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Miracles

Have you ever seen a miracle, a real miracle that God performed? Rachel had always wondered where all the miracles went. Her teachers in Hebrew school would read the stories from the Torah that were filled with great miracles God had performed — things like splitting the Red Sea or providing manna to eat in the desert or the Ten Plagues that freed the Israelites from slavery. How come, she wondered, we don’t see miracles like that anymore?

This wasn’t just idle curiosity. Rachel had become very interested in this question of miracles ever since her baby brother, Michael, had been born a few weeks ago. She overheard some of her aunts and uncles talking at Michael’s bris. Her Uncle Phillip, who was a famous doctor at a big university, said, “it will be a miracle if this child survives.” The others seemed to agree. They told each other to pray to God for a miracle. Everyone seemed sad.

Rachel knew something was seriously wrong with Michael. His bris, the ritual circumcision all Jewish boys have when they are eight days old, had been delayed, which was a big deal, but the rabbi said it was okay since it was for medical reasons. Her dad had stopped traveling and was spending time at home, something he never did before. Her parents spent a lot of time taking Michael to appointments with doctors and talking with other doctors on the phone. Then there was a nurse who came to the house almost every day and all kinds of special equipment in Michael’s room. Her parents told her Michael was sick. They never said he would die, but it seemed to Rachel that he might. Michael didn’t look or act like a normal baby, not like the babies she’d seen at her friends’ houses when their brothers and sisters came home from the hospital after being born.

To make matters worse, Rachel had never really wanted a little brother or sister at all. Her dad was an important consultant and spent most of the time flying around the country going to meetings. He was usually home only on weekends and even then he often had to leave late on Sunday afternoon. He almost never was around for things at school. He even missed it when she sang a solo part in the fall school concert. Rachel loved doing things with her dad, but now, when he was home he was spending so much time with Michael.

Her mom also worked, at least just until Michael was born. Rachel loved her mom, but Rachel really only got to see her at breakfast, which was usually rushed, and at supper. Now that Michael had been born, her mom had stopped working and was home more, but she was taking care of Michael all the time, it seemed. And when she wasn’t, she seemed sad and tired
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Rachel felt bad admitting it even to herself, but if it would take a miracle for Michael to survive, she wasn’t sure she wanted a miracle to happen. As she saw it, Michael had made a bad situation even worse. What she really wanted was to have her mom and dad with her more and not share them with Michael. She certainly wasn’t going to pray for a miracle.

But this issue of miracles troubled her. She asked her grandmother if she had ever seen a miracle. “When I was a little girl in Poland, the terrible Nazis came, but my parents hid me with a Christian family. The Nazis came looking for all Jewish children and searched the homes of Christians too. The family hid me in a special closet, but I heard the Nazis right outside the wall. They were breaking open everything. I prayed to God to protect me. Suddenly, they stopped just when I thought they would smash the wall that hid me. The Nazis didn’t find me. I consider that a miracle,” her grandmother said. Rachel wasn’t sure. It wasn’t like splitting the Red Sea and drowning Pharaoh’s soldiers.

Rachel asked her uncle who lived in Israel when he came to visit. “You want to know a miracle,” he replied. “Israel is a miracle. When I went to live on the kibbutz many years ago, it was just desert. Nothing grew there, not even weeds. Now we grow oranges and olives, lemons, grapes, and more beautiful flowers than you can imagine. We turned the desert back into the land of milk and honey that God promised to us. To me, that’s a miracle.” Rachel didn’t really consider that a miracle, not of God’s doing anyway. She had heard the stories about how hard her uncle and the others had worked.

At Hebrew school, Rachel asked the rabbi. “The great miracles of Torah happened because God wanted to show the Israelites and the whole world the power of the one God, the God who gave the Torah to the Jews. Today, the survival of the Jewish people — people like me and you and your family — are proof of the power of God, so we don’t need the big miracles any more. Now, we can be satisfied with little miracles like getting up every morning and seeing the sunrise or feeling the love of our families. Even your beautiful voice and your singing, Rachel, is a miracle, a gift of God that such beautiful sounds could come from such a precious child. You too are a miracle. These might not be spectacular like the big miracles in the Torah, but they are just as real,” he said. Rachel wasn’t so sure, although she did like it that the rabbi noticed her singing.

She asked her aunt about miracles. “Babies are a miracle of God. You were a wonderful miracle. Every baby is a miracle,” her aunt replied.

“What about Michael?” asked Rachel.

Her aunt hesitated, thinking about Michael. Finally, she said: “Michael is a miracle too. It’s just harder for us to see it.” Her aunt gave her a big hug. “I know this is hard for you. It is hard for everybody. All we can do is pray,” she added. Rachel certainly didn’t see any miracle in Michael. If anything, he was a disaster.

Michael struggled and continued to hang in there. He didn’t seem to get any better, but he didn’t get any worse either. Rachel watched closely to see any signs of a miracle.

In the meantime, she was busy practicing for the big Spring Concert in school, which was quickly coming up. Even the mayor comes to the Spring Concert. And Rachel had another important solo part. Her dad promised he’d be there for the Spring Concert without fail. Rachel was sure he would make it this time because he was home more, now that he had all those meetings with doctors.

A few days before the concert, her father announced that he had to start traveling again. He had work to do that he had put off because of Michael, but he couldn’t put it off any longer. Rachel exploded when she heard his announcement. “The Spring Concert is coming up in three days. You missed it last time. You promised!” she screamed. “How come you can stop traveling for Michael but you can’t for me? I hate you. I hate Michael. I hope he dies!” She stormed up to her bedroom, slammed the door, flopped down on the bed and cried.

Her mom and dad came into her room quietly a few minutes later. She expected them to be furious with her. She felt bad, selfish and terrible for thinking that Michael should die. “I’m sorry,” said her dad. “We’ve been so concerned about Michael and our own things that we have forgotten about you, haven’t we? Thank you for reminding me.”

Rachel’s mom stroked her hair. “We love you so much. We love Michael too, but I can guess what you’re feeling. I’m sorry we didn’t see it sooner,” her mom said softy.

Her father kneeled by the side of her bed. “I do know how you feel, I really do. I love Michael more than I ever believed I could, but you know, there were times in the past few weeks when even I wished that maybe Michael would be better off just dying and going to God,” her dad admitted.

Rachel was shocked to hear this. Poor Michael, she thought. She sat on her bed with her mom and dad for hours, it seemed. They talked quietly about Michael and her, about how he was such a strong fighter, about her mom and her dad and their work, about her singing, about the family. Rachel wished this time together would never end. She fell asleep in her mom’s arms.

At breakfast the next morning, Rachel’s dad announced that he was changing the way he would work starting that morning. He would be at Rachel’s concert. He was canceling almost all his travel. Her mother, who had been thinking about returning to work, said that she would not go back to work, maybe someday but not now. These changes, of course, would mean that the family would have less money, that they would take fewer vacations or buy fewer things, but they’d still be able to manage if they were careful. “The most important thing, I now realize, is that we are together, no matter what happens,” her dad said. “We have to be here for each other.”

The Spring Concert was a success. Rachel sang beautifully. Her mom and dad were in the audience. So were her aunts and uncles, and even her grandmother, who rarely went out anymore.

At home, Rachel spent more time with Michael. She and her dad would rock him. Her dad still worked a lot, but most of the time was sitting in his office at home, on the phone and at the computer. Sometimes he went out, but he was usually back for bedtime. Her mom was home a lot too. Rachel helped her mom feed Michael. Sometimes she would put her little finger in his hand and he would grasp it tightly. She would then jiggle her finger and, it seemed to her, that he smiled and laughed. “Hey, Michael’s playing with me,” she called. Her mom and dad laughed and kissed them both. They were all so much happier. That night, at bedtime, Rachel prayed for God to perform whatever miracle it would take to help Michael.

A few weeks later, as her dad tucked her in, Rachel told him of her prayers for Michael. “But I haven’t seen any miracles,” she said anxiously.

“I don’t know what miracles God has planned for Michael,” replied her dad. “But I do know one miracle that God already performed for us.”

“What miracle was that?” asked Rachel, puzzled. She couldn’t think of any miracles and she had been looking very hard.

“God taught me and your mom how precious the time we spend together is, loving each other as a family, being here for each other. Our time together is a wonderful gift from God. Just as splitting the Red Sea was a miracle that revealed the power of God, so Michael is a miracle that revealed to me the gift of my family, a gift I have received from God.”

Rachel, who had wondered what happened to all the miracles, suddenly realized how much better her life had become since Michael arrived, how much more time she and her parents and even Michael shared together. “Yes,” she whispered, “Michael is a miracle. Thank you, God.”