A Miracle in our Times
Here’s a miraculous story as I heard it first hand from the person with whom it occurred.
Let me begin by introducing my friend the same way I introduced her to my Wednesday night class over twenty-five years ago:
“I am honored to introduce to you Marcia, a very special soul who has had to face many serious challenges in her life. Her words will speak for themselves; the only thing I want to add is that Marcia sees more than most people do.”
So here’s the story:
I first met Marcia on a warm June evening in 1997 when she came to visit me, escorted by a friend. Marcia shared with me her life story. Briefly: As a child she became very disillusioned with her education and her Judaism and began her search through many religions, finally turning at age 17 to… Christianity. After 10 years she became a teacher, then a lecturer and finally 30 years later reached the pulpit. She spent 40 years in the church, before her Judaism came back at her, beginning with her cousin wishing her “Good Shabbos.”
One thing led to the next. Marcia began reading and exploring. “A few months ago,” Marcia tells me, “my cousin gave me a series.. of tapes that changed my life. That is why,” Marcia continues, “I am sitting here with you today.”
As she spoke these words, I suddenly realized that this story actually began a year earlier. After one of my weekly Wednesday night classes in New York City an elderly woman approached me and asked me for permission to record my book Toward a Meaningful Life on audiotape. She wanted to give the tapes to her cousin in Boston who happens to be blind. She assured me that the tapes would not be reproduced or sold, but are simply being copied to allow her cousin to benefit from the teachings in the book. Needless to say, I heartily agreed.
Her cousin was Marcia – the Jewish woman sitting before me today, telling me how these tapes turned over her life… for the better.
At the time she was based in Boston, preaching church doctrine. “These Toward a Meaningful Life audiotapes,” Marcia tells me, “amateurly recorded, with all the rasps and coughs, made me rethink all that I was doing, and essentially brought me back to my Jewish roots.”
“I am here tonight,” Marcia says, “to thank you. I spent 40 years in a wilderness. Now I am ready to enter the Promised Land.”
I was profoundly touched by Marcia’s story. Obviously touched by her dramatic journey, and the power that brought her back to her Jewish roots. I was naturally moved by the fact that the book Toward A Meaningful Life – in a rough audio version – had such an impact on her. What a testimony to the eternal power of Torah!
But something even deeper stirred me. Though Marcia was blind, she carried herself with such dignity and grace. As she joked with me,
“I don’t have the liabilities that you seeing-eye people have. Darkness doesn’t frighten me. I don’t need a light to read. Superficial material sights don’t distract me. All I have is spirit; the only thing I see is the soul in myself and in others.”
During her adult years Marcia began losing her eyesight and was diagnosed with a genetic illness that left her totally blind in 1991. Yet, Marcia sees more than most of us. The material world does not distract her. Perhaps she can see G-d better than those of us who have to struggle with the sensory sights that conceal the truth within. For the first time I truly understand the meaning behind the fact that “all the people saw the sounds” at Sinai (Exodus 20:15), “they saw what is ordinarily heard, and they heard what is ordinarily seen” (Rabbi Akiva – Mechilta on the verse). Sight perceives the physical. Sound comprehends the ethereal. At Sinai, there was a crossover: “they saw what is heard,” what is ordinarily abstract and spiritual, and “they heard what they saw,” they perceived the inner spiritual reality within the physical. At Sinai the people were not blind or mute. Yet, for a moment they were allowed a glimpse into a deeper reality. Today apparently, only when undistracted by the physical, Marcia could see what others can only hear and theorize about. And she hears the inner dimension of the sights.
As Marcia continued on her journey, she moved to Crown Heights, changed her name to Lieba and began lecturing and writing her inspiring story. [Read some of Marcia’s words.]
Marcia/Lieba’s story would be an eye-opening inspiration even were it to end at this point.
But I have the privilege to share with you a miraculous sequel.
Lieba regained her eyesight!
Here’s what happened, as I heard it directly from Lieba.
Some sensitive caring young girls in the Crown Heights community would visit Lieba frequently. They read to her, helped her with various chores and assisted her in any way she needs. One day Lieba heard one of the girls praying quietly. She asked her what are you praying for. The little girl replied: “I am praying that Hashem [G-d] return your eyesight to you.” A discussion ensued, and Lieba, motivated by the young girl’s sincerity decided to open up a book of letters by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The book (volume 1 of the English letters) opens up to page 115, where the Rebbe writes “in regard to the question of your eyesight, you should consult a good specialist who should give you the proper instruction as to what you have to do in this connection.”
Lieba decided to visit a local doctor who referred her to an eye specialist. Yet she voiced concerns to the girl that visited her that she has no money to pay for a doctor. What do you think happened next? A few days passed and the girl presented her with an envelope containing $154 that the girls collected for her!
She visited the specialist, who for a period of 4 hours subjected her to a battery of eye tests, and then finally told her that her eyesight can be restored through surgery. Apparently her condition was misdiagnosed as a genetic illness. She took out the envelope with $154 and told the doctor how she received the money. The stunned doctor said, “The girls will not put me to shame. I will do the surgery at no cost.”
And so, first Lieba’s left eyesight was restored, followed by her right eyesight being restored.
This is exactly what happened as it was told to me first hand!
So now, I ask the question: Do you believe in miracles?
* * *
Despite the deep sadness I always felt for Marcia/Lieba, the only redeeming factor was that she could teach us all about the true ‘sights’ we should be looking for in life. Lieba’s strength and dignity – never the victim – always inspires everyone she meets.
I always felt that it would remain this way. A profound loss, yet doing our best to face the challenge with dignity and determination.
Now a miracle had occurred. And it couldn’t have happened to a better person. Lieba’s journey from darkness to light was not just a spiritual one; it had now manifested itself in a very physical way. With Lieba’s return from physical darkness she taught us how to bridge both worlds: the world of sight and sound, the world of spirit and matter – to perhaps see what is usually heard and hear what is ordinarily seen. To truly see more than the eye can see.
Unfortunately, Lieba has since passed away but her legacy and lessons will live on forever.
* * *
Today – more than ever – we are in need of precisely such vision to see behind the scenes of the chaos our world is experiencing. We need to be able to see the forest from the trees and connect the dots to make sense of all the earth shattering events of our day.
“The world is undergoing fundamental changes. As a global revolution brews and a new age dawns, we need to ‘open our eyes’ and see its reality” – said a great leader, the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Open our eyes – what an interesting expression.
Frankly, I have often wondered what it would take to get most people to “open their eyes”. After all, history is fraught with but few seers while the mainstream remains blinded and clueless to the bigger picture.
This miracle that I share with you gives us all hope. Hope that anyone and everyone’s eyes can indeed be opened.