Toward a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson
Radio Show Transcript - August 22, 1999
Mike Feder: Good evening. This is Toward
a Meaningful Life. Im Mike Feder and Im
here with Rabbi Simon Jacobson. Tonight the subject of the
programs is miracles; miracles in the modern world. Let
me start right off. First, let me tell the listeners that
there is a chapter in your book Toward a Meaningful Life
on miracles. It is chapter 29 in the book and you can read
well talk about that a little later.
Okay, when people think of miracles they automatically
think of something ancient, antique, something that happened
a long time ago, something biblical. In all the holy scriptures
of all religions there are these divine interventions, which
I presume are usually beneficial.
Lets take one example so we can start
right off. The typical miracles that people think of when
they think of the Bible is G-d parting the Red Sea for Moses
and the Hebrews who just came out of Egypt. G-d also stopped
the sun in its course outside of Jericho for Joshua. And
throughout all religions there are these kinds of things.
But two questions come to mind right off:
what exactly is a miracle, and is there any such thing in
the modern world?
Simon Jacobson: And how do we address
the skeptic who says, "Hey, come on. Miracles just
dont happen. And if they ever did happen, when did
they stop happening?" And perhaps there wasnt
a miracle that they experienced in the Bible, it was simply
some event that can today be explained away with nature.
Im just adding questions to the pot.
Feder: Some scientific phenomena explains
all of this
Jacobson: Very legitimate questions.
Let me begin with a question of my own, if I may, that almost
precedes all these questions. When we were discussing doing
this topic, I had mixed feelings because in a way the topics
weve been addressing previously have been very personalpeople
dealing with their struggles in lifeand dealing with
a topic like miracles in some way, for me, particularly
when this radio show is entitled "Meaningful Life,"
which is about adding meaning and relevance to our lives
You know, I deal with people every day and
I see, including myself of course, the struggles that people
are grappling with, whether its issues of abuse, issues
of marital strife, barely making ends meet financially,
psychological peace of mind
So in a way I always feel
like when were dealing with a topic it should always
be brought to the issues that we are struggling with. And
I abhor, almost, going off on some academic tangent where
you have a purely intellectual discussion (even if its
a nice discussion). I always like to bring that personal
side to it.
On the other hand, I think miracles can be
addressed that way as well.
Feder: Thats something Id
like to hear, because it does seem abstract.
Jacobson: And my focus, our focus,
should be on what it means to us today. Even if someone
says, "Yes, the sea can part. Great. Does that help
me? If the sea parts, does that help me at home? Does it
help me dealing with my spouse, my children, making a living?"
So Id like to connect it and integrate it with our
own issues and that way we can focus the subject of miracles
into a meaningful experience.
Feder: I guess that also would define,
in the course of the explanation, what a miracle is, right?
Jacobson: Right. Now, as you stated,
most religions base some of their "divine revelations"
on the concept of a miracle. And since G-d performed a miracle
at some point in history its almost a demonstration
of G-ds power. The Bible does say that in Egypt, one
of the reasons or intentions of the miraclesthe Ten
Plagues, a suspension of naturewas to demonstrate
G-ds power to the Egyptians who refused to accept
Feder: Or that there is a G-d at all.
Jacobson: Right. And religion often,
or at least in some peoples minds, is based on that
principle: that a miracle occurred so there must be a G-d,
or at least there must be a G-d who intervenes in our lives.
So I want to correct that understandingat
least from the understanding of where I come from, from
a Torah or a Jewish perspective. G-ds existence is
not proven through miracles, because if you want to deny
G-d, you can deny a miracle as well by explaining it away
through natural occurrences, and most importantly, for a
mature adult, the approach should not be that, "Oh,
I see a miracle, so suddenly Im going to change my
Id like to know that if the Atlantic
Ocean suddenly parted in a miraculous way, do you think
millions of people would suddenly embrace morality and ethics
and just become better people and say, "Yes, Im
responsible to G-d because G-d showed me the ocean parting?"
I highly doubt it. And, as a matter of fact,
Id like to address a skeptic by playing a skeptic.
I believe that people reject G-d, and therefore by extension
miracles (or at least question them) not because they havent
seen a miracle or because they may not believe in them,
or they could explain everything with science, I think people
are extremely uncomfortable and uneasy with having a personal
G-d in their lives, because it means real responsibility.
I rarely meet the person who academically
denies G-ds existence. Theres always something
because G-d always has implications. In other
words, if you accept that theres a G-d in your life,
that means you have to live up to a calling thats
higher than your own. And I would submit (I cant prove
this because anyone could say, "No, Im ready
to accept any truth...") but I speak for myself as
well that we are all objective as far as our comfort zones
will allow us. Im not suggesting that people dont
search for truth, and there are certain truths that emerge,
often, unfortunately, when were broken through trauma
in our lives. When we lose our security we suddenly wake
up. Even then not always.
So I would say that just to discuss this in
an academic way is a good way to play mind games, but I
dont what practical benefit it has. In my book Toward
a Meaningful Life in chapter 29 it says, "Miracles
are a good way of looking at not whether you believe in
a miracle, but whether you accept an intervention of G-d
in your personal life." I think thats really
the issue more than whether or not theres an actual
There was a real skeptic who came to one of
my classes and he said, "So tell me. Tzaddikim,
righteous people like Moses, could they fly?" His question
was obviously meant to poke fun. So I told him, "Ive
never seen a tzaddik, a G-dly person, fly, but frankly,
for a person like that, its as miraculous to walk
on this earth as it is to fly."
Existence itself is a miracle. Birth is a
miracle. The fact that we breathe is a miracle. If you just
look at the odds of one mutant cell, being born with one
mutant cell, G-d forbid, and what kind of havoc that wreaks,
the odds of billions and billions of cells working in coordination
is that any less a miracle than the sea parting?
I would submit that its a greater miracle.
Because the parting of the sea is out there in nature, it
doesnt affect you and me right here. The fact that
you walk into a hospital, and G-d forbid, you see someone
struggling to breathe makes you appreciate the miracle of
health. Or you see children born not in the healthiest way,
you can ask a doctor and hell tell you, "Well,
it was one mutant cell out of billions. And that was it.
I would submit that the fact that healthy
children are born, though it happens every day, thank G-d,
does not make it any less miraculous. And one of the quotes
that I use in the book is the Baal Shem Tovs quote,
which I think is as powerful as it gets, he says: "The
difference between a miracle and a natural occurrence is
If the sun were to rise once in our lifetimes,
youd have media crews and photographers coming to
look at this astonishing phenomenon. (Look, we just saw
people's fascination with the solar eclipse). It would be
like a miracle. But since the sun rises every morning, we
get accustomed to it. Human beings needs a new rush of excitement.
So I like to look at miracles as: what does
it really do to you? If you can see the extraordinary within
the ordinary, if youre able to appreciate every flutter
of a butterflys wings, every breath a human being
takes, the magnificence and sheer synchronicity of nature
itself, if you can appreciate it and it makes you a person
who is in awe of this bigger thing called nature, or G-d,
that theres a higher force at work and it makes you
a better person because you see youre just one component
in a larger composition of music, then that means that the
miracle has affected you and has made you into a different
type of person.
If someone says to me, "I believe in
miracles. Im a very religious person," but in
no way do you find harmony in their own life (they may be
abusive or obnoxious, etc.) so then their statement is just
an academic statement. What do you mean, you believe in
miracles? Do you believe that G-d intervenes in your life?
Do you believe that every moment you have to be responsible?
So the words "I believe in miracles"
is a very abstract term.
Feder: Yet throughout history, people
of every sort on every place on the earth have always seemed
to need some type of demonstration, from time to time, of
the power of the unseen. Its almost like its
human nature in a way, isnt it?
Jacobson: I think so. And lets
put it this way. From a Jewish mystical perspective, it
does discuss the concept of a supernatural miracle. You
see, Ive directed the conversation to more of recognizing
the supernatural within the natural, but just because nature
is a perpetual continuation of habit, so to speak, doesnt
make it less miraculous.
However, as a wake-up call, in Jewish mysticism,
it does discuss the idea of a sheer miracle that actually
suspends or supercedes nature, but not as a common statement.
As a matter of fact, when it comes to miracles that suspend
nature, the Talmud states that G-d does not perform miracles
Feder: The big shows.
Jacobson: The big shows so to speak.
And G-d doesnt do supernatural miracles without a
reason. Its not just a common occurrence. Because
in a way, G-d bound Himself to the system, the structure,
and in a way created a partnership with us humans. Its
up to us to be wise and recognize that we shouldnt
become bound and limited by the structure ourselves but
we should realize that theres more to it.
So from time to time in history, according
to Torah thinking and Jewish belief, there will be a spectacular
event that will demonstrate that there is, so to speak,
a voice from another place, with the goal being for us to
recognize the Divine hand in our regular daily lives, seeing
that its not so regular.
Now that does require faith, yes, it requires
faith that at one point in history the sea parted. I cant
prove that here on air. I have no empirical proof for it.
Its an event that happened and once it happened it
was over. So that requires faith. But my point is that faith
is not based on the miracle. Should someone say to me, "You
know, I believe in G-d but I dont believe in that
miracle," I think, fine, Im not going to get
into an argument. I dont see it as one of the Thirteen
Principles of Jewish Faith that you have to accept the parting
of the sea. But if you do accept that theres a G-d,
what difficulties would you have in believing that the G-d
who created nature should suspend it? It shouldnt
be that impossible.
I do agree that you dont just have to
blindly believe everu miracle claim. Someone will say, "Well,
a miracle just happened to me yesterday, a completely supernatural
thing, no one else saw it but me." I too would tend
to be skeptical and say, "Maybe it wasnt a miracle,
maybe it was your imagination." But not because I deny
conceptually the possibility. I just know that human beings
can sometimes believe what they want to believe.
But I do accept the Biblical truth, and for
me its not a question
if there wasnt a
parting of the sea, G-d could have intervened some other
way. So I think its more of a holistic approach in
relationship with G-d, with understanding life in a deeper
Feder: Its interesting that you
should say "life in a deeper way" because its
something that Ive been thinking about. Ill
explain with a small experience I had that may seem superficial.
When I was a kidI grew up in a skeptical family, a
sort of religious familyI thought Id give this
G-d business one try. I was about ten years old and I went
out onto the front lawn one day near a tree we had there
and I said, "Ill believe in G-d if when I wake
up tomorrow morning there is a box of Oreo cookies sitting
there by magic (I dont mean to be facetious or anything)
at the bottom of the tree."
So I came out the next morning, and of course
there was nothing there, and I said, "Thats it,
there was no miracle," do you know what I mean? All
of which to say that it seems as if it almost requires an
evolutiona growing upto really understand what
youre trying to say because most children are taught
in almost all religions about these big shows and not always
the way youre describing it.
Jacobson: And Ill take it a step
beyond. I think insecure religion is built on promising
children or adults that a miracle is going to happen if
you do so and so.
Feder: If you pray
Jacobson: Because its like relying
on something outside of yourself. Now prayer in Judaism
and religion in general is clearly the ability to intervene.
You pray if, G-d forbid, someone is ill in the hospital
or suffering in some other way, you pray to G-d to intervene.
And though the destiny may state one way, we ask G-d to
please change destiny.
Jacobson: Yes. We ask for a miracle.
So that is a basis in religion
Feder: So you can pray for a miracle.
Jacobson: You can pray for a miracle,
you can pray that destiny should change. But I remember
a very sad story with a Mrs. Waxman in Israel a few years
ago when her son, an Israeli soldier, was taken hostage
by some Hamas terrorists. She is a religious woman
and she was prayingand of course the entire nation
was praying with herthat her son should survive. Now
the army did storm the place but they came in a minute late
and unfortunately he was killed in the process.
So afterwards, some of the skeptical journalistsand
Israeli journalists can be quite harshsaid to her,
"So what happened to your prayers?" I mean, how
they can ask such a question to a mother who just lost a
son is beyond me (that too is a miracle in the other extreme)
but they did, and she answered with that type of dignity
and majesty that you see in a person of true, mature faith.
She said, "We prayed and we asked G-d, and G-d answered.
He said no."
In other words, faith means that you can expect,
and you can hope, and pray and even demand of G-d to do
a miracle, but faith also means it doesnt always work
the way you have it planned. And its not dependent
on your comfort zone. In other words, "Ill accept
G-d if I get my Oreo cookies
" Im not criticizing
Feder: I was ten years old.
Jacobson: No, of course, I dont
mean it that way. We all do it in different ways, its
human nature. But my point is that faith is a deeper, mature
experience as you pointed out. Its more than that,
like the story I tell in Toward a Meaningful Life
in this chapter that there were three gentlemen sitting
near a fireplace on a winter evening and they were each
telling their miracle stories. This one said, "Let
me tell you about my Rebbe, my great master
I had very
little money and my Rebbe suggested that I invested it somewhere
and a miracle happened and I made money beyond anyones
expectations in a totally losing proposition. I made a lot
Then another fellow said, "Well, I had
a child who was ill and the doctors had given up hope and
my master, my Rabbi gave me a blessing and prayed and my
child healed miraculously to the amazement of all the doctors
And the third chassid, the third student said,
"Well, heres mine. I had a lot of money and I
had a suggestion to invest it somewhere and my Rabbi said
I should invest it and I lost it all. My investment went
So they said, "So whats the miracle?"
He said, "The miracle was that I remained
dedicated to my master. That it didnt shake my faith."
The point is, its a human tendency to depend like
a crutch on a miracle or some kind of intervention and that
is definitely part of faith in G-d. But faith in G-d is
not exclusively determined by that, because then youre
dealing with a relationship that is uneven; G-d is the great
giver and you dont take any responsibility.
There is a famous story that most people know
and whenever I tell it everyone says, "Yeah, yeah,
weve all heard that," in some version or another,
about this town that was being flooded and all the townspeople
were escaping. There was one guy, a man of faith, who refused
to leave with the trucks going out and he said, "No.
G-d will save me." And the waters rising, its
coming in through the door. The man goes up to his roof
and people come by in a boat and tell him to get aboard
but hes not going anywhere and he says, "No.
G-d will save me."
And the helicopter comes around, once, twice,
and drops the ladder, and he wont grab the ladder
because hes waiting for G-d to intervene. Finally
its his last chance and he refuses any rescue attempt.
Of course, he drowns and comes storming into the heavenly
courts and says, "I was the only man of faith; everyone
else escaped. They used all kinds of natural means but I
waited for your intervention and me you let down. What kind
of response is that to a man of deep faith such as mine?"
And the voice came back and said, "My
dear friend. I tried saving you three times. I sent a truck,
a boat and a helicopter and you just refused."
Feder: Yeah, I heard a version of that
Jacobson: In other words, intervention
doesnt always happen in the way we expect it.
Feder: So it doesnt have to happen
with all kinds of lights, and phenomena
Jacobson: Cecil B. De Mille style.
No, it doesnt need to be sensational. It can be, but
as I said, faith in G-d means anything can happen. But more
often than not, miracles happen to us and we dont
even pay attention.
Feder: If I get up tomorrow morning
and I feel okay, and my wife is feeling okay, and we had
a nice sleep and we have our breakfast and we get the food
there and we digest it and we go to work and we have a good
day. Thats a miracle, right?
Jacobson: Dont you have any greater
Feder: No, actually, I dont!
Thats my idea of a great life.
Jacobson: Well, some people would call
that damage control
Feder: No really, I should look around
me and say that this is all working and its a miracle
that it actually works that way. I mean, anything could
Jacobson: Id like to rephrase
it somewhat, because it sounds a little bit like people
would say thats resignation.
Jacobson: I think a part of it. If
your appreciation of that translates into your becoming
a better person and saying "Tomorrow I want to do it
better," I would agree with that. But I would not like
to say that todays a miracle and tomorrow lets
just hope that its as good as this and
almost like a fatalistic approach where you almost have
a fear of things not working and you thank G-d that it did.
Feder: So its like seeing everything
in the negative almost.
Jacobson: Yes. But some of it is correct.
Ill use a Midrash. The Midrash is one of the oral
interpretations in Torah thought. King David writes in the
conclusion of his book of Psalms, which is a beautiful book
of prayer, how he turns to G-d in his (King Davids)
need. His last verse is, "Every soul praises G-d."
And it repeats the word soul twice, "Every soul and
soul." The Midrash explains this verse in Psalms: "Whats
the emphasis and why does it use the word "soul"
Interestingly, the word "soul" in
Hebrew (neshamah) comes from the same root and has
the same pronounciation as the word "nishimah"
which means breath. And the Midrash says that "Every
breath I take (every breath and breath) I praise G-d."
So its not just that souls are praising G-d, its
the appreciation that every breath is a precious miracle
and has value.
In that sense, yes, if a day goes by and things
went relatively well (there are no disastersbut its
not just that there are no disasters, its just that
things went well) then G-d deserves praise, but not because
G-d is waiting for our praise but it should be for ourselves:
the appreciation that we have for the gift of life, and
as I said, the understanding that we have to do something
with it. Its not just enough that we acknowledge it,
we have to do something with that breath. What did you do
with all those breaths that were given to you.
Feder: So a miracle is not only a Divine
gift, theres also a responsibility attached to it?
Jacobson: Of course, definitely. As
a matter of fact, in Jewish law we acknowledge a miracle
by making a special blessing. And a special blessing doesnt
just mean that we pay lip service to it, it means an awareness
that lifts you up to another place. Actually the word for
miracle in Hebrew, nes, always means a flag, as in
the verse, "A raised flag on the mountains." Its
a process thats meant to lift your spirit and lift
you to a greater place with the intention that even if its
a spectacular or a sensational event, you become transformed.
Feder: Okay, lets take a break
here to identify who we are and then well move on.
You are listening to Rabbi Simon Jacobson, and this is Toward
a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson. My name is Mike
Feder and were here every Sunday night on WEVD, 1050AM
in New York City from 6-7pm, talking about issues that we
hope are inspiring to you. Were talking about miracles
and what they are; what they are in everyday life, and well
have some more questions, too.
Once again, you can give us a call, and ask
us a question or give us your opinion at 212-244-1050.
We really want to thank everyone who has emailed
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Id like to also tell you that we have
a new website where you can download transcripts of this
program, and previous and future programs. Its www.meaningfullife.com.
And dont forget, most of what were talking about
here, the foundation of all of it, is the book Toward
a Meaningful Life by Simon Jacobson, which is available
in stores now.
Now, just following up on something you said
before: a miracle, is that something thats alwaysas
people usually believesomething good or benevolent
or uplifting? And you just said that the uplifting aspect
is an integral part of it. Yet before you mentioned that
the plagues in Egypt were miracles: I suppose thats
because they were good for one particular group of peoplebut
they werent so good for a lot of other people. I mean,
miracles are not always good, are they?
Jacobson: No. The definition of a miracle
is essentially an intervention. It can be a positive one
or it can be a negative one.
Feder: Oh, so its not always
a benevolent thing.
Jacobson: No, not necessarily. Theres
always a message in it; theres always something that
we can learn from. But we find in history there have been
negative types of miracles.
I do want to add something to what we were
discussing earlier. In a way, today, the fact that we have
science allows us to have a deeper appreciation of G-d and
miracles of nature. In the 19th century w a great
battle raged between science and religion where the new
science claimed that we now have a natural explanation for
all these primitive beliefs that once were understood as
being some type of G-ds intervention or even the solar
you read how this was seen as a terrifying
experience and different civilizations and cultures had
prayers and they did all kinds of things in order to deal
with that bad omen, or good omen, or whatever it was. The
same with other natural disastersearthquakes and volcanoesand
science, so to speak, came and said no, these are natural
events that can be predicted, we can understand them, we
know its part of the solar system, the same is true
with earthquakes and volcanoes. But today we have a much
more sophisticated appreciation of nature and science where
I would submit that we dont have to see G-d and science
as diametrically opposed. Just because we have a scientific
and natural explanation for events doesnt mean that
there isnt a miracle involved.
A miracle doesnt mean that you cant
predict it. A miracle can mean that the way G-d set up the
system is that there are, from time to time, events that
wake us up. A wake-up call doesnt have to mean that
its a shocking experience that nobody predicted.
So a solar eclipse can have a message to it.
It can wake us up to the appreciation and understanding
of the solar system, the solar movement, the lunar movement,
and in Jewish mysticism theres much discussion about
solar and lunar energy. Its no different from recognizing
special providence, or Divine providence in our daily activities.
So there are events that have that power.
You know, I was thinking just today, you walk
in the streets here in New York City, or for that matter
anywhere, and just the sheer volume of cellular phones,
radio, television stations, beepers, pagers
who would ever imagine that in this space, the street here,
there are millions of waves and, of course, once in a while
we have interference, but its miraculous. And who
would think that space would allow for so much communication
going on? And Im not talking about wired phones, Im
talking about wireless communications.
Feder: Just the very fact that the
atoms and molecules allow for all these things
Jacobson: And on the subatomic level
you have so much flowing and dynamic energy, and the fact
that so many people are communicating with each other. We
have learnt to manipulate nature itself, all the way to
the sub-atomic level.
If someone had suggested today's technological
innovations a hundred years ago, they would have thought,
thats a miracle. Its ludicrous.
Feder: Or telephones, or the subway,
or any of those things.
Jacobson: Exactly. You read the predictions
at the end of the last century, the end of the 1800s
someone resigned from his position at the patent office
of the United States because he said, "Everything that
could be discovered, has been discovered."
All major inventions! (This was in 1897 before
Einstein, before the computer, before the automobile, before
the airplane) I mean if you think back, its almost
the other way around. All the greatest inventions happened
after that, not to take away from those that preceded. But
Im not counting. No one would make such a prediction
now because it would be ridiculous. We have no idea what
nature still holds.
And you just look at how much we understand
about our own human bodies. The best doctors will tell you
that even though they know more than they ever did about
medicine and the human bodyIm not even getting
into the human brainthey still are only touching the
tip of the iceberg.
Feder: So people generally, even scientists
perhaps, are more accepting than they used to be of the
fact that miracles could occur at any time in any way, right?
Jacobson: And they may not even call
them miracles in the same sense. Theyll say, nature
is a miracle, or nature contains the potential for all kinds
of miracles. Again, does this prove G-ds existence?
I think proof of G-ds existence is dependent on other
factors. Nothing proves G-ds existence if you dont
want it to.
Im not discussing this in the context
of proof, Im discussing it in the sense that once
you believe in a higher reality, nature and the mysteries
of life demonstrate that theres something more, call
it as you wish.
Feder: You know, these battles (the
end of the 1800s in the 19th century) never
stop. I mean, I think the biggest battle that was left over
in the 20th century, the most famous one, is
the Scopes Monkey Trial
Jacobson: Which ended up being a hoax,
Feder: No, no. This was a real trial
that took place in Tennessee, where Clarence Darrow pitted
himself against William Jennings Bryant. Bryant believed
in the literal word of the Bible, in other words, that there
was no such thing as scientific evolution. Bryants
stand was that the world was created in seven days, all
that kind of thing. There was this tremendous battle, which
really came out sort of equal in the end finally. Did you
ever see the movie "Inherit the Wind?" Its
a wonderful explanation of this. But now we go back, and
three or four days ago a Kansas school board, influenced
by fundamentalists out there, decided that on the reading
list there will no longer be any books about evolution or
Darwins evolutionary theory. They will not be put
on the reading list, which is as much to say as they are
not going to be taught.
So in other words, in a lot of places in the
world whats called fundamentalism is recapturing this
sort of anti-scientific attitude, saying that only these
"big miracles" that the entire world was created
in seven days, are to be taught to our children. So are
you suggesting that both things can exist side by side,
that both things can be taught? Is that the idea?
Jacobson: Well Im not going to
comment per se about evolution which is a theory, and acknowledged
by scientists as such, but generally speaking, scientific
truths cannot contradict Divine truths. Because one G-d
created the entire universe. Both the natural and the supernatural.
So no way can a supernatural event contradict the laws of
nature that G-d Himself put into place.
I see nature as being Divine for that reason.
When a scientist searches for truth for the laws of nature.
When Einstein discovered his theories. When any scientist
or physicist today discovers different elements of nature
and learns to manipulate them, they essentially have uncovered
new dimensions of G-ds mind, from my perspective.
Now G-ds mind manifests itself in several
ways. One way is in the mysterious and awesome laws of nature,
and another way is perhaps from time to time in an
event that may suspend nature, for instance, no scientist
would have a problem if he or she witnessed a miracle that
could not be explained.
I know many scientists who would say, "Thats
true. But that does not mean that the laws of nature that
G-d put in place are not accurate?" The answer is: Once
in a while G-d Himself may choose to intervene; it does
not in any way weaken the consistency and reliance on nature.
Because the Torah itself encourages and commands the use
of natural means. Interestingly, from a purely observant
perspective, one who observes Torah law and who believes
in G-d and believes in the parting of the Sea, and believes
that all these events happened, the same Torah says that
when youre ill, go to a doctor. The same Torah respects
science and the laws of nature and the fact that we have
to do whats necessary in nature. Its not like
we should live our lives thinking "Okay, maybe today
there will be a miracle." Theres a certain system
that G-d put in place and respect for that system is equally
important as respect for a miracle.
Feder: So now we have a deeper, or
maybe a better word is a clearer understanding of what a
miracle really might be, but, you know, a lot of people
look at the Scriptures and the Holy Books and it says, "G-d
created the world and everything in it in seven days"
Jacobson: Six actually. On the seventh,
Feder: Okay, so in six days He created
absolutely everything that ever was and that you could ever
see. Now, I wouldnt want to put you on the spot here
or anything like that, but a lot of people say, "That
was a great miracle." It confuses you sometimes.
Jacobson: Ill tell you the truth,
I dont see that as a great miracle at all in a way.
Because if you believe in G-d, He could have done it in
one minute. Creation is creation. Only a Creator can create
existence. If he cant do it in six days, he wont
be able to do it in 6 thousand days. If you dont believe
in G-d, then what do you need, 6,000 days? I mean,
what difference does it make?
Feder: Well maybe Im wandering
far afield here but its an interesting conversation,
why is it in the Bible that it took six days? Where did
that come from? Why didnt it say, "And then in
the course of billions of years, G-d in His wisdom
Jacobson: Well, remember, the Torah
(the Bible) accepts itself as truth. Youre asking
a question, if thats the truth, it tells you the way
it was.Youre speaking from a skeptical point of view
Feder: I guess so
Jacobson: Well, if youre a skeptic,
then dont cite the Bible. The Bible is predicated
on beliefthe belief that G-d created
verse in the Bible is "G-d created heaven and earth"
and now we will tell you, with documentation, how it happened.
So if it would have happened in thirty days, thats
how it would have been related.
Feder: So we either believe it or dont
believe it, right?
Jacobson: Its not an ultimatum,
because a person can say, "I believe in growth, pace
by pace. Study the Bible, embrace what you can, and grow
with that." Frankly, even from a skeptical point of
view, I dont see what the problem is with six days.
As I said, what I think the bigger problem is, are you responsible
Now on a mystical level, six has a very deep
significance: why it was six and not ten and not thirty.
But its not because it had to be six. G-d could have
chosen to create the universe in a billion years or whatever
it may take, but I feel thats going off somewhat on
a tangent. By the way, I dont feel on the spot at
all, but I do feel that topics like this require some introduction
or else it sounds radical. I mean, I dont mind if
you try to corner me and say, "Okay, is there some
" I dont believe that the Jews
belief and faith in the Torah in any way is radical to the
point where someone listening to that will say, "I
cant accept that."
I think when people say I cant accept
that theyre really responding to the way it was presented
to them, where perhaps religion is based on miracles, and
Ive made that very clear that thats not the
basis of it.
I think the relationship with G-d is much
more mature and more profound than just a miracle, as I
mentioned with the story with Mrs. Waxman. And I think that
the real question, the real issue that should be addressed,
is what kind of relationship do you have, and can you have
a relationship? And miracles extend from that. The fact
is that there are people who have that deep faith in G-d
and an awareness of a higher reality, it helps them in their
personal lives, it makes sense of life, it helps you understand
nature not just as this merciless flow of habit. Everything
has its deeper meaning and purpose, and a miracle for a
person like that, whos divinely aware, would be when
you walk in the street, you recognize the miracles that
are happening. There are messages: the people you meet,
the places you travel to.
Feder: So this almost anticipates another
question I had. What state of mind should a person, or would
a person be in to be prepared to understand this deeper
understanding? Is it necessary to have humility, in other
words, or can you hurry a miracle? How can you walk around
in the world and hold yourself to see these things?
Jacobson: Good question. You know,
physical reality, as we experience it, is like the tip of
the iceberg. Its the surface level. From a mystical
perspective, a Torah perspective, there are forces at work
beneath the surface, beneath the tip of the iceberg. Just
like in human nature, there are subconscious forces that
inform and affect our conscious expressions.
So a person cries and tears come out of their
eyes; it means that some deeper feelings have welled up
inside of them. An outburst or eruption of anger may be
a result of repressed resentment or repressed forces at
work from childhood on.
To take that a step further, look at an eruption
of a volcano and rain falling on the street as similar to
teardrops and anger eruption; not in the literal sense but
in a metaphorical sense that theres more going on
than meets the eye. And essentially, when you understand
that our material, physical reality is somewhat like the
tip of the iceberg or like the glove, where the hand inside
the glove is a spiritual reality that creates a channel,
a bridge, between the two worlds, and when you create that
bridge you essentially have the power to perform a miracle.
Feder: A person can perform a miracle?
Jacobson: Yes. Each of us. Or, lets
put it this way. We can open ourselves up to the channel
of energy that allows that physical reality to be changed.
Feder: In other words, we dont
usually create or perform a miracle, we sort of allow ourselves
to be a vessel for it, or a channel for it.
Jacobson: You can put it that way.
So as I said, true faith in G-d, a true belief in a spiritual
reality that transcends our physical one is only a step
away from accepting that the spiritual reality can affect
our physical one. And when we can accept that, the physical
There is a story that happened with me personallybut
there are many similar storiesthat doctors gave up
hope on a certain woman I knew. But her faith, her optimism,
the strength of her family just allowed her to fight through
it. And she came through it and the doctors said that it
was a miracle. Let's use that word.
What does the miracle mean? Not like the parting
of the sea, but basically by the laws of nature as they
understood them, and medical interventions, it should not
have happened. The odds were against it. The cancer was
too far gone, or whatever it may be.
My response to that is that the spiritual
channel opened up and sent energy into the physical reality
and it just changed the course. Of course you can explain
it away as a skeptic that of course its never 100%
and theres always a chance, etc. Thats true.
But it happens to be that this was a person of faith and
But as I said, every miracle can be dismissed
if youre a skeptic. But if youre not, if you
look at it, so dont call it a miracle, call it "her
faith, her optimism." Something affected her immune
system that gave her that power. I see that as a spiritual
reality affecting the physical reality.
Feder: So she became a sort of reception
station for the broadcast of a miracle.
Jacobson: Exactly. Had she resigned
herself and accepted the fate that the doctors had decreed
upon her and given up, she may have closed herself up from
getting energy from another place.
A simple example would be, you can have a
limb that has been atrophied or has been paralyzed, and
you begin to exercise it. Blood starts flowing and energy
starts flowing into it and youve seen people who have
really suffered handicaps that have gotten beyond it because
they had the faith.
Im just using it as an example. It means
that there are resources of energy in the human system,
both physical and spiritual systems, and if we tap those
reservoirs, new channels of energy can be accessed.
However, I must qualify this by saying that
after all is said and done, we do not know G-d's mysterious
ways and His plan for each of us.
Feder: Well you know there are people
in the world, probably in every religion, I guess, called
faith healers. Everybody knows about these people, you can
see them on TV. A famous one is named Benny Hin and they
get on TV and people come up in the hundreds or thousands
and they have everything wrong with them and he just touches
them and theyre healed.
Jacobson: I, being a natural skeptic
of my own
Feder: Wait a minute. Im supposed
to be the skeptic here. Whats my role then? Do I have
anything left to do here?
Jacobson: Youre the believer,
the seeker. I think each of us has both personalities, Mr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Ive seen you in the most noble
ways saying statements of faith that I would challenge.
I dont do that because I dont want to play your
role, but I think intelligent healthy people have times
of both. I think you once asked me on the radio if Ive
ever had a crisis of faith. And I remember smiling to myself
at the time thinking, "What, he thinks a guy with a
yarmulke is a completely pious person who never has temptations,
challenges, evil inclinations, nothing?" And I responded,
"Every moment of my life I have a crisis of faith."
Why? Because how could you not have a crisis of faith when
you believe in G-d and you see innocent people suffering.
Its a constant challenge. I always talk
to my skeptical friends, people who claim that theyre
atheists (I dont believe that theres such a
thing called an atheistbut well discuss that
on another show) but I once challenged one of them, "Tell
me, you think its more difficult to be a person of
faith or an atheist?" So of course they said, "An
atheist. When you have faith its a crutch, its
easy, you just explain everything away with G-d."
I completely disagree. A person of faith has
to constantly reconcile a good G-d with all the harsh realities
of life. An atheist can say, "Eh. Why expect justice?
Why expect good? Why expect innocent people not to suffer
if theres no G-d anyway?"
So I dont know which is the cop-out.
The point I want to make right now is that being a skeptic
somewhat, when I hear a story like the faith healer, the
first question I ask is, is this real, is it peoples
perception? Not that I conceptually believe that its
impossible, I believe its clearly possible, but there
are enough con artists to challenge it.
But if it could be proved, I dont even
want empirical proof, if theres enough to testify
to itso Im not surprised that theres a
possibility for people who have an ability to open up a
spiritual channel to a physical one, but I would first rule
out all other options, that it isnt sleight of hand,
it isnt some type of giving people what they want
to believe, you know, that type of thing, a set-up, but
conceptually, I have no doubt that its a possibility,
and as Ive stated, I often hear and see stories, whether
its medical miracles or others, that are clearly miracles.
I believe that if you ask most Americans, except a certain
part of the media, most Americans believe in miracles, and
more importantly, believe that miracles happen to them.
Is that folly? Is it their naivete?
Feder: And you mean these everyday
miracles too, right?
Jacobson: I dont know if its
everyday, but once in a while. I would love even to have
some caller share with us something of that nature. But
they have to be ready for you, and even me, to challenge
Feder: Oh, you mean for someone to
report that a miracle actually happened to them?
Jacobson: A miracle or for that matter
any conscious experience of Divine Providence. Im
sure there are listeners who can share experiences of that
Feder: Well we do have a few minutes
left before the end of the show, but if anybody out there
has had such an experience and wants to share it with us,
our number is 212-244 1050, although I know most people
like to keep those things to themselves, but if anybody
wants to tell us about them
I guess Ive had a few miracles in my
life that I could report, too.
Jacobson: But as I said, its
not so much what we call it, whether we call it by the name
miracle, it really comes down to what you do with it and
how it reflects on your general relationship with other
people, with G-d, and so on. If there was a miracle healer
that was actually proven to be so, I would like to see that
the people whom he touched and affected actually went away
being better human beings.
I think a miracle, perhaps the greatest miracle
of all, is when a human being goes against the grain of
his or her own selfish nature and helps other people. Thats
Feder: Well we do have a few calls.
Well see if they have reports or maybe some skepticism.
Who knows what. Stanley, go ahead, youre on the air.
Caller: Im actually agnostic
and I really dont believe in miracles. I have a Masters
Degree in Divinity but that was a long time ago. Unfortunately
I lost my faith in G-d. My sister is an anesthesiologist,
an MD, and she is an atheist, and she deals with human life
every day. She could kill people with one slip of a switch.
Feder: Well, what caused your loss
Caller: I just observed human life
and realized that a lot of people
I do see the suffering,
like in Turkey, for example. I should be there. Im
a registered nurse. I would willingly go and try to help
them. I mean 50,000 people dying. Thats a serious
Feder: So basically youre just
feeling kind of lost, right?
Caller: Well Im going to see
a shrink tomorrow, but there was a miracle today, I think.
They pulled a 55-year-old woman out of a building in Turkey
Feder: So you do see that as a miracle,
so there are miracles
Okay. Thank you for calling,
okay Josh, youre on the air.
Caller: Id like to comment on
the Scopes Trial that Rabbi Jacobson said he thought was
a hoax. He probably was thinking of the case of Piltdown
man where they found some fossils in 1908 and they
put it on their chart of the natural development of man.
But in 1950, after a lot of tests, they discovered that
it was a hoax, and then the person who perpetrated it actually
admitted to it.
Feder: So Josh, did you ever encounter
a miracle in your life?
Caller: Well, yes, I see Divine intervention
all the time.
Feder: Thank you for that. John, youre
on the air.
Caller: I just want to say that I personally
do believe, and Ive had miracles in my life. A recent
one is that the doctors had diagnosed my granddaughter with
MS and we prayed and prayed, my wife and I, and the whole
family prayed. We took her back to the doctors and they
took all the X-rays and MRIs and they asked what we
had done with her in the last couple of weeks and we said
that we just prayed, and they said that whatever we did,
it worked. They couldnt believe it. They took MRIs
and CAT scans 3 times and said she was fine and there are
So I do believe.
Feder: Well that is uplifting to hear.
Caller: Ive always believed.
Ive never lost my faith. Im a Christian, but
Ive never lost my faith. You know, you see bad things,
and there will be an answer for those bad things. But you
also see a lot of really good things that you could say
only G-d could have done this. Only G-d could have stepped
in and done this.
Feder: Well, Im happy for you
to hear that.
Caller: Yes, we were thrilled. My children,
they teeter. Theyre still young as I like to say.
And they saw us praying and joined in and I said really,
you have to believe. And if you dont have a cure or
if there isnt something there, theres still
going to be an answer and you have to depend on faith.
Feder: Well, were going to have
to unfortunately cut this a little bit short cause were
at the end of the program.
Jacobson: I appreciate that. Thats
very uplifting to hear. And I wish John and all others miracles
of that nature.
Feder: Well, in the miracle of radio,
bringing you all this information, it still must come to
an end. Miracles come and go and they reappear. So let me
just say that you can call us at 1-800-363-2646. You can
email us at firstname.lastname@example.org,
and go to our website at www.meaningfullife.com
to download transcripts of this radio program.
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We have a few minutes left. Any last words
to say on miracles.
Jacobson: There are no last words.
The last call from John tells it all in some ways. Its
how you look at things and how you see things. Some of us
do fall back to an agnostic or atheistic position, which
I think is more of a comfort zone or even fear, but I believe
that the greatest gift of all is to be able to see the miracles
in your daily life, that when you wake up in the morning
and you look at your children and your family and you look
at your own health, acknowledging that, when you go to work
or when you travel, you meet new people, there are miracles
happening, there are messages, there are answers to your
questions, there are solutions to dilemmas, and by opening
yourself up to that deeper spiritual reality allows that
channel to come through.
So a miracle may pass you and you may have
your eyes closed. Or you may not have allowed yourself to
experience it. So if anything I would say to our listeners:
keep your eyes open, your ears open, and your spirit open.
You do not know whom you may meet, and what kind of message
youll get if you listen.
The worst scenario, even for a skeptic, is
that you may learn something new, experience something new,
and if you want to write it off as something that just happened,
fine. So be it. Sometimes we dont acknowledge it as
a miracle, so we see it as a natural event.
Feder: Okay, thank you again. Well
be back next week talking about the entertainment industry.
Entertainment in America: Are we amusing ourselves to death?
Thanks again for your wisdom and your enlightenment.
Jacobson: Thank you Mike and its
always a pleasure.