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The Question I always wanted to ask.

by Ms. Chana Shapiro

When I worked in a synagogue, I received an offer that I'm glad I didn't refuse.

My benefactor explained, "I've been invited to attend a conference at a local hospital. The medical people want religious professionals to understand what the patients and Their families experience in the hospital and what they deal with medically, and, in turn, the medical staff want information about our experience when the patients and their families talk to US. This will help everybody:'

I was handed a sheaf of papers detailing the program.

"Aren't you going to the conference?" I asked, wondering what this had to do with me.

"I can't, but I know you'll take it seriously, so I'm asking you to go in my place. I've already RSVP'd'

I wasn't convinced that it was a good idea, but he sweetened the pot.

"Besides, I pre-ordered a catered kosher lunch:"

Free kosher food, and a day listening to interesting lectures - what did I have to lose? I agreed to take good notes and return with a detailed report.

As it turned out, I got into the conference without a single hitch, and I had an opportunity to interact with dozens of interesting clergy from all over the south. The lectures and small group sessions were fascinating, with a lot of give-and-take between a variety of medical personnel, including nurses, hospital chaplains and hospice workers. I learned an enormous amount of important information and took copious notes, but I couldn't wait to get to the final session.

The last hour of the day featured three prominent oncologists, two of them surgeons, who were there to answer questions from the attendees. In general, I'm not a big fan of Q and A programs, but I was hoping that this would give me an opportunity to ask the big question I'd never had a chance to ask.

There were many important queries from the floor, some of them deeply personal, all of them thoughtful; and then the moderator finally called on me.

"Have any of you ever seen a miracle?" I asked.

There was absolute silence in the room. Many people in the audience leaned forward, alert and hopeful. Amazingly, unexpectedly, each of the doctors answered with a simple,


There was applause in response to the answers! Who was being applauded? It wasn't the doctors, who had just affirmed that they couldn't scientifically explain their experiences. These were prominent, state-of-the-art specialists, among the best

in their field, and they humbly acknowledged the inexplicable; they simply accepted the unexpected phenomena to be miraculous. We were applauding the Performer of Miracles.

Of course! It made sense that everyone rejoiced spontaneously because I was surrounded by religious people, I was in a sea of believers! From many different faiths, no one doubted the veracity of the doctors' answers.

I turned to the person on my right, "What do you think of that?" I exclaimed.

"I anticipated their answers," he said. "And I'm sure most of the people here did, too. You and I both know that miracles happen all the time, but most people just don't notice them'

He was right, of course.


Chana Shapiro, an educator, speaker, writer, illustrator, and Urban Missiology consultant, is a columnist for the Atlanta Jewish Times. She and her co-author Meta Miller, have written Fruit Fly Rabbi and The Rabbi's in Trouble: The continuing adventures of Rabbi Joshua Stein.

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