Tag Archives: tim tebow

Pointing Light to Miracles

Without miracles, we might come to believe that the laws of physics define reality. Once we witness the inexplicable, we see that there is a higher reality. And then we look back at physics and say, “This too is a miracle.” The miracle of a small flask of oil burning for eight days was this sort of miracle.

Then there are those small miracles that occur every day. Those acts of synchronicity we call ‘coincidence’ because, in them, G-d prefers to remain anonymous. But when we open our eyes and hearts, we see there is truly no place void of this wondrous, unlimited G-d. These were the sort of miracles the Maccabees saw in their battles against the mighty Greek army.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Chanukah Miracles”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

God is not a scientific problem, and scientific methods are not capable of solving it. The reason why scientific methods are often thought to be capable of solving it is the success of their application in positive sciences. The fallacy involved in this analogy is that of treating God as if He were a phenomenon within the order of nature. The truth, however, is that the problem of God is not only related to phenomena within nature but to nature itself; not only to concepts within thinking but to thinking itself. It is a problem that refers to what surpasses nature, so what lies beyond all things and all concepts. (page 102)

The object of science is to explain the processes of nature. (page 104)

-Abraham Joshua Heschel
God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism
As quoted in Searching by Ineffable Light

Chanukah, or any time when we see or hear of God’s miracles, forces us to try and understand the nature and character of God’s activity in the world we experience. 21st century western thought is almost wholly focused on the observable, the measurable, the quantifiable. We are dazzled by the possibility of discovering the Higgs Boson particle and what it would mean about our understanding of the universe. We are hopeful that our latest probe to Mars will show us definitive proof that the red planet once harbored life. We are astounded that we might actually be able to detect other Earth-like planets in the galaxy.

We are so amazed with our own seeming “miracles” that there is hardly room left in our world for the miracles of God.

For me, the short definition of a miracle is an event that we can observe in our universe that defies the working laws of said-universe. It is an event that has its origins outside our four-dimensional realm but that intrudes in that realm to make itself known to us. In fact, the point of a miracle is to make God known to us.

Jesus performed many “signs and wonders”, not to dazzle the crowds like some traveling magician, but to show that he was from God. Miracles also sometimes result in directly helping others, such as curing illnesses and healing injuries (see Matthew 11:1-6 as an example). Miracles are one of the ways that God makes Himself known to us. But while they seemed plentiful in the Bible, they are all too rare (and too well “explained” by scientific means, supposedly) in the present age. Even those miracles of the past are subject to significant “armchair quarterbacking” these days, as far as what natural phenomena “could” have caused such supposed miracles. The modern world wants no part in the supernatural, probably because it takes away from the wonder of man (and no wonder so many people give Tim Tebow a hard time for making his faith public on national television in front of millions of sports fans).

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who I quoted above, doesn’t believe that science has the right tools to examine the miracles of God let alone God Himself. This sounds like a cop out to secular people who want independent validation of the existence of God before believing. But while demanding evidence of the reality of the Divine, these secular folks are confident such validation will not be forthcoming, thus “proving” that they’re right.

But miracles aren’t about proof, they’re about faith.

Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. –Matthew 12:38-40

I mentioned in yesterday’s meditation that part of the purpose of lighting the menorah during Chanukah is to declare the miracles of God. This is an act of faith as well as tradition, since we were not there to witness the miracle. Given the cynicism most people bear for the wonders of God, it’s also a miracle that anyone comes to faith, since to do so goes against the majority of rational human beings and the “idol” of popular opinion.

Faith is a miracle. Publicly demonstrating faith is a miracle, too. It just doesn’t seem “supernatural”.

I periodically get notices from AskNoah.org which is an organization dedicated to the support of Gentile Noahides. I just got an email pointing me to an article about the proper way for a Noahide to light the menorah. Lest you think it’s unusual for Jews to encourage non-Jews to celebrate Chanukah, the advice comes with caveats.

If you are a Noahide who is observant of the 7 Noahide Commandments, you may be interested in lighting Hanukkah candles. If so, you can buy or make a menorah lamp for yourself (very easy), or you can usually obtain one from your local Chabad Center. If your intention is to publicize the Divine miracles of Hanukkah, and thereby educate and remind your family and others about the greatness of G-d, the candle lighting may be done in the correct manner according to the Jewish custom – but without saying the Jewish blessings when lighting the candles. (For non-Jews, those would be false statements said in G-d’s Name, G-d forbid, because they testify that the person lighting the candles is commanded to “kindle the lights of Hanukkah”, and that G-d did those miracles for “our fathers”.) There are alternative readings and Psalms that a Noahide can say when lighting Hanukkah candles, and we have posted some suggestions below.

Thus, it is proper for a non-Jew to light the Chanukah menorah if “your intention is to publicize the Divine miracles of Hanukkah, and thereby educate and remind your family and others about the greatness of G-d” but only if you do so “without saying the Jewish blessings when lighting the candles”. This may sound restrictive, especially to those Gentiles who consider themselves “Messianic” and “grafted in” to the root of Israel, but while there are Christian applications to Chanukah, we must not lose sight of the primarily Jewish applications.

I was reminded of this when reading various commentaries on Siman 672 that I receive from Mishna Berura Yomi. The laws and halachah relative to the Birkat Kohenim (Priestly Blessing) recited during a synagogue service are delineated in these particular commentaries. One of the obvious pieces of information presented is that this blessing should only be recited by a Kohen. Yet, I’ve heard this blessing (in English) recited by Pastors (non-Jews) at the end of church services, and I’ve heard this blessing said by Gentiles in “Messianic” worship. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve delivered this blessing myself many times in my previous congregation (since I’m not Jewish let alone a Kohen).

Miracles, faith, and worship are funny things. They all open certain doors but not the doors we think might be open. Lighting a menorah doesn’t make a Gentile person Jewish or the direct recipient of miracles or messages meant by God for Jews. Chanukah candle lighting also doesn’t open up the world of Jewish worship to Christians in the same way that this door is available to Jewish people. We must be cautious to make sure we are walking the right path.

On the other hand, there is a level where God’s presence and miracles are available to everyone. A Noahide, and I believe a Christian, may light the menorah if the purpose is to announce God’s miracles and their faith in God, particularly if their faith is not based on miracles. The blessing of the Birkat Kohenim in Hebrew is beautiful to hear and a tremendous reminder of God’s providence to the Children of Israel, even if you are not a Jew. Asher at the Lev Echad blog reminds us that even though we are all unique individuals and belong to unique and distinct people groups, we all have a common foundation.

This Mishnaic excerpt provides the quintessential response to anyone who claims that certain types of people are superior or inferior to others. Since all people descend from the same person, we are all related. There is no moral justification for dividing people based upon race or prominence or wealth. All of creation can be traced back to one God, and all of humanity can be traced back to one person. The very word for people in Hebrew is bnei adam (lit. children of Adam) – a subtle reminder that we all descend from one man, the first human ever created by God.

Perhaps God’s greatest miracle is the human race after all, not because we are so terrific and so accomplished (though He gave us the ability to perform terrific acts of accomplishment), but because we can learn to love each other, to recognize that unique as we are, we were created in a common image (Genesis 1:26), and out of that image, we can learn to love Him who has loved us first.

“Therefore was a single man created, to teach us that whoever takes a single life it is as though he destroyed an entire world, and whoever saves a single life it is as though he saved an entire world. It is also meant to foster peace between people, because no one can boast to his neighbor: ‘My ancestor was greater than your ancestor.'” –Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5

Though the intent of this Mishnaic quote, which I borrowed from Asher’s blog, is to reference Adam, the first man, in my personal faith, I choose to interpret it as illuminating another man who Christians call the “light of the world;” a man who has shown us that we can also be a light pointing to miracles.

Addendum: This doesn’t have anything to do with today’s “meditation”, but I happened across an interesting looking web resource called Halachipedia. It’s where “Halachah meets Wiki”. Enjoy.

Living Out Loud

Tim Tebow is an anomaly – in more ways than one. Although he plays quarterback for the Denver Broncos, he seems to run as much as he passes. (For those of you not familiar with the National Football League, a quarterback traditionally throws the ball much more than he runs with it.) And when he does throw, he has an unorthodox throwing motion. As a result, many sports analysts dislike him as an NFL quarterback. But the criticism doesn’t end there. You see, Tebow is also a religious Christian whose values influence his conduct both on and off the field. As a result, many people dislike him as a person.

“The Tebow Effect”
Lev Echad blog

We all have our animal inside. The point is not simply to muzzle that animal, but to harness its power. To determine what sort of an animal this is and what can be done with it.

A sheep, for example, is easily domesticated and doesn’t care to hurt anyone, while an ox may kick and gore. But did you ever see a sheep plow a field?

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Your Beast”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

If you’re a religious person, do you ever feel a little picked on by the world around you? Do you ever feel that you are sometimes misjudged by secular society or even by your atheist friends and family members? Do you ever get a little angry and want to snap back at them when they call you “ignorant” or “unscientific” or “superstitious” or even a “bigot?” If you do, then I suppose that makes you human. It also speaks to Rabbi Freeman’s commentary on “Your Beast”. Christians are sometimes taught to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) when confronted unfairly, and many times we do. Sometimes we don’t and there are even times when some of us are really unfair.

When Stella Harville brought her black boyfriend to her family’s all-white church in rural Kentucky, she thought nothing of it. She and Ticha Chikuni worshiped there whenever they were in town, and he even sang before the congregation during one service.

Then, in August, a member of Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Pike County told Harville’s father that Chikuni couldn’t sing there anymore. And last Sunday, in a moment that seems from another time, church members voted 9 to 6 to bar mixed-race couples from joining the congregation.

“Rural Kentucky church revisits ban on interracial couples”
Los Angeles Times

Examples like this are fairly rare, but they do exist and unfortunately, once they make national and even international headlines, this is what the secular world sees as Christianity. Could this be why so many people who cheer on quarterback Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos want him to keep quiet about his Christianity, at least in public?

Whether or not Ebersole endorses that view or merely observes it, he definitely touches on a common perception of public religion. Believe whatever you want and worship whoever you want with your family in private. But when you step into the public arena, you can’t say much more than “God bless you” and “God bless America” without stirring controversy. This idea, that religion belongs only in the home, underlies the principle of public reason that I discussed in my last post.

-David Fryman
“Tebowing as a Political Metaphor”

If you believe in free speech rights, rights to peaceful assembly, and rights to worship in the religion of your choice, then even if you are an American atheist, you must support the right of Tim Tebow or anyone else to hold whatever beliefs they wish, whether you agree with them or not. However, as Fryman just pointed out, most people want us to be quiet about it. I’m sure it would be “safer” for us to do so, to gather in our churches and our synagogues and to keep to ourselves. I don’t mean “safer” in the sense that we would be physically threatened if we chose to pray in public, such as before eating a meal at our local restaurant, but safer in the sense that we wouldn’t have to hear how “bad” we are (perhaps because of our stance on some hot political and social topic such as abortion, same-sex marriage, or “creationism”). We also wouldn’t have to take as much fallout over news reports of those little religious anomalies like the aforementioned interracial banning Kentucky church.

It’s interesting because, in response to the media backlash on the Kentucky church’s controversial vote, that church may be changing its tune. In this case, I applaud them for rethinking their blatantly racist position, but it does bring up a disturbing thought. Racism and banning interracial couples in a house of worship cannot be reasonably supported from how I understand the Bible, but what about those times when we, as people of faith, do take a stand based firmly on our faith, that does contradict societal political correctness? Should we just keep our mouths shut and stay “safe” or open our mouths and be dismissed as hateful bigots? Or should we change our minds in order to better fit in with what the secular world wants out of us: compliance with established social norms?

If it’s a matter of faith and principle, I believe we should stand our ground. Otherwise, our faith becomes a sham and our identity as disciples of the Master becomes a paper-thin mask hiding the fact that we are no different from people who claim no faith in God (and there are churches already doing this). Fryman’s final comments on his blog tell us why we must not hide who we are and, God forbid, cave in to media and social pressure.

Tim Tebow is Christian. Sounds obvious, I know, but his critics (of his religiosity, not his quarterbacking) don’t seem to understand. I know he’s Christian, but does he have to be so damn religious every time he opens his mouth?! Yes, he does. Because that’s what religion is: a way of life. Football is his life, so of course his football is Christian. If politics were his life, his politics would be Christian too.

There are times when it is best for us to be as meek as sheep but sometimes we are faced with a task such as “plowing a field”. Sheep can’t do the heavy lifting but an ox can. Both of those natures are part of us for a reason. The trick is knowing which trait to display and under what circumstances. Some expressions of our faith are best demonstrated in private prayer or in our houses of worship. But our faith, if authentic, is not just a weekly plug-in we connect to on Saturday or Sunday. It is who we are more than any other aspect of our being. Like the gay community is so fond of saying of themselves, we should “live out loud” our lives of faith.