Whether you believe in miracles or have a much more skeptical take on life, you can find Jewish teachings that support your approach, according to Rabbi Mark Biller. “I find it comforting that there is such a range, and it all fits under the umbrella of Judaism,” he said.
He himself is open to the idea that inexplicable wonders occur. He cited the experience of a neighbor’s grandfather who had lost touch with his sister during the Holocaust. At a wedding in Detroit 42 years later, a companion at his table happened to show the elderly man a photograph of a group of people — and there was his sister.
“Thing like that make one think ‘How can there not be a God?’” he said. “But I also understand people who say, ‘These are the laws of life and that is just how the world works.’”
Biller added, “I don’t mean to sound corny, but I think a good teacher has to be open to different points of view.”
It’s the approach he will take in his workshop series “Where’s My Miracle?” Sponsored by National Council of Jewish Women, West Morris Section, under the auspices of Our Jewish World, the series will be held at noon on Wednesdays in February and March at the Morris County Library in Whippany. There is no charge.
The discussion about miracles “goes to the heart of the question, ‘Is there a God?’” Biller said. But even that doesn’t affect one’s identity as a Jew. “You know that old saying — ‘Do what He asks, even if you don’t believe,’” he said. “The only un-Jewish approach is to not ask questions.”
Born and brought up in a Conservative home in Toronto, Biller got his love of Jewish stories — of the miraculous and otherwise — from his two grandmothers and from attending an Orthodox school. “Most of the teachers had come from Europe, and a third of the students were the children of survivors, and we were surrounded by midrash and mysticism in a beautiful way,” he said.
Biller received rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan. He also studied BiblioDrama at the Union Theological Seminary and completed a two-year Spiritual Direction course at Elat Chayyim, a Jewish renewal retreat center then in upstate New York. He specializes in the art of storytelling.
In his workshop, he said, he hopes to show how broad the range of traditional teaching is on the subject of miracles and to have participants share their own experiences. “In some ways, people today are more open and willing to talk about spirituality,” he said, “and to search for ways in which Judaism can bring meaning into their lives.”