Are Jews Blind To Modern Miracles?

All right, I admit it. For the umpteenth year I watched The Ten Commandments. Perhaps it’s heretical to say, but this cheesy film (which is still far superior to Turner’s K-Mart version, Moses) still manages to make me think more about the heritage of our people than the Passover Seders. What strikes me year after year is the portrayal of how the Israelites’ faith was continually tested and how so many people failed to meet the challenge. I always wonder if I would have stood with Moses or with Dathan. And I wonder if the Jewish people are being given a similar test today that we are not even aware of.

Think about it. If you were to witness the ten plagues, would your faith be stronger or would your scientific mind find logical explanations for everything? After seeing the Nile turn to blood, the hail, the boils and all the rest, and being freed from bondage, would you have thought God would let you perish at the banks of the Sea of Reeds? After the parting of the Sea, would your thirst and hunger have led you to lose hope in the desert, to look for strength from a “god” you could see, like a golden calf, rather than one who spoke through an old man with a speech impediment?

How many of us would fail a similar test today?

Maybe we are failing and don’t know it.

Consider some of the “miracles” of this century:

A powerless people, scattered around the globe, victims of perhaps the greatest catastrophe in human history, are granted international legitimacy to create a state of their own in their ancient homeland.

A poorly trained, poorly equipped Jewish army defeats the combined might of the Arab world. Later, a better trained, better equipped army defeats not once, but three times, Arab forces with greater arsenals and manpower. And now, a nation the size of New Jersey boasts one of the most powerful armies in the world.

In less than 50 years, the Jewish population of Israel has grown by a factor of ten, from half a million to five million.

In those five decades, a land of deserts and malarial swamps is built by blood, sweat and tears into one of the most technologically advanced countries on the globe, a place where America’s premier high-tech companies set up research and development facilities.

Universities in Israel become world-class, as does its premier hospital, Hadassah.

The ancient Jewish community of Ethiopia is transported on the wings of eagles to the Promised Land.

The longsuffering Jews of the Soviet Union witness the collapse of Communism and can now immigrate to Israel.

The King of Jordan and the President of Egypt stand on Mt. Herzl for the funeral of an Israeli Prime Minister.

The crippling Arab boycott crumbles.

Israel signs peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians.

Israel has one of the highest economic growth rates in the world.

Non-Jews, millions of them, care about the fate of Israel.

The most powerful nation on earth develops a special relationship with the Jewish State.

Perhaps the problem is that DeMille spoiled us, that we expect miracles to look like acts of God, great natural wonders accompanied by thunder and lightning. Maybe if an earthquake swallowed up the Hamas headquarters or a tornado blew away the Hezbollah, we’d be believers.

I’m not Orthodox, and don’t claim to be a great religious scholar or Jewish philosopher. If I was, I’d probably be studying the Talmud, or at least watching Masterpiece Theater on PBS instead of The Ten Commandments. Still, it seems that the key element that most Jews lack today is faith. I’m not sure that sending our kids to Hebrew school or yeshiva will instill belief, but it’s hard to imagine them finding God in public schools. By sending our children to Israel, they can see miracles first-hand, but will they recognize them?

In recent years it has become popular to add elements into the Seder to acknowledge current events. In the Haggadah we used this year, there was a section about putting a fourth matzo on the table to remember the Jews persecuted in the Soviet Union. The fact that this matzo is no longer needed is a miracle. For this and all the miracles I’ve cited above, I can think of only one word to say: Dayenu.