By Meir Kaniel, LSW

On March 17, just a few days after Purim, I will have the privilege to run in the Jerusalem Half Marathon to help benefit a wonderful organization called Kav L’Noar. Running with me will be three special rabbanim, who hope to complete their first 10K race. They have invested much time and effort training for this event through a new and exciting program called RabbisCanRun.org, an initiative developed to raise awareness of Kav L’Noar and help shul rabbanim improve their health. But why would rabbanim choose to complicate their already busy lives by committing to run a 6-mile race days after Purim?

On Purim we celebrate the salvation of our people from Haman’s evil ploy to destroy every Jewish man, woman, and child. Our redemption did not come through the delivery of a great and open miracle. Our nation was saved through a series of seemingly coincidental events that all occurred at the right time and place. But why did Hashem not save us with an incredible stupendous miracle for the whole world to see? Why is Hashem’s name not even mentioned in the Megillah? Purim is about searching out and finding G‑d in the midst of a dark world where His presence is hidden. This ability to seek out Hashem in the midst of darkness is also known as emunah. As Dovid HaMelech writes, “l’hagid ba’boker chasdecha, v’emunascha ba’leilos.” The goal of a Jew is to seek Hashem when He is not easily seen–or, as my rebbe always says, to learn how to dance in the dark. It’s not a coincidence that on Purim, Klal Yisrael renewed their commitment to G‑d and, with “kiymu v’kiblu,” transcended, to some degree, the level they had reached at Har Sinai.

For some, the idea of running is synonymous with root canal. They can’t imagine putting on their worn-out, dusty sneakers that were buried in their closet, and going for a run. Running provides many benefits for body and soul. In addition to building a strong heart and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease or even diabetes, running can provide spiritual benefits as well. Running provides a context where we can put our body through a challenging ordeal and find the inner strength to overcome the difficulty and the challenge by believing in our own abilities and turning to Hashem for his Divine support. Like Purim, running can help us develop a greater level of emunah and remind us of our dependency on Hashem. So going out for a run may not just strengthen your heart, but may also help in the process of building a lev tov as well.

If running provides a medium to build emunah, a marathon is the ultimate test of endurance and determination and a context for the miraculous to occur. Marathon runners must invest tremendous effort and preparation while overcoming many obstacles in their strenuous journey. Although a sea of spectators will never split during a race, marathon runners must rely on many small and hidden miracles throughout the long training process. When they finally do cross the finish line, they have a greater awareness of Hashem and increased appreciation for His hashgachah, after having run many miles through the absolute darkness while feeling His presence in every step.

How important is this ability to see Hashem in the darkness? How important is it to notice G‑d’s small miracles through the normalcy of nature? The Ramban at the end of Parashas Bo explains that from the great amazing miracles, such as the splitting of the red sea, a person admits to the existence of hidden miracles, which are the foundation of the entire Torah. He goes on to say that a person has no connection to the Torah of Moshe until he believes that the “coincidences” in his life are miracles. According to the Ramban, the great miracles are just a means to an end. If we are exposed to complete violations of the laws of nature, we will be able to get to the goal, which is recognizing the hidden miracles as well. Our job is to realize that everything in this world is a miracle and we learn this best from the hidden miracles that occur in the “darkness.”

Purim is the time when we can reach the ultimate level of emunah where despite the darkness we still see the “Hand” of Hashem. Similarly, running and marathons can help us develop this middah of emunah, the ability to dance in the dark. So this Adar, search for your sneakers to help energize your emunah and consider supporting Kav L’Noar and the RabbisCanRun.org initiative to help youth at risk and their families. You might just be inspired to go for a jog and soon you will be singing Mi’shenichnas Adar Marbim B’Marathons! v

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