Thursday, December 29, 2005

Hanukkah: The Miracle of Spirit

Even more powerful than the "political" Hanukkah story of the Maccabees defending their faith and freedom, there is the spiritual Hanukkah story of the miracle of the oil. When the Jews rededicated the Temple, they lit the menorah which is supposed to burn continuously, even though they only had enough consecrated oil to last one day and it would take a week to prepare more. Miraculously, the small supply of oil burned a full eight days. Thus today, when we light the Hanukkah candles, we say a blessing to G-d "who performed miracles for our ancestors in days of old in this season". That a small amount of oil lasted much longer than it should have was a miracle. It was also a symbol for the spirit of the Maccabees, who lasted through battle after battle, against vastly greater numbers, when no one rationally would have expected it: the miracle of the victory of a faithful few against a mighty tyrant.

As I light the candles, I think not only of those particular miracles of enduring spirit and light, but I think of all of the miraculous spirits who have lit and who continue to light our world. How many stories have we heard of people who faced personal hardships, natural disasters, debilitating illness, or tyrannical oppression, and who amazingly endured, tapping some hidden strength, an inner well of miraculous oil, to carry them on long past when reason would have expected them to be exhausted and quit. The man who loses his home, his family, and everything he's built in a hurricane, but returns after the storm waters subside to the arduous work of clearing out the muck and starting to rebuild. The woman who was gang-raped by men of her own village for a crime committed by her brother, and who faced down the ire of her family, her village, and her people to challenge a vicious and unjust tradition. People like these, and many others whom we may never hear about, these are all "Hanukkah lights".

"Baruch atah Adonai eloheynu melech ha'olam she'asah nisim l'avotaynu b'yamim haheim b'zman hazeh v'asah nisim l'anu b'yamim hazeh ub'col hazmanim."

Let us bless G-d not just for the miracles done for our ancestors in days of old in this season, but for the miracles done for us in these days and in all seasons.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your insightful comment. I see you posted it 9 years ago, and no one wrote a response. Sad, because your insight was beautiful. I'm not a Jew--I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a Mormon), but our family celebrates Hanukkah every year, and we love it for the spiritual message and Spirit of the holiday. Really, quiet beautiful and powerful to/for us as a family. Thanks for adding to our Hanukkah this year (2014) by offering your wonderful insight. Blessings upon you, friend. Alonzo