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Michelangelo once said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
The essence of every Jew is a beautiful perfect soul. It is unmarred by ego, immaturity, insecurity, obsession, or any other form of human weakness. This beautiful soul, more pristine than the angel in …

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Home » High Holidays

The Nerve and The Miracle

Submitted by on September 12, 2004 – 7:37 pmNo Comment | 2,703 views

I met a lovely young 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 ask to 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. In 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

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 break 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.