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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
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A Cardinal Message


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I looked around, pausing in my silent tefillah. Other parents were snapping pictures and smiling. They looked happy, almost lighthearted. They were younger and had many siddur plays ahead of them.

Don’t be so sure, I wanted to tell them. Your innocent child will not stay frozen in time. She will grow, and she may become complacent. Worse yet, doubts may fill her mind. Guard her like the treasure she is, and daven for her like your life depends on it.

Shacharis, Minchah, Ma’ariv,” Tehila sang, and my heart sang with her. Yes, my daughter, tefillah is a magical opportunity. Hashem waits to hear from you. Don’t let Him down.

“Hashem gives us so much. We thank Him for everything…” the little girls chorused, smiling at us from on stage. Yes, Tehila, you will see miracles in your life. But don’t forget the everyday ones that are equally significant. Pause to admire the rose growing in front of your house, and marvel at each step and phase of your child’s development. Allow the big, open miracles to wake you up. But don’t forget to be refreshed by the ordinary moments, the everyday miracles. And when life doesn’t feel miraculous because everything’s going awry, that too is a miracle. Because when you think about it, any intervention from Hashem is miraculous, is it not? Even when we think the scenes are not playing out the way we would have written the script.

One last song, and the play was over. I hugged my little girl, and she tenderly handed me her siddur. I told her how proud I was, and filled her plate with cake. And as I left the auditorium, I knew I had witnessed a miracle – the miracle of my baby reaching yet another milestone in her development. But Hashem’s blazing, meteoric miracles don’t last. The roiling Red Sea rolled back into its bed, and the manna stopped falling after 40 years. Hashem sends us spurts of inspiration to encourage us, and then says, “Kids, now it’s up to you. I changed nature for you to get your attention. Now I charge you to sustain that inspiration. And if you keep your eyes open, you’ll see small, daily miracles that have My imprint, and they’ll carry you through.”

I was preparing dinner later that afternoon. Sure enough, I glanced out through my sliding glass doors, and there was another cardinal (or maybe it was the same one). I stopped, moved again by his message of beauty. And after his beady black eyes stared into mine, he flapped his wings and soared heavenward. He was waving to me, as if wishing me well on my journey.

I’ll try, I told him, gazing till I could no longer see his bright plumage. I, too, will try to use my wings and fly ever closer to Hashem’s throne of glory, remembering that our lives are filled with constant miracles, every moment of every day.

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A flash of red caught my eye, and I looked up and saw a cardinal perched on the picnic table on my deck. What a miracle, I marveled. You’re beautiful. Thanks, Hashem. And then my mind’s wheels began to roll, and it struck me that several miracle stories had come my way this week. The stories prodded me to think of and feel Hashem’s presence as a more tangible and vivid reality.

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