Torah Tuesdays: Miracles by choice

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And we’re back for round #3:

A couple weeks ago I was listening to a shiur by Rebbetzin Heller on naaleh.com, and something she said made an impression on me.  This is a very, very rough paraphrase, but essentially,

You can choose to see a miracle, or not.  In having a baby, in seeing the sunset.  These are the miracles that we see while we’re in exile . . .

brand-new Little Man

What is she saying?  The events in life can be taken for granted as part of nature, or the miraculous nature of, um, nature can be seen as miracles which are revelations of G-d’s actions in the world.

Someone once said to me that you can’t be an Orthodox Jew and believe in coincidence.  Why not?  Because it’s a fundamental perspective of Judaism that G-d is involved in our lives in an active way.  This is different from the Aristotelian viewpoint that G-d exists, but is generally uninterested in the doings of mankind.  Aristotle basically thought that G-d made the world but then didn’t want to have anything to do with it or its inhabitants.  Judaism doesn’t buy that,  and instead maintains that everything which happens is a direct result of G-d’s involvement.  One place this is illustrated is in the story of Purim, where the Jewish people are saved from near extermination through a series of “coincidences.”

So, when Rebbetzin Heller says that you can choose to see a miracle or not, she’s referring to a choice that we all have in how we view the events of our life.  We can choose to see healthy, happy children as just something which is a natural part of life, or we can choose to see them as a series of little miracles. For instance, it’s miraculous to…

  • conceive. It seems that everyone knows someone who has had, or is having difficulty in this area.
  • have a healthy, full-term pregnancy. As with my first pregnancy, I’m often aware of how helpless I am to protect the little one inside me.  All I can do is try to eat well, avoid bad things, take my vitamins and pray that this baby remain healthy until I give birth.  It really freaks me out sometimes.
  • give birth and have a healthy baby and healthy mommy. Seriously.  In Jewish law, a woman in labor (and immediately after childbirth) is considered to be a seriously ill person, and it’s permissible to break Shabbos on her behalf.  Also, just take a look at the infant and maternal mortality rates in the 20th century.  Or maybe don’t.
  • raise them and keep them safe. Maybe it’s more so with little boys, but I feel like Little Man is always climbing onto something which could result in a nasty fall, G-d forbid.  One mother of many boys told me that her doctor told her that it’s inevitable that she will end up taking her some of her boys to the emergency room.  Inevitable.  Yikes.

When I think about it like that, I have a much higher level of appreciation of being a mommy.  This perspective shift can be done with anything in life.  Just take a moment and think about all of the steps which led up to that point.  And then take comfort in the fact that none of it was random.  I like that.

What are some miracles you’ve experienced in your life?

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13 thoughts on “Torah Tuesdays: Miracles by choice

  1. So true. Giving birth and raising children is just one of the amazing miracles we have experienced. I think just watching a child develop from a baby to a toddler all at the “right” pace and reaching milestones is a miracle in itself.

    If you start to think about it, you will be overwhelmed by the many miracles we experience on a daily basis – you just have to open up your eyes to see it! Think about how your digestive system works. You eat food, your body breaks it down and “knows” what to keep and what to get rid of! It is quite an easy process to eat and then throw out the wastes – and then you get hungry again… :-)

    Some of the biggest miracles are the ones we hardly even notice-the things that happen every day. We wake up every morning, we can see, hear, walk, talk, understand…we should appreciate them and thank Hashem for them every day!

    Thanks for this post!

    • Thanks for stopping by!

      It’s so true that we hardly notice most of the miraculous things in our life. A few years ago I broke my foot (during the Nine Days, no less!) and I really missed being able to walk around and be self-sufficient! Of course, now I take it for granted again….but that’s life! We have to work on our appreciation.

  2. That’s another thing-sometimes we only realize how lucky we are to have something when we don’t have it for a little while. A sore throat or a cold makes you appreciate being able to breath and be comfortable and not sit in bed with tissues all day. When I got a tiny little paper cut, I realized how lucky I am to be able to type without a bandaid getting in the way of the keys on the keyboard :-p and all the other little things that we have and should be thankful for…

  3. Thank you for your great post. I myself will never experience birthing a child but I am excited to eventually be there when my gorgeous wife delivers our baby into this world. I read an interesting approach to child birth and how it is the only time when humans become G-d-like. A husband and wife create a new life together. Of course everything is orchestrated by the hand of HaShem, but it is an interesting perspective. Many blessings on your new baby!

    http://menoftorah.wordpress.com/

    • Thanks! It is an interesting approach to childbirth, and it is an amazing experience. My “baby” is now already 19 months! IY”H, you and your wife should have this pleasure soon. :)

  4. Happily, Murphy’s Law does not prevail in most cases. So many things can go wrong but do not. I didn’t pay much attention to the fact that I was given antibiotics at some point in my pregnancy. But I learned from what happened to the grandchild of someone we know that the ramifications for untreated rupi strep for the baby can be devastating.

    BTW I like the layout and the header design of this site.

    • Thanks Ariella, and yes, it’s nice that usually things go smoothly. I guess that’s why it’s easy to take them for granted, right? Thanks for the feedback on my new home!

  5. Bridget

    Miracles do occur in our lives daily. I am one of seven children, the youngest of 5 girls. Two of my sisters cannot conceive, two of my sisters have children. My entire life, I just assumed I would be a mother and that when the time was right, I would get pregnant. I did, but I miscarried. I was devastated at not only the loss, but the idea that, like my two sisters, I might have to continue my life without bearing children. Fortunately, G-d decided that I deserved to experience motherhood after all. Although I had horrible morning sickness for 7 out of nine months during my first pregnancy (a sign of a healthy pregnancy I was told repeatedly,) it took me a very long time to come to grips with the fact that the sweet little child I was carrying, would indeed, stay around to make her appearance (basket case!) As sad as I was to lose the first baby, I was pregnant again soon and when I look at my sweet, angelic daughter today, I realize that if I had carried my first pregnancy to term, I wouldn’t have her. And she is so precious. I can barely remember what my life was like before she came into it and turned it all upside down.

    My sister reminded me that, even in something as sad as a miscarriage, G-d is at work. Perhaps He spared me the burden of a special needs child, or perhaps the devastation of losing the child later in the pregnancy. G-d indeed has a plan for all of us, and we should truly be appreciative of His blessings.

    Thanks for the reminder to open our eyes and see!

    • Thank you so much for sharing this, Bridget. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been, but it’s very commendable that you are able to see a bigger picture within the sadness. I feel like it helps keep us sane, you know, to understand that everything is meant to be as it is, even if it’s not understandable at the time (or ever).

      And it is definitely hard to appreciate morning sickness, no matter the reminders of it being part of a healthy pregnancy!!

  6. Well, the premise is that having a baby is a miracle … and non-Jews have more babies … and there are so many more non-Jews than Jews … so hence the conclusion.

    • Ah, well, the premise of the post is really that you can choose to see miracles everywhere in life (see the sunset reference in the original quote?), and I used the specific example of having a baby ’cause it’s a mommy blog.

      Rabbi Avigdor Miller used many examples from nature to illustrate this point. For instance, a peach pit. It’s really, really hard, in essence, cemented together, which protects the seed from being consumed by an animal, but when its time to sprout, there’s a chemical solvent in the soil which releases the seed. So that’s another example of a miracle we could take for granted, or that we could choose to see. I highly recommend any of Rabbi Miller’s books for more examples on the miracles of nature.

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