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