“Now, whether or not what we experienced was an "according to Hoyle" miracle is insignificant. What is significant is that I felt the touch of God. God got involved.” Jules Winfield, (Samuel L. Jackson) Pulp Fiction.
I definitely didn’t think I would be starting a blog for the Mittleman Jewish Community Center quoting Pulp Fiction, but 2020 has been that way. That being said, Hanukkah is coming, and so I am thinking about miracles. Coincidences. Freak occurrences, as John Travolta’s character Vincent describes his view of the events.
I have had the pleasure and the privilege of lighting Hanukkah candles all my life, and while there have been moments in my life where I have felt inspired by Hashem or felt their presence, often it seems to be centered around Hanukkah.
First example: USY Convention in Philly. Friends and I are walking to pick up snacks for the convention. We pass a homeless man who asks us for change. He wishes us Merry Christmas. Then when we pass, he sees our Yarmulkes and wishes us Happy Hanukkah. On the way back we each give him change. As we pass, from behind, we hear “Baruch Hashem.” We turned around, and he was gone.
Second example: Living in Israel for the year, friends and I decided to spend part of Hanukkah in Cairo. Lighting candles in the Pharoah Hotel, wanting to make sure we didn’t get caught, was its own trip. Walking home that night we were SO obviously Americans a woman across the way saw us and asked “Hey, are you American?” We answer yes. It turns out she worked for the State Department and was about to go up to her apartment and light candles. AND, because she worked at the embassy, her apartment was filled with Dr. Pepper and TCBY Yogurt and American delicacies we hadn’t had since we came to Israel. And we lit candles with her, as she had been lighting them alone throughout Hanukkah.
Third example: I visited Spain between semesters while working for Hillel in 1998. When I went to Spain, Jeff Seidel (a friend who has done Jewish outreach in the Old City of Jerusalem for decades) said I should bring extra Hanukkah candles in case someone needed them while I was there. I lit candles around Spain. One late night, on a train from Barcelona to Madrid, I ended up talking with a very intense, wild-eyed Spaniard who reminded me of Roberto Beningi, who had lost most of his family in the Shoah. He ended up with a pack of my Hanukkah candles.
Are any of these “according to Hoyle” miracles? No. Do they make me feel connected to Jews and the Jewish people? Yes. Depending on which Hanukkah miracle you celebrate, either it is a military victory and rededication or oil lasting longer than expected. Not quite splitting the Red Sea or holding a mountain over the people.
Hanukkah comes at this darkest time of the year to bring light into the world and, hopefully, light into our hearts. So be on the lookout for miracles. They can get us through the darkest times.