Miracles and Faith – Thoughts on Hanukkah

For many years, I have been trying to understand the rationale behind celebrating Chanukah. Surely, it was a big event at the time. Restoring our holiest place to its glory. It was (and is still, even as we now have only one wall!) the place many feel closest to G-d. (In fact, even non-Jews experience a special holiness when attending the Kotel Hamaaravi).

Anyhow – the outcome of this great event did not last more than a hundred years. After which the Beit Hamikdash was sadly destroyed, and it has not yet been rebuilt.

So, what are we celebrating?

On reflection. Chanukah makes (to me) a lot of sense, and I would like to share.

Hanukkah commemorates two events. Firstly, the exceptional success in the Hasmonean uprising, which is considered a “נס נסתר”, or “Hidden miracle”. The smaller, weaker Hasmonean army waged a full scale  war, so their victory was not an “open” miracle. However it was miraculous insofar their numbers, equipment and training was in no comparison to the Greek empire forces stationed at the time in the Land of Israel.

Then came the more “open” miracle, in which the little oil canister meant to be sufficient for one night, made it to light the Menorah for a full eight days.

Chanukah has therefore become the “turning point” from a period in which we were at times shown the ultimate power of Hashem, via “open” miracles, onto the period (which continues to date) in which we have to open our eyes to see how nature is peppered with “hidden miracles”, but nothing as open and visible as the split of the red sea…

Indeed, people often wonder as to why we are not meriting seeing such “open” miracles as in the old biblical times?  Wouldn’t it “comfort” us, and strengthen our faith?

We might look at it from a new perspective and perhaps realise that there is no need for these exceptional episodes nowadays. 

When we look back to the biblical times, real knowledge of the creation was extremely limited. Anatomy knowledge was all but non-existent. Never mind any real understanding of the complex nature of our body. Little did anyone know about how mankind or anything else functions?

Today, we know a little more (and will probably discover much more as time progresses.)  Enough to appreciate that the force which created this astonishingly complicated nature, is omnipotent.

(Frankly, even those believing that the world has started some time ago… with a bunch of Unicellular amoebas… have to consider that a  force which is able to create a “one cell” creature which could then develop into a thinking human being, is…. almighty.

And so, it becomes plausible that „open miracles” were “needed” to strengthen religious belief, when humanity had no real clue about nature. At this moment in time faith, in principle, is a “no brainer”, if we are intellectually honest.

Happy Chanukah!

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld