Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Reflections on Chanukka
To dedicate this lesson

…Who Help Themselves

What is Chanuka really all about? Does it revolve around the miracle of the oil lasting for 8 days instead of just 1?


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Kislev 27 5782
What is Chanuka really all about?

Does it revolve around the miracle of the oil lasting for 8 days instead of just 1? After all, that is what the Gemara in Shabbat answers to the question "Mye Chanuka, what is Chanuka?" And the fact that the rabbis instituted the lighting of a Chanukiya each night - with a bracha that pointedly refers to it as a Mitzva, on a par with a Biblical commandment – seems to reinforce that view.

But then, why is this miracle not referenced at all in the Al HaNisim prayer that we recite in honor of Chanuka both in the Amida & the Birkat HaMazon? All we speak about there, in a fairly long paragraph, is the military victory of the Maccabim over the Greeks, the "many delivered into the hands of the few?" Why no mention of the oil?

Let us, in our usual fashion, answer this by asking another question: What exactly did the Kohanim do when they discovered that 1 pure, un-defiled jar of oil? Did they put all the oil in the Menora, the Ner Tamid, & light it; or did they divide the oil into 8 portions & light that 1/8th each night, knowing it would take 8 days to get new oil?

Most opinions hold that the oil was indeed divided into smaller amounts. The reasoning behind this was that it was necessary for us to do something each night towards fulfilling the Mitzva, even if it fell short of perfect. For once we contributed & did our share, we could turn to Hashem & ask Him to do His share. Similarly, Elisha the Prophet told the poor widow of Ovadia to bring her small jar of oil & keep pouring it into numerous vessels in order to generate a large amount of oil. She, too, had to begin the process of the miracle, so that G-d could complete it.

There is a partnership between ourselves & Hashem; when we want to create miracles we must "join forces" & work together. This was the secret to both the miracle of the oil as well as the victory over the Greeks. Both were miraculous events, the war no less than the oil. We were heavily outnumbered – the Midrash even says - obviously exaggerating! - that we faced no less than 10 million enemy soldiers. But we fought nevertheless, & prevailed.

So in the 2 books we use regularly, the Gemara & the Siddur, this point is doubly emphasized, to drive it home. Do you want your field to blossom? Then plant! Do you want your funds to grow? Invest them! Do you want your children to learn? Then teach them! Ultimately, Hashem’s bracha will seal the deal, but only after we do our fair share as well. G-d, as you’ve heard, helps those…
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר