by Rabbi Ilana Krygier Lapides
Be the Miracle
(Calgary) – In the endearing comedy Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey plays a shlimazel named Bruce who has a bone to pick with G-d about his lot in life. After much kvetching, G-d appears in the form of Morgan Freeman and bestows His G-dly powers upon Bruce. Naturally Bruce has a hard time believing he has actual powers and so he ducks into a diner to experiment: he begins by using his mind to move the creamer closer to his coffee and creating a spoon out of thin air. But the kicker is that, once the waitress brings Bruce a big bowl of tomato soup, he closes his eyes and parts the soup in the bowl as if it were the Red Sea. From then on, he is a believer!
Bruce immediately begins using his power to create the life he desires. After enjoying omnipotence for a while, everything starts to go sideways – he loses the love of his life and his neglect of those who need help creates chaos all around him. Bruce realizes, (to quote another show about superpowers), that with great power comes great responsibility. Bruce runs back to G-d to beg him to take away the powers.
G-d grants Bruce’s request and says: “Parting your soup is not a miracle, Bruce. It’s a magic trick.
“A single mom who’s working two jobs and still finds time to take her kid to soccer practice,
that’s a miracle.
“A teenager who says “no” to drugs and “yes” to an education, that’s a miracle.
“People want me to do everything for them. But what they don’t realize is THEY have the power.
“You want to see a miracle, son? Be the miracle.”
This passage got me thinking about the recent holiday of Chanukah and its two miracles. There is the miracle of the oil burning for eight days in the rededicated Temple. The modern-day equivalent (goes the joke) appears as a meme: “imagine if your phone lasted 8 more days on 1% battery life. The other miracle is the surprising military victory of the Maccabees over Antiochus and his army that slowly unfolded over many years.
It’s interesting that some miracles happen like a flash and others roll out over slowly, over time – sometimes ages. To paraphrase Mottel in Fiddler on the Roof: G-d walked Daniel through a lion’s den, made a wall fall down in Jericho, and helped David defeat Goliath, but the most miraculous one of all is that G-d allowed Mottel and Tzeitel, who have loved one another for years, to be together.
His miracle didn’t appear in a straight line and many don’t. Similar to enduring struggles, unfolding miracles sometimes feel like an unremitting dance of two steps forward, one step back. For many of us, that is how the pandemic feels – Omicron anyone? We are exhausted from the constant low-grade anxiety; we keep hoping for a miracle.
I wonder if our great-grandchildren will look back one hundred years from now and speak about the miracle of ‘The Vanquished Virus’? If so, will it be because lightening struck and suddenly the pandemic was obliterated? Or will it have been a series of small mercies: people wearing masks, getting vaccinated, keeping our neighbours safe at the expense of our own comfort?
Modern day miracles are generally a combination of hard work, resilience, and luck. This is both good and bad news. The bad news is that miracles like Red Seas parting or a modern-day Pharoah softening his heart are not in our power to control. We cannot count on these types of miracles manifesting just because we wish them do so.
The good news is that we have ways within our power to create small miracles every day. Random acts of kindness, Tzedakah, and Tikkun Olam, even just being a friend, can create ripple effects that we cannot even imagine.
As winter comes in with a vengeance and our brother and sisters of other religions and cultures begin to celebrate bringing light into the darkness, remember that we can be the agents of change for good, of miracles, anytime we like. Hold the door, speak kindly to a stranger, wear a mask, make a donation. With hope and joy and a little faith in our hearts, we can bring light into darkness anytime; WE can be the miracle.
Rabbi Ilana Krygier Lapides is an independent, non-denominational officiant and Jewish community chaplain in Calgary. She can be reached at RockyMountainRabbi.com. A similar article was printed in the Jewish Family Services Calgary, November 2021 Bulletin.