Miracles by Aviva Meshwork
Aviva Meshwork is an educator, writer and Trip Director for the JWRP. Originally from Toronto, she now lives in Israel with her husband and 4 children.
Shabbat may be the blessed day of rest which relieves us of our weekly responsibilities, but not all Shabbats are restful. This past Shabbat one family found that out with an experience that, like most, links us to our history as a part of the Jewish Nation.
On Shabbat, a young boy left his comfort zone to save his brother and a friend from a potential attack by a pack of stray dogs. Just prior to the incident the brothers (ages 8 and 10) had argued over a game, sending the younger brother Jonathan* into the house in tears. Feeling rejected and hurt by the argument, he came inside to cry and found his father on the sofa reading. Upon seeing Jonathan so upset and after hearing him out, the father suggested that they play a game together. Off to retrieve the game from his bedroom, Jonathan casually glanced out the window. Then suddenly from the sofa downstairs, his father heard a frantic yell. “Ben, David look out!! Wild dogs!!”
Ben, the older brother, and his friend David were playing in a field across the street and were clearly visible from Jonathan’s bedroom window. From his vantage point Jonathan could see the imminent danger of the stray dogs that were closing in on Ben and David. Hearing Jonathan’s warning, the boys took off but the dogs were in hot pursuit. Suddenly, and surely miraculously, the dogs were distracted and abandoned their chase. However, had Jonathan not seen the dogs and yelled out a warning when he did, there is no telling what could have happened, G-d forbid.
Jonathan’s father was very proud of his son for warning the others, but was confused about one thing. Jonathan is a very calm, sweet and gentle boy. He is what many call the strong-silent type. He is the type that is often asked to speak up when he is saying something. In addition, the field the boys were in was in eyeshot of Jonathan’s bedroom, but it was actually quite far from his home. It is not easy to hear a young boy’s voice, even a loud one, from where they were. Jonathan’s father asked him how he managed to yell so loudly out the window to warn the boys of the dogs. Jonathan’s response was so astounding, that this is why I am writing this piece. He said, “ I really didn’t want to fail at saving Ben and David.” Amazing.
But the field is still really far from Jonathan’s window. And like I said, Jonathan doesn’t have a loud yell. There must be something more here.
Baby Moses was sent into the Nile in his waterproof basket by his mother Yocheved in an effort to save him from Pharaoh’s evil decrees against male babies. The Torah relates that it took many miracles to keep Moses safe from his dangerous journey down the croc filled Nile. However there is one miracle in particular that I want to discuss as it relates to the above story about these two brothers and their friend. Eventually Moses’s basket made it to the part of the Nile where Pharaoh’s daughter, Batya, was bathing. While there she saw a Jewish baby in a basket floating along in the distance- close enough to have seen what it was, but far enough to make it humanly impossible to draw the basket from the water.
But yet she did. Batya herself attests to her deed “I drew him out of the water”, Exodus 2:10. The midrash** relates that this drawing of the basket was done so in combination with Batya’s effort and a great miracle from Above.
Please understand how dangerous and unusual this action was for Batya, daughter of the mighty and evil king Pharaoh. Defying Pharaoh, even if you are his daughter, is no small thing, and despite the challenge and difficulty of the task but she did it nonetheless. Armed only with the purest of intentions, quick thinking, compassion and a strong desire to do the right thing, regardless of the enormous challenges her actions would cause her.
There is a lesson for all of us here. Even when something seems impossible, make an effort anyways, because miracles do happen! Jonathan and Batya did this. Their humility and selflessness coupled with their quick thinking and purest of intentions drove their effort to do that which was right, despite the odds. Imagine they had contemplated those odds (the basket is too far, my arm won’t stretch, my father is going to kill me!) or (maybe they won’t hear me, they are too far away, my voice isn’t loud enough…). Had these calculations been made, history, both recent and distant, may have been quite different.
May we all internalize this message and act accordingly!
*names have been changed
** A Midrash is a form of Rabbinic literature. A midrash can best be described as a way of using story telling to explain ethics and values found in the Bible. Our early Sages often use a midrash as a way to explain or answer something in Biblical texts. The midrash is meant to be read in conjunction with the literal text rather than being divorced from it in order to facilitate a melodious reading. Reading the plain text will give you the simple story. Reading just the midrash will give you a non-sensical story. Reading them together will provide a richer understanding of the Torah’s messages. We learn a lot from reading midrashim (plural form of midrash) together with the plain text as it helps us to understand and draw out the values and lessons the plain text doesn’t necessarily reveal. Our Sages knew that Hebrew is a very loaded language and one word can have multiple meanings. Additionally, the Torah is laden with unrevealed depth worth digging to uncover. The wisdom of their interpretations of the plain Biblical texts are essentially what created many midrashim- again as a way to present moral and ethical lessons for our benefit.