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Modern Miracles

04/12/2021 10:52:45 PM

Apr12

Yesterday we observed Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s memorial day, and today we celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s independence day.  In addition to watching various commemorations and celebrations online, I had the privilege of serving as the master of ceremonies for the consulate-sponsored Yom Hazikaron observance, and today, I had the chance to lead our preschoolers in their own “Israel Day Parade.”  We are also partnering with the Atlanta Jewish Academy in their community-wide family celebration this afternoon.

Though the parties and celebrations are certainly fun, one of the ways that our observance of Yom Ha’atzmaut stands out is the opportunity we have to mark it as not just a political, national, or ethnic celebration, but as a religious one as well.  This morning in our liturgy we recited the Hallel prayers reserved for days of special celebration, and a special version of  “Al HaNisim”- the prayer for holidays instituted to celebrate miracles that occurred after the writing of the Torah. In doing so, we elevate Yom Ha’atzmaut to be a day like Purim, or Hanukkah, recognizing that miracles are part of our modern experience as well, not just stories told in ancient texts. The victories that made the state possible are no less significant than the victories of the Maccabees, or the events of the Megillah. Even though there was no splitting of a sea, no jar of oil, we see God’s hand in our people’s sharp turn of events from the horrors of the Holocaust to the salvation of thousands of refugees.

One of the things about post-Biblical miracles is that they are not perfect, even as the hand of God is hidden. The Jews of Esther's Persia saved themselves from Haman’s evil decree through political maneuvering and, ultimately, combat. The Maccabean victory, as wonderful as it was, was not sustained, as the descendants of Mattathias and Judah Maccabee changed course in ways that their ancestors would have found shocking. The fact that the state of Israel might not be perfect in every way, with challenges in its politics, and relations among its ethnicities, and with its neighbors, makes it no less miraculous. That Israel will likely be the first country in the world to achieve immunity to COVID-19 is no small feat. When God works in history, it is through human beings, imperfect instruments such as we are, and that is even greater cause for celebration.

Sun, May 9 2021 27 Iyyar 5781