by Rabbi Arieh Friedner
First Night of Chanukah
December 12, 2017
A teen asked me recently to share my thoughts on the balance between the 2 great miracles of Chanukah; that Hashem helped us fend off the Greeks who wanted to kill the Jews who practiced Torah, and the lights that lasted 8 nights instead of 1. Below is my response and the link to a WhatsApp group that we formed from it to help people stay inspired throughout Chanukah. Please join us!
Click https://chat.whatsapp.com/AUeoHQgnVDdKivVM9wt4o0 to join the WhatsApp group, “Holy Lights”!
For me… right now… the idea that I’m focused on is that obviously the more apparent and important miracle was the fact that the Jews were saved. The Greeks wanted to kill us, or at least those of us who cared about spirituality. There was no logical explanation to the battles that the small bandits of untrained Jews won. If you saw the movie “Patriot” you can see an example of what it’s like for a small group of untrained but passionate people to win a fight against the many trained and mighty. This CAN happen… but only here and there. To happen the way it did against the Greek army fully equipped with weapons and elephants? If you look into it historically… it’s a huge miracle. And yet… we light candles to remember the miracle of the candles. And NO ONE SAW THAT MIRACLE. Just a few priests. The entire Jewish people didn’t even know that it happened – all they knew was that the Greeks didn’t succeed in killing everyone and the Torah hadn’t been destroyed. Why do we celebrate the miracle that A) nobody even saw and B) frankly… if it didn’t happen… it wouldn’t really have mattered… we would have just lit candles 8 days later when new oil was prepared. So who cares?
Because the miracles that matter to me are the ones that I don’t care if anyone sees or if anyone really believes me. I KNOW that Hashem is in MY LIFE. I feel Him. I see Him. I don’t need you to know or see how real it is for me. It’s my little light, it’s MY miracle. That’s what Chanukah is about.
We live in a world where everyone is skeptical about spirituality and if you don’t “prove” something then it doesn’t exist. Chanukah’s light shows you that if YOU have a candle, then you can see through the darkness – and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Hashem believes in you, Hashem loves you, and on Chanukah especially you should know that.
One thing I’m trying to do differently this year is to learn one thing or share one story with my kids RIGHT after lighting candles… so that the blessing of the candles can fall practically on some real tangible difference we hope to make in our lives every night. HAPPY CHANUKAH!
As an extension of this thought, I’m opening a WhatsApp group for the next 8 days called, “Holy Lights”. If you would like to join, let’s use it to share things that inspire us over the next 8 days of Chanukah: pictures of our candles, pictures of things we’re learning, or perhaps little ways that we see Hashem.