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God Squad: Too many questions often surround miracles

February 04, 2011|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

I often receive questions about miracles but rarely answer them. This isn't because I don't believe in miracles — because I do — but rather because there are some things from God that don't lend themselves to easy, facile explanations. Some gifts from God need to be accepted in awesome silence and gratitude.

Also, some things we consider miracles are, in the words of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, "just the report of natural events by enthusiastic participants."

However, a dear friend of mine and a member of my congregation was recently the recipient of an unambiguous miracle.

Henry was dying of an aggressive brain tumor. He was at home in the care of hospice angels, family and friends. He was off all his meds and ready to go home. Suddenly, his latest MRI came back with the stunning news that the tumor had simply vanished. Doctors had no explanation about how or why this miracle (their word) had occurred.

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I will share with you some of my thoughts on miracles that I shared with my congregation, and would love to hear about any miracles with which God has blessed you or those you love:

I don't expect the weekly Torah portion to be a newscast of contemporary events. The part of the Torah we read every Shabbat is, for me, a view into the eternal, not a report from the neighborhood. Yet, time after time, I have seen a message in the Torah verses, almost a prophecy, and certainly a divine commentary on what God is doing right now in our lives.

We read in Exodus 23:25 v'hasiroti mahalah mikirbecha: "And I will take away the sickness from within you."

I don't know if God was referring to Henry, but this week I think so. I don't say this often or lightly, but we have witnessed a miracle in our midst. Tonight we pray in grateful thanks for Henry's miracle.

There are so many questions about miracles that follow our joy. The responses to these questions, like the miracles themselves, come from God. They are responses, not answers, because these are unanswerable questions. They are mysteries, not problems.

As the philosopher Gabriel Marcel wrote: "Problems are questions we constitute. Mysteries are questions within which we ourselves are constituted." ("The Mystery of Being")

So our spiritual task with miracles is not to answer the questions but to find a way to respond to the mystery. We must live our way through the questions into responses our lives can embrace.

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