Miracle on demand

On Hannukah, we do the one thing that our sages caution us against the entire year – we ask for a miracle. We are generally cautioned by the Talmud, “do not depend upon miracles.” We are expected to judge events realistically, and we are charged to think hard about what our response to a challenge should be – and then we are mandated to act.

Hannukah is different. It is the only holiday centered upon an ineffable miracle – the burning of the Menorah’s lights for eight days, when there was barely enough oil to suffice for one. This miracle is re-enacted through our lighting of the Hannukiyah, and upon which we bless “she’asa nissim la’avoteinu, bayamim haheim baz’man hazeh” – “who has performed miracles for our ancestors, in those days and in this era.”

Our blessing that posits that we have miracles in our own time is, in effect, a prayer or even demand that they be provided. Isn’t this an easy way out of a predicament? Maybe there is an element of that in any prayer. But miracles are really only demanded on this holiday (and yes, maybe we should include Purim as well, but this blessing is said now for 8! days by all participants). It demonstrates our innermost, passionate desire that The Transcendent enter our often difficult immanent life and transform it; indeed for God to be manifest either openly or even hidden but still open enough for us to spy The Presence. The fact that we only demand and pray for this so explicitly on these days demonstrates that the rest of the year we are more reserved, keeping our rational mind screwed on tight. But Hannukah is different – we live in Hope and we Publicize that Miracle by lighting and sharing and delighting in those Lights.

Confronted by the enormity of COVID-19 and its tragic circumstances, we desire the miracles of healing and of survival. To this we are all desperately committed. But the core miracle that Hannukah celebrates – the miracle of the Hannukah light – points to a truth deeper than a military victory alone. For the true miracle of Hannukah was that, after so much destruction and despair, hardship and heartache, the Maccabees and the people did not give up. They decided to kindle the Menorah once again with a pure oil, in order to produce a pure light.

For a society to endure and prevail, it must kindle that pure light in the hearts of its citizens. And that is why the rabbis mandated, so long ago, that in the dead of winter every home should display the Hannukah light, which proclaims the miracle of faith and solidarity against all odds.

At Yashrut we kindle a particularly powerful light. The light of Yashrut is the light of Torah, burning in an environment of justice, integrity and commitment. The Yashrut light evokes the Jewish value of the utter preciousness of the human created in the Divine image. And this miracle we proclaim as our ancestors did thousands of years ago.

Yashrut is driven by pursuit of justice, commitment to human dignity and love for yiddishkeit. We utilize and embrace traditional Jewish teachings to develop new thought leaders and change agents who can inspire change, invigorate humanity and enhance civil society. At Yashrut we are fueling the light of Torah and restoring moral integrity in Judaism. Join us proclaiming this blessing and kindling this flame – the miracle of solidarity, spirituality, study and service – to burn ever brighter. Happy Hannukah.

About the Author
Rabbi Daniel Landes is founder and director of YASHRUT, building civil discourse through a theology of integrity, justice, and tolerance. YASHRUT includes a semikhah initiative as well as programs for rabbinic leaders.
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