by Bill Page
I have wanted for some time to write a little essay about the daily miracles prayer in Mishkan T’filah (pp. 198-203). It is just the right prayer for Shabbat, when we are meant to rest and recall what our all too busy lives are really supposed to be about. But I have also tried to incorporate these beautiful words into my daily schedule, less successfully than I would like, and I have had the best luck recalling these prayers for life’s daily miracles while riding my bicycle.
These prayers help us to recall how much we take for granted, and this can come into focus–all of a sudden–in some unexpected ways. Last year, my wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with a trip to Hawaii. When we landed in Oahu at night after a long flight and went to get our rental car, we received a surprise. Hawaii was expecting a tsunami, and we were advised to avoid certain low-lying roads. Thanks, we said. At our hotel, we realized things were really serious when our room was changed to the 7th floor, automatically putting us in a “tsunami-safe zone.” Everything turned out OK, but it led me to recall the line in the daily miracles prayer that says “roka haatretz al hamayim—who stretches the earth over the waters.” Indeed God does, a fact that we can conveniently put out of mind until it makes its presence emphatically known.
I got another line of this prayer handed to me about a month ago, when what I thought would be a routine visit to the optometrist turned into a visit to the ophthalmologist, and eventually into surgeries to remove cataracts in both eyes. Both surgeries went well, and at a recent kiddush, I was telling our assistant rabbi how much I loved my “new eyeballs.” Pokei-ach ivrim–who opens the eyes of the blind.
But that wasn’t my last encounter with this prayer for daily miracles. Just days ago, I started seeing a little shadow in the lower left corner of one eye. I went to the emergency room, they examined me and spoke with my ophthalmologist, but we didn’t have definitive answer. The next day, I saw my ophthalmologist, who diagnosed a retinal tear and sent me to see a retinal specialist, anticipating immediate surgery. Things were serious, but didn’t constitute an emergency, so surgery is now scheduled for tomorrow. Pokei-ach ivrim, indeed!
I have a great surgeon, and will do my best to be the model patient in surgery and recovery. I also have a great supporting family and congregation. But in truth, the final outcome for my vision is in the hands of the Great Healer, as it has always been. And as it truly is for us all, whether we acknowledge this in our daily prayers or not.
Bill Page is a member of Temple Micah, a Reform congregation in Washington, DC.