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Feeling God’s Miracles As Iran Pummeled Israel With Missiles

No matter where in the world you found yourself on Saturday night, you can now bear witness to an open miracle. 99% accuracy is not supposed to be possible when defending against over 300 projectiles. The hand of God was with us and all of our allies that night.

Sitting in my Jerusalem bomb shelter at 2 am as the missiles exploded over my head, having spent the previous few hours incredibly worried, and realizing that Iran was not going to succeed in doing the damage that it had planned, massive relief washed over me. After understanding that everything was going to be okay, I began to realize that I was now part of the newest story of our nation in which we were saved from an existential threat by open miracles.

​Towards the end of the First Temple period, after the Kingdom of Israel had already been brutally kicked out of Samaria and brought to exile, Hezkiyah became king over the Kingdom of Judah (Kings II, 18 & Chronicles II, 32). Though his father, the previous king, had been an idol worshiper and generally not a great guy, King Hezkiyah was different–he had an awakening, and decided that the Jews should purify the then defiled Temple, and return to serving God. Though some were reluctant, the verses surrounding the purification are some of the most beautiful verses in all of the Bible–they are filled with unadulterated joy as the Jews who were still left in Israel unified as a nation and returned to God. Out of a shocking destruction came unity and rebirth.

​The Bible itself does not shy from expressing its admiration for Hezkiyah and the movement that he started. In fact, his greatness is compared to that of his ancestor, King David.

​This is why the Assyrian siege that followed soon after the purification of the Temple is so shocking–how could Hezkiyah and his people deserve such a thing? The Malbim (Chronicles II 32:1) points out that the siege is introduced using the words “after these events of Truth.” He says that the verse is written this way to make clear that Hezkiyah and the Jews did nothing to deserve this existential threat–one that could have meant the destruction of the First Temple. Rather, this war was part of God’s bigger picture, which did not adhere to human logic, and did not make sense to the finite mortals experiencing it.

​Hezkiyah and his people found themselves in a situation in which they would soon be under siege. They prepared as much as they could (in hebrew, this is known as hishtadlus); they built a wall around the city, brought the local water source inside the walls, and collected food. But, in what must have felt way too quickly, they were soon surrounded, with the Assyrians camping directly outside of the walls of Jerusalem and planning to attack them a mere hours later. As “go time” began to close in, the Assyrian soldiers climbed up onto the walls of Jerusalem, and called down to the Jews inside, “all the other nations that we’ve conquered have cried out to their gods, and none have been able to save them—why would yours be any different?” Frightened, the Jews turned to Hezkiyah for support. He went to the newly purified Temple and stormed the heavens–all odds pointed to the following day being one of loss and mourning.

But the next morning came, and all was quiet. Everything was intact.

​As described in the Bible, God had sent an angel the previous night to strike down every Assyrian soldier in their sleep (except for their general, Sancherib, who was ironically killed in the temple of one of his own gods soon after)–they went to bed that night, and never woke up in the morning (much like the plague of the firstborn). After all of their worry and prayer, the Jews came out without even a scratch.

​The parallels to this past Saturday night are uncanny. Unity and a return to God after a mass national tragedy. What could and should have been another massacre brought on as part of God’s plan, despite the unity and the return to Him. Defamation of God and doubt of His might by our oppressors. Preparation that should not have been effective enough to save everyone. Storming the heavens with prayer in the hours leading up to the attack. And then, when we needed Him most, God coming and completely shielding us from harm’s way.

​Of course, the story of Hezkiyah also brings to mind another biblical story–the story of Passover, and more specifically the splitting of the sea. There too, joy and unity following the hardship of slavery was interrupted by what seemed like it was going to be another tragedy–being pushed into the sea by the advancing Egyptian army. There too, our oppressors made a point of publicly doubting God’s abilities, despite having ten plague’s worth of proof. There too, God stretched out His hand to protect us in the ninth hour, and struck down our enemies. There too, every single Jews came out unscathed. There too, His name was made great throughout the world.

​However, there is one big difference between the story of King Hezkiyah and the story of Exodus. After the splitting of the sea, when the Children of Israel were finally truly free, they broke out in song and dance, and praised God for saving them. Their praise knew no bounds that day, and over three thousand years later we continue to repeat their words each day in the prayer of “Az Yashir”. In fact, we mention the miracles of Exodus on a daily basis–we continue to be thankful for them. In contrast, it says in Sanhedrin (94a) that God had intended to make Hezkiyah the Messiah, but He changed His mind because Hezkiyah didn’t praise God after He saved Jerusalem from the Assyrians. Fittingly, though the wall that Hezkiyah built still stands in the center of the Jewish Quarter, and his water tunnels continue to divert water in the City of David, many don’t know of his story—of the miracle that God did to save the First Temple from destruction (over 100 years before it was truly destroyed).

​With so many terrifying events occurring in the world right now, and our lives filled with so much doubt and uncertainty, it’s easy to allow the negatives to overtake feelings of hope and unity. It’s easy to focus on how long the road that lays ahead of us appears to be, instead of an ancient wall that continues to stand, reminding us that God made miracles for our ancestors or this past Saturday night’s events when God made miracles in our days. However, focusing on the ongoing war and everyone affected by it, and on the rising antisemitism, without giving room for the miracles in our lives, is certainly not the answer.

As we saw on Saturday night, God is with us, and though we cannot begin to understand His ways, we can certainly thank Him for the good that we do see. May we all learn from Hezkiyah’s mistake, and appreciate and openly recognize the miracles that God does for His people. May we take strength from ancient stories of salvation like those of Exodus and of King Hezkiyah, as well as of modern ones like this past Saturday night. And may we merit to greet the true Messiah, speedily in our days.

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  • Avatar photo Zehava Shalom says on April 18, 2024

    Where was God on October 7???
    Does God care about the hostages???
    Israelis always seem to unite when faced with an outside enemy but then go back to fighting with each other as soon as the threat seems over. And today even before the threat has gone.
    When good things happen, you attribute it to God, but when bad things happen the answer is” I don’t know”???

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    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on May 6, 2024

      It’s all from God – the good and the bad. The good we can clearly understand from our perspective, the bad we cannot. It’s OK to be angry and frustrated and exasperated. We can give up on God but that doesn’t actually make anything better. We don’t gain more power or control or better outcomes. For those who choose faith, we are hoping that one day, we will understand the bad too.

      Reply

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