Life as if Everything is a Miracle
By Rabbi Heather Miller
Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live: You can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” This is the season of miracles, a time to remind ourselves what it is like to live life as if everything is a miracle.
The Hebrew words “ness” (miracle) and “nissim” (miracles) appear all over our celebration of Hanukkah. The dreidl we spin has four letters that serve as an acronym for the sentence, “A great miracle happened there.” The blessing over the candles references “al hanissim” for the miracles of the military victory of the few over the many, and the light of the candles lasting for eight days instead of one day. Perhaps we acknowledge the Divine behind these blessings; perhaps we just appreciate them for the blessings that they are. But when these winter months begin to bring in the cold, the dark, the lonely, we seem to warm ourselves by the light of the feeling of gratitude for miracles.
Throughout the year, too, in our daily liturgy, we acknowledge the miracles of our existence. We recognize the miracle of the splitting of the sea, and our ability to escape Egypt. We recognize the miracle of being able to stand up and say, “I am a Jew,” and to study Torah because we know that at various times throughout history this was very dangerous. We recognize the miracle of the greening of the desert in the Land of Israel, or even the existence of the State of Israel itself. Perhaps my favorite blessings about miracles are those found in the daily liturgy year-round: the blessings known as “nissim b’chol yom” (miracles of every day). These personal blessings thank our Creator for the simple blessings of waking up in the morning, standing up, clothing ourselves, etc. They allow us to become those people whom Albert Einstein references: the people who live life as if everything is a miracle, because they heighten our awareness of the gifts all around us at any given time. They lead us to a mindset, a way of being, a system of applying childlike wonder to our encounters with the universe.
Over the past several months, I find that I have fully embraced this mindset watching my newborn encounter simple things in the world with wonder and amazement. I have enjoyed his fascination with his hand, and toes, watching him stare at his shadow on the wall or the pavement with great interest, his intense awareness at hearing his own shrieks and sounds for the first time. What a way to live!
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel called this idea “radical amazement,” and he insisted we don’t have to regress to our youth to have it. Rather, we can cultivate our own sense of joy and wonder and delight in the world around us just as we are, right now. Please join us throughout these winter months to gather and express gratitude for the communal and personal miracles in our lives. And may this heightened awareness continue until this time next year!