From wow to the no less than miraculous

Mitzvot and brachot are meant to teach us to appreciate being alive and active in the world that G-d gave us.

Phil Chernofsky ,


You can pack away the Chanukiyot, leftover candles, wicks, and oil, dreidels, puzzles and other Chanuka 'stuff', but Chanuka's many messages need to stay with us.

To be sure, there are many lessons; our focus is on one. (Maybe two, if...)

Lest's start with the famous Beit Yosef's Question: A one day supply of oil lasting eight days means seven days of miracles - why is Chanuka eight days.

There are literally hundreds of answers; let's look at one of them - and not even one of the major answers.

True, there were seven days of the above-nature miracle of a one day supply lasting seven days more than would have been expected. But it is a miracle of a different kind that oil burns in the first place.

Miracle? That's what oil does. What kind of miracle is that? The answer is, it is the miracle we call Creation or nature. It might not get the oooh and aaah of a flashy miracle, but it is no less miraculous.

Just because olive oil will burn whenever we 'ask it to', doesn't mean that it is not miraculous. Stick a wick in orange juice and try lighting it.

In fact, for the eight nights of Chanuka we commemorated the above-nature miracle of the Oil by lighting olive oil (or wax candles). Perhaps we can say that what does one have to do with the other - unless they are both (the Menora's lights on that first Chanuka week plus, back in 3622 - two thousand one hudred fifty-seven years ago - and the candles we all lit so very recently) miraculous?

The main character in Anton Chekhov's short story, The Bet, expressed his disdain for human beings by suggesting that we would be amazed if suddenly apple trees or orange trees were to bear frogs and lizards, but we fail to be amazed that they bear predictable, delicious, nourishing fruit.

Chekhov's character was sadly right about human nature, but Torah and mitzvot try to have us rise above human failings.

How angry was HaShem (so to speak) when we complained about the Manna which miraculously fed us throughout the wandering in the Midbar. Our mistake. We should have appreciated it every single day and thanked G-d for it.

And the same goes for the bread which we bake (or buy) which is no less miraculous. The Chanuka message - we might suggest, is whether it is LECHEM MIN HASHAMAYIM or LECHEM MIN HA- ARETZ - they are both wonders of G-d's World.

This goes for remembering fondly G-d's kindnesses of Splitting the Sea when He took us out of Egypt, as well as appreciating the oceans and the seas - which do not split, but provide us with minerals and fish and much more.

Mitzvot and brachot are meant to teach us to appreciate being alive and active in the world that G-d gave us.