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“I wish both sides good luck.”

Friday, 23 March, 2018 - 2:00 am

 At the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980’s, the late Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, said something that became one of his most famous utterances: “I wish both sides good luck.” I assume that he did not mean to express pleasure in view of any bloodshed, but rather was commenting that two of our enemies were fighting each other, like the battles between the Hizbullah and ISIS in the past few years, and that is a blessing for us. As long as our enemies are busy with each other, they have less time and ability to hurt us.

The coming Shabbat is called “Shabbat Hagadol”, after the miracle that occurred then, on the Shabbat before the Exodus from Egypt. What was the miracle? It says in Shulchan Aruch Harav that the firstborn of the Egyptians saw Bnei Yisrael preparing sheep for Korban Pesach, as they were commanded to do. When they asked them what they were going to be celebrating, the reply was that there would be the Plague of Firstborn, in which all the firstborn of the Egyptians would die, and after that Bnei Yisrael would be released from their slavery. The Egyptian firstborn, who already believed the miracles of Moshe and Aharon, understood that someone is having an ego struggle on their backs, and they started a war with the rest of the Egyptians, demanding that Bnei Yisrael be released before the Plague would take place. This was the miracle, and about this we say in our prayers and in the Haggadah as well, “To Him Who smote Egypt through their firstborn, for His kindness endures forever.” This is a great miracle because, as mentioned, as long as our enemies are busy with internal wars, we can be relatively calm, or, in the words of Menachem Begin z”l: “I wish both sides good luck.”

The nation of Israel will note this miracle on the coming Shabbat, and on next Friday, almost all the descendants of those who left Egypt, everywhere on the globe, will read “To Him Who smote Egypt through their firstborn, for His kindness endures forever” from the Haggadah. You might ask, why are we praising the Creator for an internal war between different groups who belong to the world’s evil axis? It isn’t, after all, a splitting of the sea, or a Plague of Blood. What is the great miracle here?

The answer to that is very important, in my humble opinion: By marking a miracle that seems to be a natural process we are making a statement: we recognize the fact that even within nature there are miracles and sometimes these miracles are no smaller than those spectacular ones. In Chassidic teachings it is called an “intra-natural miracle.”

I remember the moment when I understood the meaning of intra-natural miracles, as opposed to supernatural miracles, when our son Moshe was born 15 years ago prematurely. He needed another 12 days in the incubator. On the third day of his life his breathing was distressed, and his life was in danger. We gave thanks at the time, and still thank Hashem for the miracle of his getting through that crisis.

Two years later, as we were awaiting the next birth, we prayed: Ribbono shel Olam (Master of the World), please – no miracles this time…

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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