By Rabbi Raymond Beyda
The eight days of Hanukkah are a set of Holy Days not written in the Torah
at Sinai. There were two times in history that the sages of the generation
discerned that miraculous events of their day should be set as days of
celebration for subsequent generations so that the miracles that they
witnessed would be commemorated by future offspring. One was the miracle
of Queen Esther’s success in saving her people establishing Purim and the
other was the victory of the weak, the few and the righteous over the
Greeks who sought to assimilate us into their culture that is now Hanukkah.
What is it about Hanukkah that made the Rabbi’s feel the lesson should
never be forgotten?
After a difficult guerilla war against a mighty foe the Jews were again in
control of the Holy Temple – The Bet Hamikdash. They cleaned out all idols
and other items that defiled the holiness of the sacred place. They did
not, however, have any spiritually pure oil with which to light the
Menorah –a daily ritual of our Kohanim. The light represented our Torah
and the G-d given wisdom by which our people live and prosper. The people
were eager to restore this ritual to its proper – pure – status.
Miraculously a pitcher of sealed oil was found that could light for one
day. The debate was as to how the Kohanim should treat this new found
treasure. Should they wait until new oil could be produced – that would
take eight days? Should they divide up the oil and light a little each
night not to lose continuity even though the lights would not burn the
required time on any of the nights? The decision, however, was to light
all of the oil that they found on the first night. We, they reasoned, must
do our best with what we have, and tomorrow we will see what transpires.
No matter what the circumstances WE MUST DO OUR BEST. The rest is the well
known result of their decision. The oil that should have been consumed by
the flames in one night lasted eight nights until new oil arrived.
There are two ways that miracles begin. The Zohar explains that a miracle
usually starts with –it-a-roota- dilelah- awakening from above. Hashem
sees a need for a miracle and he initiates the process. The other way is
called it-a-roota diltata – awakening down below. The people do something
special that arouses – so to speak - Our Creator and prompts action above
on our behalf.
The reason the Greeks were able to dominate us was our weakness and lack
of self-sacrifice in our service to Hashem. To awaken us Hashem sent an
enemy that did not destroy our Temple and did not want to annihilate our
people. He sent a nation that defiled all that we held holy and wanted our
people to assimilate to their ways. When we entered into battle – at risk
of our lives – with little hope of success – but with a desire to sanctify
the name of G-d – He responded with a military victory that was nothing
short of miraculous. But a war can be analyzed and a miracle explained
away. So Hashem provided with another opportunity to see the Divine
message. Not enough oil- what will you do? We will do ALL that we can to
do the mitzvah as best we can with what we have was our response. That
dedication to perfect enthusiastic service to Hashem awakened the Heavens
on our behalf and the oil lasted miraculously for 8 days.
The message of the Menorah clarified beyond a doubt that the war was also
miraculous – not to be explained away by cynical analysts.
That would be a lot but more so we initiated the miracle below by our
desire to do the best we could that first night. It is message to all
generations. Dedicate yourselves to Torah and mitzvoth. Do all that you
can as best you can. Self-sacrifice is the buzz word that prompts divine
assistance. If we get the lesson clear and act accordingly we could see
new miracles that outshine the miracle of the war and the lights speedily
and in our days – Amen
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Raymond Beyda and Torah.org.