A great miracle happened there. Last week, two teams of scientists successfully reprogrammed human skin cells to function as if they were embryonic stem cells. Many in the scientific community believe that this breakthrough will eventually enable stem cell research to bypass the need for the creation and destruction of embryos, and thus to sidestep the ethical and political dilemmas which have been plaguing the field for the past decade. The implications of this ground-breaking discovery impacts on medical research of all kinds, and sparks renewed hope to dramatically accelerate the race to cure diseases ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's.

Of course, the discovery has not been dubbed a miracle by the scientific community, but it is miraculous nonetheless. It is miraculous not in the sea-splitting sort of open miracle which overturns the laws of nature. It is a quiet miracle, a miracle working within the parameters of human capacity and nature, easily overlooked, but nonetheless miraculous --- and perhaps even more so. It is a miracle which comes to light in the Jewish month of Kislev, the month of Chanukah, a month of miracles and illumination, a time, as alluded to in the Torah readings of this month, when G‑d puts an end to darkness.

The debate over stem cell research raised serious and fundamental ethical, moral and theological dilemmas. Many saw this as an issue over which science was pitted against religion, and proponents from both sides rallied to battle for the soul of medical research in the courtroom and at governmental appropriation committee debates. It was a battle which cut across the social conscience and tore at the very heart of mankind's longing to heal.

But it appears that a solution is on the horizon that would reconcile these two forces. Driven by sheer pragmatism to restrict investigations to ethical parameters acceptable to all, scientific researchers ultimately pursued a scientific answer to science's problem. The solution was mind-boggling in its simplicity: All they had to do was to add four genes. Those four genes reprogrammed the chromosomes of the skin cells, making the cells into blank slates that should be able to be turned into any of the cell types of the human body, be it heart, brain, blood or bone.

Dr. Yamanaka, one of the researchers credited with the discovery, had expected it would take a few years to find the right genes and the right conditions to make the experiments work. Miraculously, it only took a few months.

But the solution did not come to light until fundamental theological questions --- When does life begin? Who has a right to define it? Does G‑d aka "intelligent design" exist? Did Creation happen? --- had been discussed in every lounge room, in every classroom, in every medical board room, on every university campus, in every state and national legislature, at the very highest levels of government, recorded in every scientific journal and broadcast in every newspaper, across the entire globe.

Then and only then, when humanity seemed on the brink of venturing down a slippery slope of ethical self-destruction, one miraculous discovery, seemingly in the bat of an eye, has pointed a way to proceed with stem cell research without compromising the ultimate sanctity of life.

Perhaps the greatest miracle of all is when we turn obstacles into opportunities --- when we reconcile what we thought was irreconcilable, when we illuminate darkness with light.

Eight tiny candles remind us that we can make miracles happen.

Happy Chanukah.