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The Iron Dome, the Rocket Scientist and the Perception of Miracles

March 20, 2016

Dear Readers,

Miracles.

Do you wish you’d see more? Ever wonder why G‑d doesn’t perform for you the split-the-sea variety?

Ari Sacher doesn’t wonder. As a rocket scientist, he is not someone that you’d expect to talk about miracles, but he claims to see them often.

I met Ari when he lectured at a Shabbaton in Wilmington, Del., hosted by my amazing cousins and dedicated shluchim, Rabbi Chuni and Oryah Vogel.

Ari works as the system engineer for the Iron Dome, Israel’s sophisticated system designed to track and shoot down missiles fired at Israeli cities.

The Iron Dome was developed after the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, when 4,500 rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into Israel, killing 43 Israeli civilians and seriously injured 75, while also damaging some 12,000 buildings.

How different things were in Operation Defensive Edge. The Iron Dome intercepted about 90 percent of a whopping 800 rockets fired. Hamas sought to attack the heart of Israel, but it was thwarted.

In simple terms, that means that the Iron Dome saved lives–the lives of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters. Precious lives.

But what is the connection between a defense system and miracles?

As I wrote, Ari is a scientist. He works with other scientists, all with stellar IQs. He analyzes complicated scientific data determining odds and likelihoods, and knows these formulas like the back of his hand.

Ari is intimately aware of the history behind the Iron Dome: the scientific challenges, the huge costs and resources (each interceptor alone costs $100,000), the political disagreements, its successes and its limitations.

“In developing the Iron Dome, there were many different directions that could have been taken, each with their own restrictions. The fact that this system was chosen and that it performed so successfully, both operationally and politically, was not a given,” he explains. “No other anti-missile system has ever performed nearly as well, in combat or in test.

“The Iron Dome’s stellar performance was clearly the hand of G‑d,” he believes. “But because the system was designed, developed and operated by humans, people attribute its success to humans.”

In looking for grand miracles, we often fail to recognize all the events that needed to be aligned, all the particular points of the puzzle that had to come together, all of the “coincidences” that had to happen.

“G‑d was holding the steering wheel the entire time,” emphasizes Ari, the rocket scientist.


This week we celebrate the holiday of Purim. The Purim miracle happened naturally: Vashti’s refusal, Esther’s beauty, a plot overheard by Mordechai, the king’s sleepless night and so on. The events were deliberately orchestrated from Above, but the Conductor stood behind stage

In this way, Purim is the greatest of miracles. It is a miracle in which the natural order is not circumvented or superseded, but in which nature itself becomes the device of the miraculous and an instrument of the Divine will.

And our lives? Aren’t they too are a constant dialog with G‑d?

Perhaps we need to pay closer attention to the conversation.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.

The Mother Who Couldn’t Let Go

March 6, 2016

Dear Reader,

She was growing in her journey towards a Torah lifestyle. She had questions about faith. She was scared.

“So many young people are dying nowadays. So many good people. Why is this happening? Why is G‑d doing this?”

It is the question of all times. The question that none of us can ever answer.

As much as we speak about our faith in G‑d’s goodness and in the “bigger” picture, G‑d is unfathomable. Human beings never can—and never should—understand suffering and pain, because understanding it somehow legitimizes it and accepts it. And what can be crueler than that?

She wanted to tell me about her daughter.

The deeper our love is, the more intense is our want—no, our need—that everything should turn out good. The more we love, the higher the stakes become and the greater our fear of potential loss.

“I love her so much; she is my life,” she said. “I don’t know what I would do if something happened to her. How can I learn to let go? Not to stifle her, but to leave it up to G‑d.”

And then she told me her story.

She couldn’t have children for many years. She went to specialists. She paid for the most expensive treatments. Finally, she found the top doctor in his field.

It wasn’t easy to secure an appointment. Somehow, she managed. He saw her and was willing to take on her case. Unbelievably, he had a cancellation. He would schedule her for the next Monday afternoon.

She looked at her calendar and refused.

He was shocked; this never happened. People cleared their schedules of the most important appointments, the most lucrative deals, just to see him.

“You are willing to jeopardize your treatment?” he asked in disbelief.

“I can’t,” she answered. “Monday is Yom Kippur.” She didn’t need to explain. The doctor may not have been observant, but he was Jewish. One Jewish soul faced another.

“I see,” he deliberated for just a moment. “In that case, you aren’t just going to pray on Monday. You are going to pray like you’ve never prayed before, as if your life depended on it!” He then found her a different appointment.

Her pregnancy had its ups and downs. At one point the amniotic fluid almost disappeared. She was advised to abort. She refused. She told them never to ask her again. Months later they asked again. She still refused.

Her precious daughter, the child that she was now so devoted to, was born healthy.

As is so often the case, it was clear that her own story provided the direction she was seeking. She carried the keys to the questions that tormented her.

How could she let G‑d take over? She already had.

For this was the child who was born only because she let G‑d take over. Again and again.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
Often we need a break from our daily routine. A pause from life to help us appreciate life.

A little pat on the back to let us know when we're on track. A word of encouragement to help us through those bleak moments and difficult days.

Sometimes, we just yearn for some friendship and camaraderie, someone to share our heart with. And sometimes we need a little direction from someone who's been there.

So, take a short pause from the busyness of your day and join Chana Weisberg for a cup of coffee.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
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