Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Meaning of Hanukkah
To dedicate this lesson

Was the song "Ma'oz Tzur" written for Chanukah?


Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon

On the one hand, Ma'oz Tzur refers to all the exiles, and as such could be equally appropriate for Purim or Pesach. On the other hand – the first verse ends with a mention of "Chanukat ha'Mizbeach" (the dedication of the altar), which seems to indicate a more specific connection to the festival of Chanukah itself.

This link, however, may not be quite so definite. Ma'oz Tzur describes the hope and anticipation of complete salvation, the pinnacle of which is reached only by the re-building of the Temple. Therefore the mention of "Chanukat ha'Mizbeach" may very well relate to redemption generally and not to Chanukah specifically. In any case, we Jews have adopted the custom of singing Ma'oz Tzur on Chanukah (while a similar idea is reflected in saying "Ve'hi She'amda" on the Seder night and in the post-Megillah-blessing "Harav et Rivenu" on Purim).

The reason for this may be that the salvation of Chanukah is concealed. Thereafter our history, for thousands of years, is one of latent Divine Providence. At times, this makes it difficult to see Hashem's supervision when examining an individual event. But by appraising Jewish history as a whole – the Exodus from Egypt, Purim, the many wars that we have had to fight, etc. – as a revelation of the Divine Hand – we are able to understand that Divine Providence was at work on Chanukah, too. The message from the events of Chanukah to future generations reads loud and clear: Seek Hashem everywhere, even in the darkest, most hidden corners, for He is there!

This message of faith must follow us to the present, to events taking place in our time. It is certainly difficult to see Hashem's Hand in the tragic expulsion from Gush Katif, and the suffering and distress in its wake. Nevertheless, Divine Providence can be found in the return of some 3,000 of the wonderful people of Gush Katif to gainful employment – thanks to the help of our many partners. We have also been privileged to feel Hashem's enormous guidance and help with further Chessed projects which grew out of Jobkatif: Achotenu - for the Ethiopian community, Ta'asuchayil – for impoverished soldiers and Taasukati – professional career and employment guidance for sidelined population sectors.

Please G-d, we will continue to work to light the way for others – and to enable them to discover the great light within themselves.

Happy Chanukah!!
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