Quiet and loud miracles

Nature's miracles are quiet only because we are so used to them that we tend to expect them and we take them for granted.

Phil Chernofsky,

Giant Menorah publicizes Miracle of Chanukah
Giant Menorah publicizes Miracle of Chanukah
Israel news courtesy of Jacob Richman



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The most famous question about Chanuka is: If a one day supply of oil lasted eight days, then there were seven days of miracle - so why is Chanuka 8 days?

The question is known as the KUSHIYA OF THE BEIT YOSEF (R' Yosef Karo).
Feldheim recently published a book called Y'MEI SH'MONA with contains 500 answers to this question. On sale for 25NIS, that's 20 answers for a shekel - what a bargain!

But seriously folks - many of the answers suggested give one a lot of pause for thought. And that's probably the point.

If we have the room, we'll include a page or so with a selection of answers - but for this Lead Tidbit, we'd like to focus on one particular answer, and then take it further.

The answer can be expressed this way: True, it is a wondrous miracle that a one day supply of oil burned for 8 days, but it is also a miracle that oil burns so nicely in the first place. In other words, nature is no less miraculous than the flashy one-of-a-kind open miracles. Nature is just made up of countless quiet miracles.

Nature's miracles are quiet only because we are so used to them that we tend to expect them and we take them for granted. Which we should not do. In fact, when it comes to the Chanuka miracle of the oil, we can make an interesting and significant observation.

The miracles of the victory of the Chashmona'im were literally life-saving and nation-saving. The miracle of the oil was actually not necessary. Worst case scenario - the Chashmona'im would not have found any oil that was undefiled. Then they would have cleaned up the Beit HaMikdash and done whatever they could to resume parts of the Avoda that they could, and the rest - like lighting the Menora - would await a fresh supply of TAHOR oil. Not really a big deal.

Or if they had found the one day supply and it burned for one night, they would have been thrilled and excited. And then they would shrug their shoulders and wait for new oil.

The great thing about the Miracle of the Oil was, perhaps, that it was not necessary. G-d is committed, so to speak, to save us when we are in danger. But He did not commit Himself to perform miracles that we can get along without.

But He did perform the Miracle of the Oil - and in it we can see a Divine smile of approval of what the Chashmona'im had done. What the people had accomplished. That miracle is G-d's Stamp of Approval - and that was necessary.

But we digress. The point is supposed to be that the natural miracle of olive oil burning neatly and providing clean light is at least worthy of adding an extra day to the 7 that celebrate the open miracle of the oil.

Before we expand the point, let's add that most other big loud miracles were needed for our survival. The Sea needed to split so that we could escape the pursuing Egyptian chariots and that the d close to drown our enemy and tormentors. The water needed to be sweetened so we could drink. So too, the striking of the rock and the speaking to the rock. And the Manna provided sustenance and confidencebuilding of our relationship with G-d. But the Miracle of the Oil just allowed us to light the Menora a week earlier than without the miracle.

Now back to the point and its expansion from oil to everything.
Take a look at what we say before AL HANISIM on Chanuka and Purim in Birkat HaMazon:
We thank You, HaShem, for taking us out of Egypt, for giving us the Land of Israel, for the Torah You teach us, for the mitzvot that You command us to follow, for the food You feed us...

And look at what we say before AL HANISIM in the Amida: We thank You for our lives, for our souls, and for Your miracles which are with us every day, and for Your wonders and favors at all times - evening, morning, and noontime.

After those declarations of thanks which we say in every benching and in every Amida - then we add the specifics of the miracles of Purim and of Chanuka.

We don't only thank G-d for the military victories He helps with, but we thank Him for the rising and setting sun (and every moment of sunshine between).

Oil burns beautifully according to its miraculous nature - all the time, and then it wows us by burning for seven more days than it would naturally do.

The sea split once or twice to help us, but the sea is there always, with its tides and waves and sealife and minerals - all of which are miracles.

The message of Chanuka augments the message of our three times a day Modim prayer.
We need the everyday miracles and we need the once in a while miracles to remind us of how much we owe to HKB"H.

Let's finish with a word about Shabbat- Chanuka. The laws of Shabbat requires us to move Chanuka candle lighting away from its ideal timing - earlier than ideal on Friday and later than ideal on Motza"Sh. But that's okay. We should not consider Shabbat an imposition on our Chanuka celebration. Rather, by juggling our Chanuka candle lighting in consideration of Shabbat, we thereby draw Shabbat into the Chanuka picture. Yes, by singing L'cha Dodi to the tune of Maoz Tzur. Yes, by singing Maoz Tzur at the Shabbat table rather than at candle lighting. Yes, by the second Torah from which we read the Maftir for Chanuka. Yes by the Chanuka haftara that pre-empts the regular weekly haftara (which for Mikeitz happens to be one of the most famous stories from Tanach - Shlomo and the babies - which we actually read only about 10% of the time).

But its much more than that. If Chanuka reminds us of the miracles that G-d performs on our behalf, then so does Shabbat - even more so. Shabbat is our weekly reminder of G-d's Creation of the Wolrd and of His continuous role as Master of the Universe - Adon Olam. Shabbat is also linked to the Exodus from Egypt and the Sinai Experience. Did we have any more miracle-filled experiences than those?
But there is still more. One of the main targets of Greek oppression and persecution was their ban of Shabbat observance. The Chanuka victories and miracles gave us back Shabbat and restored Shabbat to its role as the eternal sign of the relationship between G-d and the Jewish People.

Do Shabbat and Chanuka clash? A tiny bit, which we handle quite nicely (but not without its disputes, such as which goes first? Havdala or Chanuka candles). The clash is small. The link between Shabbat and Chanuka is BIG. Both our Shabbat and our Chanuka are enhanced when we ponder all of the above.


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