We’re now into our late winter pledge drive. Help us meet our goal, and we’ll end the drive early and stop annoying you. Up next, it’s the Leonard Lapine Show  . . .

Leonard: With Passover and Purim around the corner, we thought it would be appropriate to devote this week’s “Please Explain” segment to the question, “What Is a Miracle?” Joining me in our studio to help answer this question is The Plague of Hail, bane of the ancient Egyptians and senior fellow at the Charlton Heston Center for the Research and Development of New Miracles, as well as author of Hail to the Chief: How Moses and I Ruined Pharaoh’s Mercedes and Freed the Jews. Plague of Hail, welcome to our show.

Do miracles have to be big and bold to qualify as miracles?

Hail: Glad to be here.

Leonard: The miracles that occurred in Egypt were the classic, impressive displays that most people picture when they think of miracles. Personally, I consider it a miracle when I’m able to program my VCR. Do miracles have to be big and bold to qualify as miracles?

Hail: I think so, Leonard. The reason is that, by definition, a miracle breaks the laws of nature. We’re used to seeing the regular order of things, nature, so any phenomenon that defies nature’s legal code—like icy hail combined with fire, my specialty, or a sea that parts down the middle—is going to astound the average world citizen.

Leonard: How can you just break the laws of nature? Is that allowed?

Hail: Well, Leonard, G‑d makes the laws, so He can also break them.

Leonard: Isn’t that how Blagojevich got into trouble?

Hail: The Creator sets up the world so it appears to be running by itself, according to fixed rules. Sometimes, though, He lifts those rules to allow a guy like me to wreak havoc on a massive and unnatural scale, if I do say so myself.

Leonard: I want to get back to you in a moment, Hail. Now, though, we have with us on the line from Swarthmore, Pa., The Purim Story, also known as the Book of Esther. Purim Story is professor emeritus of Near Eastern miracles at Swarthmore College, and author of Let Them Eat Hamantashen: Queen Esther and the Miracle in Shushan. Purim Story, welcome.

Miracles and nature can get along just fine, in cooperation.

Purim: Thank you, Leonard.

Leonard: Hail says miracles must break the laws of nature. But you represent a different approach. What would that be?

Purim: Leonard, I don’t want to spoil anyone’s day, but miracles don’t have to nullify nature to be miracles. Miracles and nature can get along just fine, in cooperation.

Leonard: Does this have anything to do with NAFTA?

Purim: No. Take me, for instance, The Purim Story: Esther, a cute Jewish girl, wins a contest and becomes queen to Achashverosh, King of Persia, placing her strategically in the palace. Her cousin Mordechai becomes the king’s honored subject, an unexpected consequence of Achashverosh’s insomnia. Together, Esther and Mordechai foil evil minister Haman’s plot to annihilate the Jewish people. In this story, in these natural events, we see the Master’s perfectly timed direction guiding the drama to its miraculous conclusion.

Leonard: Really? To me it just sounds like a series of coincidences.

Purim: Leonard, when the movie is over, replay it in your mind and you’ll see that all these “coincidences” were arranged just so, for the Jewish people to be miraculously saved.

Leonard: So you’re saying that miracles can happen through nature. Nature doesn’t have to be shunted aside for a miracle to work. Hail, you’ve been pretty quiet throughout all this. Can a miracle and nature coexist?

Hail: A miracle in nature is an oxymoron, like “pleasant rap song.” If you can see nature, a miracle isn’t doing its job. Any scientist worth his Geiger counter—even a quantum physicist—would agree that a miracle is that which deposes nature. Period. Amen.

Leonard: Well, that sounds rather final. But we do have one other guest. Maybe he’ll be able to resolve this controversy. Calling us now from a lawn in Enid, Okla., is someone who knows a thing or two about nature, a Patch of Grass . . . Patch of Grass? . . . We seem to be having a problem with the connection . . .

My miracle is the miracle of existence. But that miracle is hidden deep inside me.

Grass: I’m here, Leonard. We’re getting some high winds . . . I think it might be a tornado . . . Ouch!

Leonard: Are you all right?

Grass: I lost a blade.

Leonard: I’m sorry to hear that.

Grass: Hey, it comes with the territory. Things seem to have calmed down—although I’m not sure if the Wilkersons still have a roof.

Leonard: I understand, it’s tornado season in the Midwest. Do you have an underground shelter to run to?

Grass: Leonard, it’s not really appropriate. If I go indoors, I have a tendency to soil things.

Leonard: Oh, I guess so. Excuse me . . . What I really wanted to say is that on this miracle vs. nature thing, you probably come down on the side of nature.

Grass: Not necessarily, Leonard. I myself am a miracle.

Leonard: Yeah, and I’m the shah of Iran.

Grass: My miracle is the miracle of existence. But that miracle is hidden deep inside me—so deep that all you see is me, a Patch of Grass, growing in your front yard.

Leonard: That’s not very transparent.

Grass: With the Plague of Hail you see only the miracle, because the cover of nature has been ripped open. In the case of the Purim Story, nature becomes a translucent container for the miracle, so both are visible. When you get to me, though, don’t expect to see nothin’ but chlorophyll.

Leonard: But what is this miracle we can’t see?

Grass: It’s all about how I got to be who I am. It’s all about my nature. Leonard, say you’ve graduated from VCR programming and you’re now in charge of creating the world. If you were G‑d, what materials would you use to do the job?

When the world was created, there weren’t any microchips. In fact, there was nothing—nothing existed yet.

Leonard: I don’t know . . . I guess most things nowadays start with a microchip.

Grass: Well, when the world was created, there weren’t any microchips. In fact, there was nothing—nothing existed yet. So to create anything, nature for instance, you’d have to start from scratch, real scratch. You would create nature from nothing.

Leonard: Wow, talk about having a black hole at the center of your being.

Grass: Now this nature you’ve created, being at its root essentially nothing, depends utterly on its Creator to continue existing. If the Creator didn’t continuously re-create me, I would revert to nothing. My existence—now that’s a miracle.

Leonard: But we don’t get to see this miracle. Which means, I’m afraid, that we can’t have it on our show.

Grass: Leonard, according to Kabbalah, in the times of Moshiach we will all see the miracle inside nature.

Leonard: I think I’m beginning to see it now. Either that, or somebody put something in my coffee. I want to thank all of my guests for sharing their thoughts with us today. I know I’ve learned a lot about miracles, even though I still can’t program my VCR. We’ll have to leave that for a future show. I’ll be right back following a short break for the pledge drive, unless the drive has ended, which itself would be a miracle.