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Home » Life Is Beautiful

The Nerve And The Miracle

Submitted by on February 1, 2010 – 3:51 amNo Comment | 1,548 views

I wrote this essay
in the summer of 200,4 several weeks after meeting an incredible woman, Chana
Libah (Marcia) Schawartz. It was only recently that I learned of Chana Libah’s passing. It is with warm memories and a heavy heart that I republish The Nerve and The Miracle, today. May
her memory be for a blessing. . .

 

 A little while ago
I met a lovely lady by the name of Chana Libah. She is a remarkable person and
an amazing optimist. She had suffered multiple tumors and was in recovery from
her latest bout. Chana Libah, undergoing a treatment regiment that would break
a lesser person, spoke of her travails with a sparkle in her eye and a smile on
her lips.

 

“Every
day, ‘she told me with a mischievous smile,’ I wake up and tell G-d that I
can’t believe I’m alive and do you know what he says? He says, Chana Libah, I
can’t believe it either.”

 

I
was amazed at this spry woman’s mettle and knew right then that she was going
to teach me a powerful lesson. Chana Libah did not disappoint she taught me
about the nerve/miracle dynamic.

 

She
told me of her niece who recently invited her over. Chana Libah agreed and
offered to look after the children. A little while later her niece called to
say that she couldn’t accept the offer. “Mama asks what nerve I have to ask Chana
Libah to come out in her condition!”

 

“My
dear, ‘Chana Libah replied,’ Your question did take nerve but to me it doesn’t
matter. The fact that I can reply in the affirmative is a miracle and if you hadn’t
had the nerve I wouldn’t get to show off my miracle.”

 

When
Chana Libah first saw her beloved nephews, after treatment forced her to give
up her hair, the two little boys were aghast and fixed her with a wide-eyed
stare. With her typical buoyancy she quickly recovered and asked the children if
they were afraid of Auntie Masha? She encouraged them to touch her face and they
tentatively approached. For her efforts she was rewarded with two brilliant
smiles.

 

This
is when Chana Libah dropped the next hint of her life’s philosophy. “They had
the nerve to explore their auntie’s new look, ‘she said,’ and because of it
they discovered their own miracle. Today they no longer recoil when they see
someone whose appearance was altered due to illness. They have learned to offer
love and compassion to desperate souls in their hour of need.”

 

Chana
Libah talked for nearly an hour and during that time I came to realize that
reaching a worthy goal is truly a miracle but to see such miracles you must first
muster the nerve to reach for your goal.

 

We
would never discover the hidden talents we carry unless we had the nerve to try
new things. We would never experience the miracle of a smile unless we had the
nerve to offer one first. We would never discover the miracle of a friendship
unless we were prepared to invest in them first.

 

Physical
fitness requires enormous effort. Spiritual health requires tremendous
dedication. Healthy relationships require a great deal of nurturing. Success at
academia requires absolute diligence. Accomplishment in any endeavor requires
focus and commitment.

 

A friend,
who started a new business venture, took a bank loan and leveraged himself to the
hilt. He had many challenges and at times stared failure in the face, but he
never wavered. He reached a point that would have broken lesser men but he had
the nerve to persevere. Eventually he came out on top.

 

I
think of Chana Libah as I prepare for the New Year. As it approaches I know
that there are many resolutions that I must undertake. I know that these
resolutions will summon a great deal of work and I cringe from a load I don’t
want to invite upon myself. At the same time I think of the blessings I will
reap if I do make that effort. I know that if I have the nerve to follow
through I will have the opportunity to experience my miracle.

 

I
have often thought of Chana Libah since our encounter because she focused
exclusively on her miracles and blocked her troubles out. Today, when I feel overwhelmed
by my challenges, and am tempted to bemoan my fate, I hear her voice ringing in
my ear encouraging me to have the nerve to count my blessings and not let my
miracles pass me by.

 

The
Psalmist wrote that those “who sow with tears will reap with joy.” The
Chassidic masters taught that joyful reaping is commensurate with tearful planting.
The more energy we invest in sowing the more produce we yield in reaping. In
the same vein, the greater the nerve we deposit the greater the miracle we
withdraw.

 

It
takes nerve to venture forth from safe shores to explore new and unfamiliar
territory. It takes even more nerve to voyage across uncharted waters charting
a new course as we sail along. Most of all it takes nerve to keep going even
when storms brew on the horizon and the once smooth sea grows choppy.

 

Yet
sitting at home in comfort and familiarity offers no opportunity for growth.
Casual ambivalence and spineless weakness will not a miracle yield. If we don’t
deposit our nerve we will have no miracle to withdraw.

 

But
when we set sail across the waves and explore new horizons we taste the miracle
of freedom. When we brave the wiles of nature, overcoming hesitation and fear,
we unlock hidden reserves and unleash miracles hitherto unknown.

 

In
order to succeed we must be prepared to push the envelope. Only when we have
reached the precipice, when we have explored the outer reaches of our limits, when
we have risked falling into the abyss, can we truly move forth into a new
miraculous realm.

 

Why
is this so? Why did G-d make it so? Why must dark precede light? Why must the
ebb precede the flow?

 

G-d,
in his infinite capacity, is able to bestow blessing and miracles of infinite
proportion. The human, in his finite capacity, is hardly the proper vessel for infinity.
We therefore engage together with G-d in a two pronged effort.

 

G-d
must trim the infinite character of his blessing and tailor it to the finite
dimension of human capacity. The human, in order to become a receiving vessel,
must recognize that the tailored blessing has its source in the divine. Such
recognition is achieved through self-nullification.

 

When
we toil and succeed we believe that we are the source of that success. When we
toil and fall short we learn that true success comes only from G-d. We
experience an epiphany as we suddenly realize that we are not the true masters
of our destiny.

 

So
we seek, toil and find the nerve to reach for the full extent of our capacity.
Once we reach it we become fully aware that only G-d can provide what lies
beyond it and we turn to him in desperation.

 

G-d
sits back and measures our sincerity. He gauges carefully the self-abnegation
it inspires and when the moment is ripe he immediately strikes. He brings
fourth his tailored blessing and pours it into the humble vessel that we
created. He keeps pouring till we have reached our limit and then the exercise
begins anew.

 

We
are destined to make the effort even if we fail at first try. Failure is only a
symptom of this divine exercise, an acknowledgement of his mastery and a
prelude to his blessing.

 

Somewhere
between desperation and panic lies our miracle. We must have the nerve to hold
out. If we do we are bound to witness an abundance of miracles in the coming New
Year.

 

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