Nissim Menashe 50, a resident of Petach Tikvah, celebrated last Israel Independence Day like most of the country, he had a barbecue with his family. It was a memorable event. He was standing close to the grill as a relative went to light it but because of the wind, the flame ignited the bottle of lighting fluid. Instinctively, the relative squeezed the fluid out of the bottle and onto Nissim.
Nissim felt himself go hot and removed his shirt then dropped to the ground and rolled trying to put out the flames. His wife, hearing yells from inside, came running out. By then Nissim’s energy was spent and he surrendered himself to the inevitable. His wife meantime threw water on him and started trying to smother the flames. Someone else finally recovered enough to call an ambulance and Nissim was whisked away to Tel Hashomer hospital where he spent the next two months undergoing treatment. He had sustained third degree burns to 30 percent of his body. His complete recuperation will take up to two years but December 1, almost eight months since the life-altering event, he returned to work part time to the medical supply company where he works as warehouse manager, working on a computer until he can return to more physical work.
Before the accident, Nissim told me that he would one day tell me some stories of how his name was a fitting moniker for him. I figured the time had come.
Nissim, which means miracles, was named after his paternal grandfather. His grandfather was originally named Avraham but after a great miracle had happened to him (the details of which are unknown to Nissim), his grandfather changed his name to Nissim.
This wasn’t the first miracle Nissim Menashe had experienced. When he was in the army, he was once sitting in a truck hangar with a group of other soldiers. An inexperienced electrician went to fix one of the trucks and turned on the ignition to see if the track would run. It did run, right over the guys standing in front of it. Thank God they all survived, a bit worse for wear. But Nissim, who a moment before had been standing among them, had gone outside when he heard someone calling his name. Only when he got outside, no one was there. No One he could see anyway.
Another time, during the Lebanon war, Nissim, who was serving in the Artillery Corps, was sleeping outside. The trucks, so as not to be seen, had a small strip of lighting and one of them, not seeing Nissim in the dark, ran right over him. Only because of the incline of the hill and the location of the rocks and of course a miracle, the truck rolled over Nissim but was suspended above him. Nissim awoke to find his face a few millimeters under a wheel.
With all these miracles, Nissim himself admits he should long ago have become haredi and a master of kiruv but his mitzvah observance, despite his belief in and gratitude to God, has been somewhat inconsistent. He has never even once benched HaGomel (which he now said he would do at the first opportunity, bli neder).
I ask him what the greatest miracle he experienced was and he says it was marrying his wife whose name happens to be Inessa, also having the word nes (miracle) as part of her name. Inessa, an immigrant from Russia (Bukhara) was a widow. Nissim raised her two children (then 6 and 10) as his own. Her son took Nissim’s last name in gratitude. They have two children of their own, now aged 15 and 8.
Nissim thinks that these wake-up calls keep coming because, except for that time in the hangar, Nissim doesn’t seem to be heeding God’s call. But there might be other reasons.
Recently when Ayala Shapira, an 11 year old girl was burned by a terrorist firebomb, Nissim posted a message giving her chizuk, telling her that she would heal and that God tests people because of their great faith in Him and His love for them and that he too had experienced this nissayon and healed. Nissayon has the word nes imbedded in it.
The Jewish people are always commanded to publicize the many miracles God does for them. Another meaning of nes is banner. In that case, Nissim is a walking bulletin board. He still wears special bandages and gloves to help speed the healing and regrowth of his skin. But the common denominator in all his miraculous rescues is that they all happened in front of lots of people all of whom can attest that he is a walking miracle many times over.
Unlike other people who might complain of God’s preferential treatment of him and all the attention it garners, Nissim is a very happy go-lucky (and he is indeed lucky) guy. He was laughing as he told over the frightening story of the barbecue. I mean even in retrospect it’s kind of hard to laugh. And he good-naturedly appeased the relative who squirted him with liquid fire and who keeps apologizing profusely at every family gathering, reassuring him it’s all from Above.
Maybe God isn’t trying to tell Nissim something; maybe He’s trying to tell us something through Nissim. Miracles happen and some guys are “lucky” enough to have them happen to them over and over again. And this helps us recognize that everything is from Above.
But just in case, I hope Nissim does say HaGomel. After all we’re not supposed to rely on miracles.