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What is a Miracle?

What is a Miracle?

Photo: Dora Pete
Photo: Dora Pete

The common Hebrew word for miracle is nes (נס), which translates as something that is raised up or elevated. For example, a flagpole upon which a banner is raised is also called a nes. So a miracle is an elevated and elevating event. It is something extraordinary that happens, where we see G‑d's hand clearly.1

Ordinarily, when we look around us, we are not privileged to see G‑d working openly. However, it is tough to argue with a miracle—a supernatural event that indicates strongly that G‑d is at work. When we witness a miracle, we are elevated. We have been given new insight into the meaning of the ordinary events in our life, and we realize that they too are really G‑d's work.2

Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi (1660-1718) explains that what we refer to as nature is actually miraculous and “unnatural.” It is only because “natural” events happen all the time that we take them for granted.3

Consider, for example, when the Jews were in the desert for forty years after the exodus from Egypt, and the manna rained down from the sky each morning. Imagine a child who was born in the desert and saw his food rain down from the sky daily. He would not be surprised at all and would think it perfectly normal!

Indeed, with the advances of modern science we are even more aware of how utterly amazing the most “ordinary” processes are—such as the development of a seed into a tree or an embryo into a complete human being.

In the words of the Talmud, “The one to whom the miracle is happening, does not recognize the miracle.”4

Extraordinary miracles wake us up to the fact that all of life, down to the minute details, is one big miracle.

How do miracles work?

Maimonides, in his Guide for the Perplexed, writes that all supernatural events were “programmed” into the world at the time of creation. Thus, the Talmud says that G‑d “made a condition with creation”5 that when the Jews would arrive at the Red Sea on their way from Exodus from Egypt, it would split.6 Others see open miracles as G‑d “stepping in” and shattering the law of nature to change and defy it.7

The truth is that we don't even realize the extent to which G‑d is doing miracles for us. It says that the greatest miracles are those which He alone knows about, where “the recipient of the miracle is not aware of his own miracle.”8

In our daily prayers we thank G‑d “for Your miracles that are done for us daily.”

May we merit to notice all the miracles in our everyday lives.

See Do Jews Believe in Miracles? from our selection on the Jewish Take on Miracles.

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein
Ask the Rabbi @ The Judaism


Explained at length in Chabad philosophy. See the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory’s discourse from December 14, 1954 (Melukat 5, p. 115). See letter from the Rebbe, January 10, 1932 (Reshimot booklet 138).


Lubavitch Rebbe’s discourse from July 17, 1978 (Melukat 3, p. 212).


In his volume of Shaalot uTeshuvot Chacham Tzvi, ch. 18.


Talmud, Nidah 31a.


Talmud, Avodah Zarah 54b.


Guide for the Perplexed (in Hebrew, Moreh Nevuchim), vol. 2, ch. 29.


See the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s discourse from July 17, 1978 (ibid, p. 213).

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein is a member of the Ask the Rabbi team and is co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Davis with his wife Sorele.
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Diane Moriarity New Port Richey , lorida via February 1, 2017

What is a miracle? The comment and following ,writings were profoundly touching,


Elizabeth Oklahoma May 5, 2015

My Miracle As a child, I wondered at all the glorious miracles around me. As a young girl, I marveled at the life teaming in the seas and in the air. And then, I got busy ... too busy. Now as an old woman, I again sit in the yard and observe God's glorious miracles all around. Be certain to take time to worship Him in the garden of your life. Listen, there, for His voice. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma May 2, 2013

A Course in Miracles When I hold a tiny seed in my hand, observe the little parachutes that hold dandelion seeds, and look carefully at what is so miniscule, which is packaged to grow into flowers and food, it's hard not to feel awe. I agree that people become complacent with what is everyday, and don't always stop to realize, it's a miracle. It feels to me that science augments the miracle, because whatever we learn, it's more... always more, that begets wonder. So I have trouble with people who say science is not a religious experience. It feels to me, that everything is, Miracle. We forget that our homes are furnished by what is found outside, that everything in this world, inside and outside, is the expression of a Creative Genius whose immensity makes us gasp. We cannot get our heads around this ever, fully. It's spring, and everything is sprouting, all is green and blossoming where I live, in New England. Maybe most of us simply don't pause to feel the miracle, but surely it's everywhere. Reply

Sandra Dennis Greenbaum Walkersville, MD July 23, 2012

Re: miracles Well, i would like to comment on what is a miracle? Recently, i spent Feb. - April 2012 in a rehab, and went to physical and occupational therapy for two hours every day. The therapy room was an area where many patients of different degrees of trauma, injuries, and disabilities came together. the therapists worked very compassionately with each patient, no matter how severe the patients condition.

i saw patients who could not lift their heads, or arms, or legs. patients over 250 lbs. with pins and a metal brace to protect the leg from impact or further injury.

So, the point is these patients that i saw were moving freely, lifting their arms and legs, walking and even cooking, before i left the rehab,---to me that is a miracle, and miracles are happening every day, all around us.

Can you remember a time when you were a child and a performer, like a magician, made you feel "Wonder"! Keep in touch with your inner child and you will be filled with wonder every day. Reply

Bill Kelley Tifton, GA, USA September 10, 2011

G_d's miracles Is not Even His keeping us IN existance His miracle? Is it not a miracle that Everything He does He does out of His Love TO and FOR us? What He must have waiting for us in heaven when He can speak clearly and openly with us! Let me suggest that when We choose to Ponder and Love Him with abandon, He sees in us a little child running to Him and shouting with joy, Catch me Daddy. All of our futures are IN His hands but are we willing to trust Him> Reply

Tariq Iqbal Lucknow, India September 9, 2011

Well said Respected Rabbi after reading your article I realize that G-D perfoms miracles all the time but we do'nt have the vision to see it, it is only people like you who have achieved such heights who can view it and make us understand. It is impossible to imagine these sacred thoughts without your guidance. May G-D of Abraham and Moses bless you Reply

Bonnie September 8, 2011

G-d does not shatter any of His Laws in order to do as He chooses.
He simply uses laws we know nothing about. Reply

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