Rabbi Lazer Gurkow
Rabbi Lazer GurkowCourtesy

The greatest miracle of our times, on par, perhaps, with that of the Six-Day War, occurred last Saturday night. More than 360 missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles were dispatched by Iran to Israel. The intention was to destroy defensive infrastructure, wreak mayhem and havoc, and destroy Jewish lives.

Some of the larger missiles carried 750 kg warheads. Each is capable of wreaking complete destruction in a 22-meter radius and badly damaging everything in a 75-meter radius. It is fatal to anyone in a 22-meter radius and causes major injury to anyone in a 34-meter radius. This is the impact of a single ballistic missile. The smaller missiles cause less damage, but you get the picture.

Each of these missiles could have taken many lives and caused great destruction. Yet hardly any got through Israel’s air defenses. All AEVs and cruise missiles were either intercepted before arrival or never made it out of Iran. The same goes for most of the ballistic missiles. The few that pierced the defensive ring caused minimal damage, with the exception of one horrific injury to a young Bedouin girl.

In the days leading up to this attack, the IDF and government spokespeople assured the country that Israel was well prepared. But they repeatedly stressed that their rings of defense did not constitute a hermetic seal and that everyone must take shelter.

As it turned out, the seal was as good as hermetic. The complex web of pilots, operators, systems, technologies, machines, command and control, and liaisons with the various divisions worked in perfect integration. In addition, the coalition of armies that joined to protect Israel worked in perfect lockstep. Everything that could go wrong did not go wrong. Everything worked seamlessly.

Had this ring of protection achieved a ninety percent result, it would have been miraculous. Remember that many of these systems were never tested in real-time. Remember also that shooting down a single missile requires the complex integration of a well-oiled team and perfectly working technology. A single glitch can cause a breach. In this case, the system was tested well over three hundred and sixty times in the space of several hours with a ninety-nine percent success rate. This is so rare as to be considered a mathematical impossibility.

No one would have predicted a near-hermetic seal that night. No one in Vegas would have taken that bet. Mathematically, that bet would fail a hundred out of a hundred times. And it worked this one time when Jewish lives were on the line. G-d finally came through. We saw our miracle. G-d was in hiding on Simchat Torah, the day of the October 7th massacre. There were many miraculous events over the past seven months, but none as obvious as this one.

The Chassidic masters taught that the purpose of a miracle is to remind us that G-d has our back. That we are in His hands even when we don’t see it. On an ordinary day, it is as if a large opaque veil is stretched across our eyes, and we can’t see or feel G-d’s presence. On miracle days, G-d pokes a hole in the veil, and we perceive a momentary shaft of light.

It doesn’t last forever. The ordinary days soon return. But when the hole is covered, and the shaft of light disappears, we don’t forget what lies on the other side of the veil. We can revel in G-d’s presence even when we don’t see His miracles. Even when He tests our faith as He did this past Simchat Torah.

With this knowledge, we can trust that G-d will come through for us again. We can trust that He will bring our hostages back. As it did last Saturday night, this will require a well-oiled machine of consummate professionals who will work in lockstep to find and liberate the hostages. There will be heroes who will place their lives on the line to make it happen. But it will be G-d Who will grace their efforts with success.

Throughout our history, G-d pierced the veil and showed us the light. He did it at the gates of Egypt, the Red Sea, and the desert. He did it for the Maccabees and against Haman. In recent history, He did it in 1947–1948, in 1967, and on April 14, 2024. It is a day we will remember for posterity. It is a day that will give us strength.

Our Enemies Join Us
This Shabbat is called Shabbat Hagadol—the great Shabbat to commemorate a great miracle in Egypt. When word reached the Egyptian firstborn that Moses had warned of their sudden death in a plague, they demanded the release of the Hebrew slaves. When Pharaoh refused, they went to war. The rebellion was put down, but the fact that the Egyptian leadership stuck their necks out to help us is a miracle. A great miracle that we celebrate on this great Shabbat—Shabbat Hagadol.

Let us remember that something similar occurred on April 14th. Many Arab nations joined the coalition to protect Israel against the Iranian attack. Countries like Jordan, who formerly made war with Israel, shot down missiles headed toward Israel. The same is true of Saudi Arabia. Other Arab lands also supported Israel by providing background assistance.

If, back in 1967, you tried to convince someone that this would happen, you would have been committed to an asylum. It would have been unthinkable. Yet, this is precisely what happened last Saturday night. Let’s not forget this detail.

The war is not over, and our people are far from safe. But when a miracle occurs, we must praise and thank G-d. The very acknowledgment brings more blessings and miracles.

In BCE, the Assyrian army laid siege to Jerusalem. Isaiah informed King Hezekiah that G-d pledged to protect the Jews. The king, trusting implicitly in G-d, went to bed that night and enjoyed a restful sleep. When morning dawned, it was discovered that the entire Assyrian army had died in a plague. What a wonderful miracle that was. However, Hezekiah failed to sing an ode to G-d in gratitude. For this, our people paid a heavy price.

The Talmud tells us that G-d considered crowning Hezekiah the Mashiach. Such was the piety and faith of Hezekiah that he was worthy of becoming our redeemer. But since Hezekiah failed to lead his nation in an ode to G-d as Moses led his people after the splitting of the Red Sea, G-d changed His mind. Consider: It was approximately a hundred years later that Babylon sacked Jerusalem, destroyed our Temple, and exiled our people. This all could have been avoided had Hezekiah become Mashiach.

The message to us is clear. If we want to be deserving of more miracles, we must thank G-d for the miracles He already performed. This Shabbat and this Passover let’s raise our glasses in gratitude. Yes, our people are still in danger; we are still in need of miraculous intervention.We pray for the hostages' safe return.

But acknowledging and thanking G-d for one miracle positions us for another miracle.

May this miracle occur speedily in our days so that this Passover we will celebrate a dual redemption. Out of Egypt and out of our current exile.