Al HaNissim / Chanukah

Al HaNissim (for the miracles) is passage added to the Amidah and the Grace After Meals (Bentching) on ChanukahPurim and Israel Independence Day. In it we offer thanks and credit God with the miraculous event being celebrated on those holidays. On Chanukah the prayer refers to two different miracles.

First it discusses the military victory over our enemies. There are a couple of points to keep in mind. The crdit for ththe military victory is given much more to God that to the Maccabee-led military (probably guerilla) effort. It refers mostly to the Greek occupiers as the enemy but the last couple of passages, especially the victory over the rashim (evil doers) by those concerned with Torah, make it clear that there was also a civil war betweens religious obsevance and idolotrous assimilation.

The second, an in the minds of many more important miracle, was the burning of a very small amount of oil for eight days, the reason the holiday is eight days long. The importance of   this event goes, in my mind, beyond the simple eight days. To me, the concept of light in this context is the dual light of religious teaching whether ritual of ethical, and the light of freedom of thought and religion.

Chanukah is a fun holiday, but also has some serious concepts behind it. Eat, laught, sing and rejoice – but also remember the imprtant signifgance, socio-political and spiritual of what we are celebrating.

Chag Urim Sameach