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Emerging from the Mine

October 13, 2010 | by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

Appreciating the surge of joy at Camp Hope.

As I watched the video of the Chilean miners, emerging one by one from their tiny rescue pod, I couldn’t help but imagine that I was witnessing a birth.

Chilean Health Minister Jaime Manalich announced that each time a miner comes out, a siren will sound, as if to herald the arrival of a moment as joyous as a baby’s entrance into the world.

The folks in Chile are strangers whose language we don’t speak and whom we will never meet. Why does this story have the whole world riveted? Why do we care so intensely about them?

I believe it is because deep down, we all appreciate the tremendous value of life. Each individual is precious and beloved, an incredible reflection of God.

And that is why the Chilean government used every resource to save the miners. Experts came from around the world – survivalists, dieticians, psychologists, specialists from NASA, and drilling experts from a dozen countries. Nobody questions the decision to spend untold millions to rescue the 33 men.

Which leads to an inescapable conclusion: If we share the joy over the rescue of these 33 miners in Chile, then let's strive to feel that same joy over the 6 billion others with whom we share the planet.

In the 48 Ways to Wisdom, Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt”l suggests a tool for gauging our love of others. How do you instinctively react when a stranger walks into a room? Do you feel a surge of warmth, or is your first response to hold back? Are you anxious to discover what he's all about, or do you feel distant?

The antidote to pulling back from that connection is to realize that no matter how obnoxious another person may be, he still has tremendous virtues: an intellectual creature, with free will, created in the image of God.

Rabbi Weinberg suggests that we start treating everyone with more care and respect. And anytime you encounter a difficult person, try thinking, “If this was my long-lost sibling or child, how would I respond?”

The Joy of Life

The miners’ rescue is instructive in a very personal way as well, by raising the question: Do we feel enormous joy over the very fact we are alive?

Rabbi Nachum of Horadna, in describing the level of joy any person should feel, presented this scenario:

If God came to a dead man and said, "Rise from the grave and rejoice," imagine the colossal joy he would feel. Every moment with his family, every bird chirping, every breath is another gift!

We should strive for that same feeling all the time, said Rabbi Nachum of Horadna. Every morning when we get out of bed, we should thank the Almighty and feel the spectacular joy of being alive!

In a desolate patch of Chilean desert dubbed Camp Hope, all of humanity was sent a clear message: Human life is infinitely precious. Every life, every moment.

“As he comes out,” the mother of 33-year-old Victor Zamora Bugueno told CNN, “he will be reborn.”

Now let’s take that energy and live.


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