The news that the United States abandoned Israel during the United Nations’ vote this past Friday afternoon made me stop and look at the calendar. It was practically Erev Chanukkah yet it seemed like Tisha B’Av was not so far away. I was dizzy from disbelief. Nonetheless, I plodded on, reminding myself that Hashem runs the world. Period. We are a nation of miracles, l’maala min hateva. And there’s no better time than the present to reflect on this.
The biggest miracle of all is that we the Jewish people are still here. Despite persecution, torture, assimilation and endless attempts of people and nations seeking our destruction, we are here. We’re even thriving.
The infamous Arch of Titus in Rome underscores this point. Standing 51 feet high, the Arch was constructed in 81 A.D. by Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus’ many victories, including the Siege of Jerusalem. The south panel of the Arch depicts the spoils taken from the Beis HaMikdash, with the Menorah as the main focus. Other sacred objects portrayed being carried in triumphal procession include the Gold Trumpets and the fire pans for removing the ashes from the Mizbaech. One hates to imagine the smug Titus carrying away our Klei Kodesh to Rome where they’ve now languished for centuries.
In more recent years, the late Ponovezh Rav, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman z”l, was in Rome on business. The story is told that he requested to be taken to the Arch of Titus. In his majestic black frock coat, Rav Kahaneman climbed out of the car and stared at the Arch for a lengthy amount of time. He then raised his finger and shaking it at the Arch, said something to the effect, “Titus – Look at you. You set out to destroy us. Yet you and your civilization are dead and extinct and we the Jews are still here.”
Look at Jewish history. The Crusades. The expulsion from Spain in 1492. The Khmelnytsky Massacres. The Damascus Affair of the 19th century which led to pogroms against Jews throughout Arab lands. Chevron in 1929. The Shoah. The post-World War II pogrom in Kielce, Poland. The Chabad House in Mumbai. And so forth. Our history is replete with persecution and, Baruch Hashem, we are here. This is a recurring miracle on a national level.
There are miracles on the personal level as well. Children being born. Healthy children. Marrying a Jew. Making a Torah home. Turning out well-adjusted children who take their place in Klal Yisrael and society-at-large. Making a parnassa. Being healthy. Waking up from a deep coma. Learning and spreading Torah.
How do miracles, personal and national, happen?
Miracles come from Hashem. Period. Yet they depend in no small measure on our hishtadlus and davening.
The Anshei Knesset HaGedola constructed in their infinite wisdom the Amidah prayer with a framework for almost every request possible. The late Rabbi Kirzner’s book The Art of Jewish Prayer and Rabbi Schwab’s book on prayer are two excellent choices to learn more. In addition to the structured prayer, we can turn to Hashem at any time of day or night and pour our hearts out to him. Most important, we must to ask for what we want and/or need.
As I pen these lines, the Lightman family just experienced a small miracle. My wife found an online household supply website and placed an order. Isaac, the man who owns the site, asked whether he could deliver the order this evening about 5:30 pm. Isaac came to our door as we were about to begin lighting Hanukkah candles and we invited him to join us. Isaac was thrilled. He was swamped with deliveries and had asked his son to light Hanukkah candles in his place with the family at their Brooklyn home. Not even two hours earlier, Isaac had said to his wife, at “I’m asking Hashem for a miracle to light candles this evening at the right zman.” You had two miracles tonight, Isaac. You made parnassa plus got to light candles at the optimal zman. And spending brief moments with the Lightman family is icing on the cake (or the sufganiya).
As the sun sets permanently on the Obama administration, there is no doubt that more damage to our precious people and homeland can be wrought. However, our arsenal of prayer, combined with good deeds and Torah learning, will make sure that the Lord of Israel never sleeps nor slumbers.
Netzach Yisrael Lo Yishaker.