|Dedicated in memory of my dear mother, Eva Nightingale, Chava bat Shlomo and Tova whose first yahrtzeit is the first day of Pesach. She quietly made miracles every day for me, my three brothers and our father.
Making Miracles and Magic Happen
One of the central themes in the Passover story are the miracles that were an integral part of the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt. The 10 plagues, the splitting of the sea, references to manna – it is a night where we recount miracle after miracle after miracle.
We don’t see too many of these supernatural type events in our day and age, although one might argue that the existence of the Jewish people and our return to the Land of Israel is one big fat miracle in of itself. But the bottom line is that Pesach is about miracles and indeed the month that it falls out on – ניסן Nissan – has the Hebrew word for miracle as its root, נס nes.
So if miracles are in the air this time of year, how do we tap into that energy and maybe get some miracle action to happen in our lives? Is it even possible that we have a say in such matters? Let’s face it, when one thinks of miracles we usually think of this as God’s domain and doings. After all, He is the one who created everything and can switch it up when He so chooses. Do we even have any influence if, when and how miracles might happen in our lives?
Yes we do. Maybe not outright miracles, but certainly extraordinary stuff. How so? Simple. One of my favourite lines in the Talmud is: בדרך שאדם רוצה ללכת בה מוליכין אותו – “The path that one chooses to walk on is the one that God will lead you down.” According to Jewish thought and tradition, God actually follows our lead and only after the fact helps us in the direction we have already started. Nothing is more powerful than free choice, and wherever we set off, God helps us to go that way – for better or worse.
So if you want an extraordinary life, then God will give you that. And if you don’t want a magical life then He will give you that too. It’s really up to you. But through it all we need to remember what the biggest killer of miracles and magic is… Pettiness.
Think of it, miracles by definition are above and beyond. They supersede the ordinary, rise above it and take us to new heights that we never thought humanly possible. But if a person is locked in the mundane, the petty, the trivial and the unimportant, then miracles have no room to get in. Magic can be happening right in front of your nose but if you are too small minded to see it, then it completely passes you buy.
We are guilty of this every day when we ignore the miracles in our daily lives. We take for granted the amazing state of our bodies or of nature because we are too busy zeroing in on a tiny five inch screen on our phone. How often are we guilty of not living the magical moment because we are too busy taking a photo of it? Or we miss out on the amazing talents latent within each and every person because we get distracted by some petty flaw they may have, or the way they look or dress.
Sometimes we are at an event that is extraordinary by nature but we get distracted by something trivial. A person can be at a lavish, beautiful joy-filled wedding in a sumptuous setting by the ocean with the most wonderful finery and flowers and surrounded by love, excitement and anticipation – but ignore it all because there is no salt at the table for the first course. “Can you believe this place, there is no salt! No salt! Did you hear me, NO SALT!!!” We have all met people like this who completely miss the magic. Worse, we have all been that person.
I feel fortunate that I grew up with two men who had a sense of the extraordinary and lived their lives that way. The founder of Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Noah Weinberg was a man of vision who always looked above and beyond. He could not stand anything petty or unimportant. His only care and concern was the good and welfare of the Jewish people and doing whatever we can to bring Jews back to Judaism; Jews who did not know of its beauty, wisdom and the greatness of our people and heritage. He didn’t care what “brand” of Judaism you were or if you wore a black hat, a knit kippa, no kippa, or any other tell tale sign of your affiliation. All he wanted to know, all he ever cared about and asked you was, “What are you doing for the Jewish people? What are you doing to save the world?”
The other person was my father. Growing up in the home with a Holocaust survivor gives one a bit of perspective on what is important and what isn’t. There were lines you just didn’t say around my dad, common things people say that you just didn’t utter around someone who has spent time in death camps. For instance, you didn’t walk into the house and declare, “OMG, Traffic was such a nightmare!” Because you knew you would be met with, “Nightmare? Let me tell you what a nightmare is really like.” Or, “This food is tasteless.” Or “School is hard.” There was no time, patience or sympathy for your garden variety kvetching and petty complaints. Growing up in the same house with someone who went through hell and back gives one a good sense of first world problems. It happens to be that my mother, whose first yahrtzeit is this Pesach, was the same. She always had her eye on what was important in life and would always remind us, “If you have your health, then you are fine.”
If you want extraordinary things to happen in your life, then you need to live an extraordinary life and have an extraordinary outlook. That does not happen by visiting exotic places around the globe, it happens by seeing the extraordinary in the every day. It happens by setting your sights a bit higher and looking beyond the silly, the petty, the unimportant and the trivial. It happens when you focus on matters of truth, justice and good, making the word a better place and ignoring the stuff that does not mean much in the long run.
בדרך שאדם רוצה ללכת בה מוליכין אותו – The path that one chooses to walk on is the one that God will lead you down. If you choose extraordinary and if you choose magic then God will make all kinds of miracles in your life. In sports they call it making your own luck. In Judaism we call it making your own miracles.
I said, Go if you wanna go
Stay if you wanna stay…
But it’s always the same old story
You never know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone…
All I need is a miracle, all I need is you
All I need is a miracle, all I need is you
-Mike and the Mechanics
Rabbi Tzvi Nightingale
Aish South Florida