Do Jews Believe in Miracles?

Posted on December 21, 2022

By Rabbi Michael Schwab.


As we celebrate Hanukkah this week and speak about the miraculous victory of the few Maccabees over the powerful Assyrian Greeks.  Or when we recount the miracle of the single cruse of oil that lasted for 8 days, we are confronted with the question, do we believe in miracles?  And if so, in what way? 

Jewish texts and sources are filled with narratives describing miracles and wonders, from the story of Hanukkah to the most famous miracles: the plagues and the splitting of the sea in the Passover story.  Further, the Torah tells us of manna from heaven and a shofar blast that brought down the walls of Jericho.  Each miracle announces the presence and power of Gd.  In fact the word, miracle, comes from the root word of “a sign” – a sign of Gd’s existence and providence.  

For a Biblical Jew (and probably any ancient person), it would be inconceivable that Gd could not act outside of nature to perform such acts, but over time this concept has been more challenging to certain Jews, especially in the modern era.  During the Talmudic era, miracles were reported less frequently but stories were still passed down of certain Sages who were able to call upon Gd to do extraordinary things, usually to help the community during a challenging time.  

During the Middle Ages Jewish attitudes towards miracles became more diverse.  While many continued to believe in miracles as supernatural acts performed by an immanent Gd, others began to describe miracles as the purposeful extensions of natural events.  Rambam, or Maimonides, represented this line of thinking best.  As he wrote, “ . . . all miracles which deviate from the natural course of events, whether they have already occurred or, according to promise, are to take place in the future, were foreordained by the Divine Will during the six days of creation . . .”.  In other words, anything that seems supernatural was, if fact, already pre-set in the natural world at the time of creation.  This definition of miracles holds on to the notion that miracles are a sign of Gd’s providence but that the miracle itself is carried out within the laws of nature.   

During the times of the Hasidic masters the idea that humans could initiate miracles, as a direct result of prayer to Gd, became popular.  Many accounts exist of the great Hasidic masters who were reported to have raised people from the dead, or to have made themselves invisible, in order to do a mitzvah or to help a fellow Jew.  As one of the most famous Hasidic masters, Rav Nachman of Bratslav wrote, “There are people who obscure all miracles by explaining them in terms of the laws of nature. When these heretics who do not believe in miracles disappear and faith increases in the world, then the Messiah will come. For the essence of the redemption primarily depends on this — that is, on faith.” (Likutei Moharan)

Clearly in our own contemporary world there is no one way to think about miracles.  As was written by the editor of, “There are those whose faith rests on secure belief that God performed these wonders as they are described — and that more are possible. Equally, some Jews believe that God is actively engaged in the world through what might be called Divine Providence and who call on the help of heaven. Others understand miracle accounts as fantastic stories or allegories that enhance their spirituality in other ways. Still others have sought rational explanations for the miracles recorded in Scripture. . . The tradition holds room for more than one view.”  So, however you view the nature of a miracle, let them inspire each of us to bring a little more light into the world as we strive to accomplish what sometimes seems impossible.  Hag Urim Sameah!