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Stories, Poems and Humor
Left Book Miracles Happen
by Yellin, Deena
Right Book

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Group: Hanukkah
Language: English



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A baby smiles. A flower blossoms. A terminal patient recovers.

They may not have quite the same cachet as an underdog army emerging victorious or a tiny can of oil lasting eight days, but as the Jewish holiday of miracles opens tonight, Jews around the globe will not only recount the ancient Chanukah miracles but the miraculous events in their own lives.

In the dark winter night, they will begin their celebration by kindling the first Chanukah candle and reciting three blessings.

The first blessing honors G-d as ruler of time and space and gives thanks for the commandment to light the Chanukah candles.

As Isaac Mozeson's family gathers around the menorah and chants this blessing, Mozeson will remember his own struggle with darkness and light after he fell into a five-day coma in 1997.

He had been hiking in Israel's Galilee, unaware of weather forecasts warning of record heat in that the normally cool region. After three hours of hiking, the trail marks disappeared and he decided to press on in search of a village rather than retrace his steps, fearing it would take too long. His water supply was already gone.

Instead, he climbed up the steep mountainside, searching for help. It was an arduous climb, particularly because of the scorching sun. When he reached the top of the mountain, he saw nothing but vast fields. "I felt fatigue that felt like death," he said. "I felt all the programming systems in my head humming to a close." He lay down in a tiny patch of shade to rest and fell into a coma.

A Beduin tracker found his body and brought him to the hospital. Mozeson had suffered an intense heat stroke that shut down all his organs except for his heart and sent him into a coma. Doctors gave up on his near-dead body. They suggested that his two children say goodbye to him.

But prayers were offered up by his friends, relatives and even strangers who heard his story. "Many people in Israel and in worldwide prayer groups who heard about it on the internet were praying for me," he said. "My name was changed to Rephael ('the L-rd heals') in my Teaneck synagogue."

When he opened his eyes five days later, he could barely move. Ever so slowly, he learned to walk and even run, but even now, two years later, has slow motor skills. He can only speak, type and write very slowly and with great difficulty. He cannot resume his career as a college instructor and book editor.

He spends his days working on a project he had always talked about doing after he retired -- writing a series of books on universal faith and language. "I am joyous to be alive," he said.

As he chants the blessing over the Chanukah light this evening, and the candles shine through his front window into the dark night, he said, "I will think about how my own candle flickered and almost went out and how I was almost not here at the family menorah lighting."

***
The second Chanukah blessing is for the miracles G-d performed in days of old and in modern times, a blessing that resonates keenly for Sharon and Steven Tuch of Teaneck.

Two years ago, Sharon gave birth to identical twins, Matthew and Brian. Three weeks later, the doctors informed her that both boys had leukemia. Within a week, Matthew passed away.

Brian underwent numerous surgeries, a bone marrow transplant, a bleed in his brain and still suffered a relapse.

Yet, his mother said incredulously, "He pulled through. It was amazing."

There were times when his parents and siblings thought he would not make it. Sharon kept a constant vigil at his hospital bedside, grateful all the while for the volunteer babysitters, cooked dinners, and donated platelets that materialized as the Tuch's needs intensified.

"Last year at this time he was on his deathbed and now, he's learning how to walk. He says `Mama.' He smiles all the time. Looking at him, you would never believe what he's been through," she said. "He is delayed but he's all there."

When she was going through that turbulent time, Sharon never considered that what her family was experiencing was a miracle. "But now, I can sit back and think about what he has overcome."

As the Tuch family lights their candles tonight, they will sing the second blessing with a special feeling. After the Chanukah candles are lit, they will sing a hearty Happy Birthday to Brian. It will be two years, to the day, that he was born.

***
The third blessing over the candles is the Shehecheyanu, thanking G-d for bringing Jews to a new season. It is recited only on the first of Chanukah's eight nights, just as it said on the first night of most Jewish holidays.

This year, Rivkah Kanter of Tenafly will be saying the Shehecheyanu with extra fervor.

Kanter, a former elementary school teacher, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986. Within a year, the cancer had spread to her sternum and, more recently, to her spine, skull and liver. Doctors told her she had little chance of survival.

But she continued to feel healthy, she said, and tests as recently as a month and a half ago, revealed that the tumors in her skull and spine have disappeared and all but three of the tumors in her liver are gone.

"The doctor was so shocked I had to pick him up off the floor. He said he's never seen anything like that happen before.

"It's incredible," she said. "My rabbi and friends think I'm a walking miracle."

So does she. She feels energetic enough to travel around the world, take Torah classes and walk vigorously 45 minutes every day. "I am going on with my life," she said.

As she recites the third blessing, the miracle of her daily existence will be foremost in her mind.

"I will be thinking," she said, "of my gratitude to G-d for bringing me to this season."



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Additional Information

Deena Yellin is a reporter for The Record in Bergen County.



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