Sunday, December 17, 2006

The miracle of the first night

A classic Hannukah "kasha" goes like this: The oil that was sufficient for one day burned for eight. So the first night was no miracle; why then do we light for eight days and not seven? Many answers were given; I'll share one I heard from Rabbi Meir Kahane hy"d, which I am sure is not original with him. The miracle of the first night is that Jews came out to fight. It had been nearly 400 years since the Jews had last put an army in the field, and then they lost miserably. Since then they had been subservient first to Babylon, then Persia, then to the Greeks in their various incarnations. They no longer thought of themselves as fighters. Comes Antiochus IV with his determination to stamp out Judaism, and all of a sudden the Jews are prepared to take on the mightiest army ever assembled - never mind win! That - in and of itself - was a miracle! With God's help, in the end they did win, but not being nevi'im, they had no assurance of victory at the outset.
Bayamim ha-hem baz'man ha-zeh. We can hope for God's help, we can and should pray, but first we have to "come out fighting."
Happy Hannukah.

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