I found myself pondering the ideas of miracles, the power of prayer and whether or not God is an interventionist as I read Justin Silberman’s cover story this week.
As you’ll read in the story, Frank Levy was distraught when his “son,” George Runkles — a young man Levy raised along with his biological daughter — was left in a coma after a drug deal gone bad 15 years ago. Feeling helpless, he was encouraged by his friend Arnold Begleiter to attend Rosh Hashanah services to pray for Runkles. He hadn’t been to synagogue for years, but he didn’t know what else to do. So he went to shul and he prayed. A little more than a week later, Runkles woke up.
To this day, Levy goes to High Holiday services with Begleiter every year.
Was Runkles’ recovery a miracle, as Levy believes? Did God hear his prayers and answer?
Rabbi Louis Jacobs, the founder of Conservative Judaism in the United Kingdom, writes in “The Jewish Religion: A Companion” that “a modern Jewish believer will be far less prone to attribute extraordinary events to a supernatural intervention, but his belief in God’s power will not allow him to deny the very possibility of miracles occurring.”
So according to Jacobs, our logical brain dictates that miracles probably don’t occur, but our faith argues otherwise. A fair assessment, as faith means believing in something greater than yourself, something not completely tangible or explainable.
Of course, Levy going to synagogue and Runkles waking up could have been purely coincidental, but why question it if one life was saved and another enhanced by reconnecting to Judaism?
As Levy put it, “I made the right decision to come and pray. … I went to synagogue to pray, and he wakes up just like that. Unbelievable.” It’s hard to argue with someone like Levy about the power of prayer.
As we move into the New Year, and we repent for our wrongdoings next weekend on Yom Kippur, let’s take a cue from Levy and trust that our prayer and repentance is being heard. Something “miraculous” might just happen to you.
So who knows if Runkles waking up from his coma was a miracle, or if God had a hand in it? What matters is that a life was saved and not wasted, a friendship was cemented and one man’s devotion to Judaism endures.