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Christian Friends of Leket Israel

Rabbis discuss Hanukkah

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During the eight days Jews will include the Hallel, Psalm 113-118, in their prayers. Rabbi Pesach Wolicki explains why, 

“Psalm 117 speaks of all nations and all peoples praising and exalting the Lord for His kindness to the people of Israel. While this may not seem to many people today to be such a radical concept, think about it historically. Without going into the well-known details, it’s worth noting that the history of the relationship of the nations of the world to the people of Israel has not been very positive. 

More to the point of these verses, when was there ever a time when members of all nations and all peoples were praising and exalting the Lord for being so good to the Jews? To someone reading these verses a few centuries ago, such a reality would have seemed far-fetched at best. In our day, of course, this prophetic vision is becoming a reality. There are, in fact, millions of members of the nations and peoples who praise and thank the Lord precisely for this: His abundant kindness upon His people Israel. Each and every one of us must be humbled when considering that we live in times when seemingly impossible Biblical prophecies have become commonplace facts of the day.”

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

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We often associate the miracle of Hanukkah with the military victory, or the unexpected abundance of oil. However, the Jewish tradition points to another miracle:

When the Maccabees entered the sanctuary, they saw it was desolate and empty (I Maccabees 4:38). Even if they had enough oil, there was no menorah to light! How did they solve this problem?

The Talmud (B Menahot 28b) describes the solution: The Maccabees took seven spears, and planted them into the ground. They covered the handle with metal, and lit the back end of the spear with the oil and the wicks. With this, they solved the problem of not having a menorah to light.

To me, this miracle of Hanukkah speaks to the power of ingenuity, and making do with what we have to solve the problems before us. It is a way of relating the miracle of Hanukkah to the miracle of modern Israel. We often forget that not long ago, the land of Israel was an arid desert with little infrastructure and no natural resources. Today it is a technological and industrial superpower. The story also speaks to the potential of transforming weapons of war into instruments of light. This final message of hope is a universal message that makes Hanukkah so cherished by the Jewish people, and all good people, over all over the world.

Rabbi Jared Grover

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