The miracle of the oil occurred precisely because the Jewish people were deserving of it. Rather than waiting for Divine intervention, they took action.
In an interview with United with Israel, Yitzchak Reuven, multimedia director for the Temple Institute’s international department, explained that the universal message of Chanukah is to be proactive for the benefit of humanity rather than waiting for a miracle to occur.
Chanukah is a celebration of two miracles.
First, a small band of Jews triumphed over the powerful Syrian-Greek army.
Next came the famous miracle of the oil: Following the military victory, the priests went to light the menorah at the Holy Temple, where they found enough pure olive oil to suffice for one day only. It lasted, however, for eight days, during which time the Jews managed to produce more.
Reuven believes that the miracle of the oil occurred precisely because the Jewish people were deserving of it. Rather than waiting for Divine intervention, they put extreme effort into fixing the situation and refused to forego the commandment to light the menorah.
As time went by, the nationalistic spirit that inspired the Jewish heroes of that time, who fought a very bloody war against forced assimilation, was lost, and the military victory was de-emphasized and replaced by a focus on the phenomenon of the oil, Reuven said.
“The purpose of the mitzvot (commandments) is to do them,” he asserted.
It is this principle that motivates the Temple Institute to be proactive and prepare for the building of the Third Temple.
A little-known piece of history, Reuven pointed out, comes from a Talmudic source and the Books of the Maccabees, according to which the menorah and the incense, following the military win, were actually missing from the Temple upon the priests’ return. They built a replacement with iron spikes, the story continues. Over the years, as money was more readily available, they replaced the metal menorah, first with a silver one and later with gold.
“If you don’t have the gold, you can make it out of another metal,” Reuven stated, citing Jewish law. “The one used by the Hashmonaim (Jewish dynasty of the time) was made out of iron.”
According to a number of traditional sources, he added, Hanukkah is observed for eight days because eight pieces of metal were found.
The meaning of the word “Chanukah” is “dedication,” and the holiday was thus named to commemorate the re-dedication of the Holy Temple, which according to the Prophet Isaiah, “will be called a house of prayer for all mankind.” A current re-dedication to this fundamental principle would be appropriate, Reuven said.
By: Atara Beck, Senior Writer, United with Israel
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