Torah Tidbits

22 August 2014 / 26 Av 5774
Issue 982
Issue 982- Shabbat Parshat Mikeitz - m’vorchim
December 22, 2011

Lead Tidbit

Unifying the Obvious and the Subtle

In analyzing the Chanuka story, we usually point to two different occurrences: The victory of the Chashmona’im over the Greeks and the miracle of the oil. The latter is considered an open, obvious miracle - a one day supply of oil lasting for eight days. The former is viewed as a successful military campaign by a small band of guerrillas over a large organized army - which some short-sighted people see as a natural occurrences without divine assistance and others - Traditional Judaism - as a hidden, subtle miracle made of a combination of human effort and G-d’s helping hand. According to Jewish Tradition and Practice, Chanuka celebrates both the victory and the oil with an 8-day festival, the saying of Hallel on each day and the lighting of the Chanuka lights on each night. The additional prayer in the Amida and in Birkat HaMazon - AL HANISIM - seems to highlight the victory and the mitzva of NER CHANUKA seems to highlight the miracle of the oil.
The total picture, though, is two distinct events that combine to be the cause of celebration. The Jewish People were saved from assimilation, Judaism was saved from extinction, some amount of autonomy was restored to Israel at the midpoint of the Second Commonwealth (second Temple period), service was restored in the Beit HaMikdash, Jewish Life was relieved of Greek oppression and returned to open practice.
The consensus is that the victory of the Chashmona’im was the life-saver and the miracle of the oil was G-d’s stamp of approval on the events that led to the victory.
As an analogy to the point of this Lead Tidbit, let’s look at one of the answers to the famous question: If there was a one-day supply of oil that lasted 8 days, then there were seven days of miracle - so why celebrate for 8 days? Dozens and dozens of answers have been offered - some far better than others. Books and sections of other books have focused on this question and its many answers. We will not do justice to this question here - because that is not our goal. We’ll just look at one answer - but remember, it is an analogy for a greater point.
Yes, it is a miracle that a one-day supply of oil lasted for 8 days, but it is a miracle (of a different type) that a one-day supply burns for a day, that oil burns at all. Take a lemon, squeeze its liquid into a vessel. Insert a wick in the liquid and light the end of the wick. Nothing. The we can take the oil from an olive and it burns beautifully, giving us a clean bright light - this is a miracle. Sure, most people call it Nature, but all of nature is miraculous. Since it happens all the time, people tend to call it something else - nature - but that does not detract from the fact that all of nature are the miracles created by G-d. The manna which fell from heaven to feed Bnei Yisrael for almost 40 years was a miracle. Is the fact that we can plant a seed in a hole in the ground, water it, nurture it, cultivate it… and eventually harvest a stalk of wheat whose kernels can be ground into flour and that flour can be kneaded with water and other ingredients and then baked into a delicious nourishing loaf of bread, not a miracle? LECHEM MIN HAARETZ is just as miraculous as LECHEM MIN HASHAMAYIM. Maybe greater?
The mitzva to kindle the Menora in the Beit HaMikdash every day displays one of G-d’s miracles every single day. For years and years. And once, about 2200 years ago, a one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days. Which is a greater miracle?
Don’t answer that!
The point is that G-d runs this world in various ways. Laws of nature were created by Him together with all the components of nature. The point is that G-d occasionally violates the laws of nature and performs an open miracle - when necessary. The point is that G-d works with nature, subtle miracles that can be seen as almost natural, that can be seen as the successes of human efforts, and the occasional obvious miracle. The point is that these are not separate from each other. They are all part of the way G-d interacts with this world. He is not just the Creator, he is the Master of the Universe with continuous supervision.
So there are not two different Chanuka miracles that we commemorate and celebrate. There is One G-d whom we thank for the many miracles, wonders, victories, salvations… which He does throughout Jewish History.
There was not just seven days of miracle - men of deep understanding (B’NEI VINA) fixed an 8-day holiday because eight represents nature plus going beyond nature. And that is the whole story.

In This Issue of Torah Tidbits

Candle Lighting and Havdala

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