Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 23 November 2013 / 20 Kislev 5774

Chanuka - In These Times

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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“For the miracles, and the salvation, and the mighty acts, and the victories, and the battles which You performed for our fathers in those days ― in this time.”

On Chanuka we light candles and recite prayers to publicize the miracles wrought by G-d, saving us from death and destruction at the hands of the Greeks. The two miracles mentioned in connection to the holiday are: the military victory, and the lighting of the Temple Menorah which remained lit for eight days with enough oil for only one day.

What is the connection between these two miracles, and what is the significance of eight days?

In general there are two types of miracles — one that transcends nature entirely, and one that takes place within nature. The basic difference between them is that the first cannot be denied by those who witness it, while the later can be. This was the case with Chanuka. The nonbelievers denied the miracle of the military victory. The miracle of the oil, which was clearly from G-d, was meant to show the nonbelievers that G-d was behind the miraculous salvation of the few and weak over the mighty Greek army.

Seven and One

The number seven represents the nature of this world which was created in seven days, while eight represents a level above nature. The miracle of the military victory which happened in a natural way is represented by the number seven. The lighting of eight candles represents the drawing down of G-d’s Divine light, which is above nature, into the seven day cycle of the world. According to the above, the eight candles should be viewed as seven and one. Each day we light the candles we draw down G-d’s light which is above nature into the world, resulting in the manifestation of G-d’s providence that transcends the limits of this world without breaking the laws of nature (Lekutei Halachot).

In Those Days ― In This Time

The miracles of Chanuka, which took place during a time that G-d’s countenance was hidden from us, are meant to remind us of G-d’s constant presence —a lesson for all generations, showing us that G-d is with us even in exile, protecting us from harm. In fact, the prayer we recite proclaims this very fact.

The phrase “in this time” alludes to G-d’s continuous performance of miracles for us in every generation. Even when the miracles are hidden within nature, when we look at our lives with faithful eyes we will often see the hand of G-d working behind the scenes. Sometimes it is only after we are saved, like in the story of Chanuka, that we are able to see just how G-d was there all along helping us to succeed.

With a little faith and a simple shift in perspective the cry “G-d is nowhere” will become ― G-d is now here!

Happy Chanuka!

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