The van flipped over on Israel’s Highway One, in late March 2000. It was close to midnight on a Saturday night and the van my wife and one-year-old daughter were riding in was full of children. The van was traveling from Zichron Ya’acov to Kiryat Arba, with a stop to drop off my family in Mevaseret Zion. I was asleep at home, suffering from a virus and having stayed home and not joined my family in Zichron Ya’acov for Shabbat.
The driver of the car behind the van fell asleep, pushed down on the accelerator and slammed into the van. The van was lifted into the air and immediately flipped onto its roof. My wife and infant daughter were ejected out of the van onto the highway and narrowly missed being run over by another driver.
Aliza and my daughter were rushed to the hospital and I met them there. My wife had hip pain and the doctors wanted to do an X-ray. They discreetly asked her if she was expecting and she said she couldn’t definitively tell them, so they gave her a pregnancy test which came out positive.
Due to my virus and other factors, more tests had to be conducted and we were told there was a chance that the baby we had only recently found out about would have to be aborted. The results would only be known in three days.
Aliza was injured, I was ill and our lives were a wreck. We prayed for three days and were told the good news: our new baby would be fine.
When she was born, in November, we named her Temimah (for perfect faith in God) Shira (for praise of God). Twenty-two years later, we are grateful to be marrying off Temimah this week to a wonderful young man, Yehoshua.
The above story sounds nothing less than miraculous and the miraculous is the norm here in Israel. Addressing a popular secular Israeli society that was skeptical of calling events miraculous, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, said, “A Jew who does not believe in miracles is not a realist.” It is difficult to understand the events that created Israel in a purely natural manner.
FROM ISRAEL’S rebirth as a nation in its homeland after largely being absent for close to two thousand years to rekindling a dead language and culture to repeatedly winning wars where its military was greatly outnumbered, Israel has beaten the odds countless times.
Rabbi Shlomo ben Avraham ibn Aderet, widely known as the Rashba, was a medieval Torah scholar who lived in Spain. He taught that the verse, “[Eretz Yisrael] is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end,” is teaching us that the land of Israel is run by specific Divine providence and events in the land don’t occur purely because of cause and effect.
He wrote, “Since the Jewish people are the chosen people and Eretz Yisrael [the land of Israel] is the chosen land of God, He is not going to leave the people or the land to an angel, as God did for the other nations of the world. Rather God’s ‘eyes’ are on the land and all that occurs in the land occurs under God’s providence.”
The prophet Jeremiah consoled the Jewish people as they suffered their first exile and were taken to Babylonia, he said, “Again there shall be heard in this place, which you say is ruined... in the cities of Judea and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without men, without inhabitants and without beasts – the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those saying, “Praise the Lord for the Lord is good, for His mercy endures forever...”
Jeremiah placed Divine redemption in the context of the joy of a bride and groom because they represent the building of the future and the future we pray for is a redemptive future.
For two thousand years, Jews dreamed of returning to Israel. In the early 1900s, Zionist pioneers began moving back to the largely desolate land of Israel. It was full of swamps and malaria and the early Zionists broke their backs making the land inhabitable. These early Zionists weren’t working so they could enjoy the land, they had their children and future generations in mind.
COULD A farmer who drained a mosquito-filled swamp in 1923 ever dream of today’s booming and successful Israel? I’d like to think these early pioneers were minor prophets who understood the significance of their work and that it would it be felt a hundred years in the future. Much like today’s Israelis who work tirelessly to make Israel better for their children, early Zionists worked hard to create a Jewish state for their children.
The Talmud draws a parallel between finding a suitable mate and the difficulty in splitting the sea. The Talmud related that matching two people together is as hard as splitting the sea (kasheh l’zavgan k’kriat yam suf). The Talmud teaches that ever since the six days of creation, God sits and matches couples together. The Talmud says this work is as hard for God as the splitting of the sea.
The Talmud’s lesson speaks to the difficulty of finding a spouse. God doesn’t normally interfere in the events of the world, God sets the world to run on general Divine providence, which we perceive as cause and effect. There are unique times when God deems it fitting to interfere in the events of the world. This is when God stops running the world on general Divine providence and uses specific Divine providence. This interference is called miraculous.
This teaching of the Talmud suggests that God interferes in each and every matching of spouses. Hundreds, if not thousands of people find their spouses every single day. If the Talmud’s contention that God sets up every match is to be taken literally, God interferes at a higher frequency than is commonly thought by early Torah scholars and philosophers. After all the teachings that limit the frequency of miracles, it is difficult to believe miracles occur as often as people find their spouses.
Israel is the land of the impossible and one of those impossibilities is frequent miracles. From winning wars to creating a start-up nation to marrying off one’s children, in Israel, the miraculous looks like the mundane and the mundane looks miraculous.
These past three months have caused people to be skeptical of Israel’s future but I caution the skeptics: don’t bet against Israel, it’s been counted out many times and it’s always strongly bounced back.
The writer is a senior educator at numerous educational institutions. He is the author of three books and teaches Torah, Zionism and Israeli studies around the world.