Men praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City during Chanukah. (Miriam Alster/Flash90) (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
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Each year on Chanukah there is a power in the air that we breathe, which has the ability to help us “rededicate” and emerge victorious in the personal battles we face on a daily basis.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

One of the prayers recited on Chanukah is “Al Hanissim,” Hebrew for ‘On the Miracles.” It is recited during all three of the daily prayers as well as as in the Grace after meals. The prayer makes mention of the miracles that God performed for us “in those days, at this time [of year].”

There is also a line in which we thank God for all the wars!

Wait a second…. We’re thanking God for sending us wars??! Thanks very much, but I think we’d be better off without wars. Why are we thanking Him? And what does “in those days, at this time” mean?

The most prominent item in the observance of Chanukah is the oil used for lighting the Menorah. Oil in Hebrew is “shemen,” which is an acronym for three of the most fundamental mitzvot (Torah commandments) in Judaism: Shabbat, circumcision, and marital purity.

The Maccabees insisted on using pure oil for the lighting of the menorah and the rededication of the Holy Temple in order to eradicate fully any trace of the Hellenism that the defeated Greek soldiers had left behind, which almost destroyed the Jewish people.

The Maccabean army was essentially composed of 13 rabbis leading a small number of poorly trained, unprepared soldiers against the powerful Greek military. There was no logical way that the Maccabees could win. Things looked bleak.

The Zohar, the primary work of Kabbalah, teaches that evil “grows” and gets its nourishment from the negative energy and despair of people. When we contemplate giving up or “throwing in the towel,” we strengthen evil in the world.

Although the Maccabees were up against all odds, they knew they were fighting for a just cause, namely, the freedom to be Jewish.

They had faith in God, and God gave them the strength to persevere. They didn’t throw in the towel; they fought, they won, and they became an even greater nation.

This is why we thank God for the wars on Chanukah. No, we don’t want war, ever. But when war is forced upon us, and we come out even greater than before, we give thanks.

We didn’t ask for the 1967 Six Day War, but when it was forced upon us, and Israel emerged four times its size, we gave thanks.

Remember that even though the Chanukah story took place “in those days,” we are able to tap into their victories – and their growth – “at this time.” Jewish holidays are not museum pieces to be admired or merely remembered. They are to be re-lived!

Each year on Chanukah there is a power in the air that we breathe, which has the ability to help us “rededicate” and emerge victorious in the personal battles we face on a daily basis. Be sure to tap into that potential!

Chanukah articles

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