as a Jewish State), BDS, lawfare against Israel

I rescued you?! You’re doing me a favor letting me help you!

“Tzedakah tatzil mi-mavet: Charity saves from death”; No death & a tax break? Where do I sign up?

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Safran
Safran-032715

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Safran-021315

Jews cover the head not as ID but because wearing it makes concrete to ourselves our devotion to God

It’s easier to take Jews out of galus than to take galus out of Jews – Chassidic master

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

It is difficult to remain faithful in galut, the ultimate Rorschach test for all Jewish generations

Racheli Frankel: “I didn’t think they were thrown just anywhere. The tears of Hebron embraced them”

Yes, God judges, but His judgment is that of a loving father who longs for his child’s quick return.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/miracles-and-dreidels-what-a-modest-little-spinning-top-can-teach-us-about-god-and-history/2008/12/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: