Afew weeks ago, we marked the second anniversary of the Har Nof Massacre — five pure neshamos brutally taken from us in a makom kadosh, during davening, H”yd. It made me think back to the personal miracle that occurred in our family on that terrible day by the simple(!) act of a taxi coming late.
Early in the morning, like every other day, my father ordered a taxi to take him to shul. My father is particular not to arrive late for a minyan, so when the taxi did not arrive on time he went to a closer shul instead of on to Kehillas Bnei Torah where the attack took place. …
Our family celebrates our personal nes daily, but even more so on the date itself. The word nes, miracle, is also used for a flag, teaching us that we must display and publicize a personal miracle. For example, when passing the place where a personal miracle took place for us we should say “Baruch she’asah li nes bamakom hazeh.”
Each Yom Tov which is given to us has a particular meaning, reminding us of something special that happened to us which we must remember forever. Pesach, our personal freedom; Shavuos, receiving the Torah, our lifeline; Sukkos, reminding us that there is constantly Someone hovering and watching over us.
Chanukah celebrates Hashem’s nissim, miracles. “V’kav’u shemonas yemei Chanukah eilu l’hodos ul’ehalel leShimcho hagadol.” On Chanukah we commemorate the victory of the Chashmona’im, vastly outnumbered and outpowered, as well as the miracle of a little bit of oil burning for eight days, a break in the laws of nature.
But Chanukah reminds us of more than just these two nissim. We say each day in the brachah of hodaah, “v’al nisecha sheb’chol yom imanu,” thank You, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, for allowing us to personally experience nissim. Chanukah reminds us that a nes can take place with something small and “ordinary” and when least expected. Additionally, the nes may well be far more removed from the so-called “natural” scheme of things than it appears to be.
The Beis Yosef asks the famous question: Why do we celebrate Chanukah for eight days when the miracle occurred for only seven, as there was enough oil to burn for one of the days al pi teva? One answer is that one day of the eight is the celebration of Hashem’s wondrous creation: that oil in itself has the capacity to burn! The additional day is intended for us to recognize and celebrate something we tend to take for granted, but which in reality is a goodness bestowed upon us by the ultimate Tov u’Meitiv.
The Gemara relates that one Erev Shabbos, Rav Chanina Ben Dosa found his daughter crying as she was about to light the Shabbos candles. Asked why, she responded that instead of the oil she meant to purchase, the vendor had sold her vinegar. Now she had nothing with which to light the Shabbos candles. Rav Chanina told his daughter that there was no reason to cry. The same Creator who ordered oil to burn can order vinegar to burn. And her vinegar burned!
We don’t even realize the extent of the “miracles” that fill our lives daily. To combat this, Chazal have placed mention of them into our tefillos. Hodaah, giving thanks, also means admission of being beholden. We acknowledge and admit that there is only One who is bestowing every wonder and goodness upon us on, every single day.
We are all gebentched with many many brachos — with families, parnassah, refuos — the list of Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s chassadim goes on and on. How much of it do we take for granted? How much have we come to expect, to feel entitled to?
The word nes is related to nisayon. We are given nisyonos, tests, as opportunities to connect with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. He wants not only our tefillos, but also for us to realize where the yeshuah comes from when our prayers are answered.
The test as we celebrate the nes is to understand and appreciate its implications. We must wave that flag, advertising to all that it is He, the One Above, who got us through a trying time. It is He who creates the refuah and gives the parnassah and all the other things big and small in our lives.
The lights of Chanukah remind us of the many and varied nissim that occur in our own lives.
Let us fly the flag of our personal story in praise of Hashem for His miracles, and merit to see the fulfillment of “V’sa neis lekabetz galuyoseinu” in our time. n
Rabbi Saul Emanuel is Executive Director, Jewish Community Council of Montreal.