(by Binyamin Zev Kahane, written in 2000)


What was miraculous about the victory of Chanukah? Any child in

kindergarten knows that the miracle was the shorthanded, weaker Jews

defeating the numerous and powerful Greeks. Indeed, it is an historical

fact that cannot be denied. But our teacher and rabbi, Rabbi Meir Kahane,

z"tl, sought to delve a notch deeper into the miraculous victory of the few

against the many, and by doing so, resolve a famous question regarding



The "Miracle Within The Miracle"


Rabbi Kahane would say: Remember, before the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks and Hellenists took place, there was the actual war itself. When the Maccabees went out to battle, they had no feasible chance of winning. Not only were the Jews fewer and weaker than the well-oiled Syrian Greek war machine, but amongst the Jews themselves, only a sparse few went out to battle under the command of Yehuda Maccabee and his brothers. And so, to enable such an inconceivable victory to occur, there had to be, first of all, a few "crazies" who dared to rise up in arms against this invincible empire!


Here, Rabbi Kahane would say that the essential miracle of Chanukah

was not the war victory, but rather the very fact that a few Jews realized

that "things just cannot go on this way", arose, and with immense faith in

the Almighty, declared war on the superpower of their day. For given the

fact that they were able to miraculously overcome their awesome enemies,

PRIOR to that miracle they surely did not know that the Almighty would

perform the miracle for them. Nevertheless, they went out. That in itself,

the Rav would say, was an act of immense courage, "the miracle within the



God Controls the Laws of Nature

But where does the "miracle of the oil" come into play? Let us ask the

question differently: There is some confusion concerning the reason we

celebrate Chanukah. Do we celebrate Chanukah to commemorate the oil that

was sufficient for only one day, and continued to burn through eight days,

or are we celebrating the war victory? It is clear that the essential

miracle of Chanukah, its real central theme, is not the miracle of the oil.

Indeed, the special Chanukah prayer, "Al Hanisim", coined by the rabbis,

does not even mention the miracle of the oil. The theme and heart of

Chanukah is the concept mentioned in "Al Hanisim", of "rabim b'yad m'atim",

"the many ("Syrian Greeks) who fell into the hands of the few (Jews)." And

the very miracle of the oil represents that concept, i.e., the little oil

able to "overcome" the many days and continue to burn. The miracle of the

oil symbolizes how God controls the laws of nature: Just as oil sufficient

for one day can burn for eight, if He wills it; so, too, are numbers

irrelevant when Am Yisrael goes out to war.


By the same token, just as we said that the miracle of the war victory

was the very fact that Jews went out to battle in the first place, so, too,

the oil symbolizes "the miracle within the miracle". After all, in order

for the meager quantity of oil to last for eight days, there had to be Jews

who lit it in the first place - Jews who were not discouraged from the

outset; Jews who did not say: why bother lighting the candles of the Temple

if they are going to go out anyway?  No. You do your part, with the means

available to you, and Hashem will do His part. "Open for me an opening like

the point of a needle, and I will open for you gates like the gates of the



The Question of the "Bet Yosef"

Now we can ask the question posed by the Bet Yosef (Yosef Karo): There is a

source which says that the length of the holiday of Chanukah is eight days

because oil that was sufficient for only one day, lasted eight. The Bet

Yosef asks: Why eight days? Since the oil was naturally sufficient in

itself to burn for one day, the miracle was actually only in the additional

seven days that it continued to burn. In reality, therefore, in order to

commemorate the "miracle", the rabbis should have established a holiday of seven days.  Various and varied reasons are given. Rav Kahane says: Indeed,

we celebrate eight days because the first day was a miracle as well. It

commemorates the very fact that they dared to go out to battle! The very

fact that they dared to "light the candle". That's also a miracle, "the

miracle within the miracle". 


The Holiday of Our Times

Chanukah is not a children's holiday of "dreidels" and donuts. It is a

holiday that is meant to rekindle our trust in the Almighty, to reinforce

the understanding that when Jews go out to battle in an obligatory war with

faith in God, they come out victorious, even if they are the underdog.


Chanukah is the holiday for these days. Days when masses of Arabs arise

against us, and Hashem stands at our side. But what happens when the

official Jewish leadership from left to right is overcome with fear,

crippled by lack of faith and thereby incapable of action? Then the torch

is passed on to the few. It is passed unto those who are ready to cling

onto Eretz Yisrael at any price. And then the day comes in which they are

told by the non-believers: "If you are not ready to pull out, that's your

choice. But deal with the enemy by yourselves. Because we are afraid, we

have no faith. You claim that you have faith?! Fine - let's see what you

can do."  And those precious few, inspired by a pristine faith in the

Almighty, will arise to repel the enemy.


Those with Jewish vision foresee the Maccabean war in our generation. In

this war, at least at the outset, only a few will take part. Those Jews of

rock-solid faith in the God of Israel, who sincerely believe that God is a

loyal defender of His people Israel - they will be an example to the

multitudes who will eventually follow. "In those days, at this time".




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