Thursday, December 25, 2008

Chanukah: The Holiday of Miracles

Yes, the holiday of Chanukah is upon us.  Tonight is the 5th night of the eight day holiday.  The holiday of gifts and giving.  Oops, wrong holiday.

I was wondering the other day if anyone would celebrate Chanukah if it didn't coincide with Christmas.  Now don't get me wrong.  I enjoy gift giving and for sure - gift getting, but this isn't what Chanukah is about.

It's about miracles.  Expecting the unexpected.

There are two types of miracles.  First is what I call the "obvious" miracle.  Something that you look at and say, "Wow, that's the finger of G-d!"

The other is the non-obvious miracle.  G-d also uses natural events to show us His involvement in our lives.  Chanukah has examples of both types - the obvious and non-obvious.

The obvious miracle is the miracle of the oil.  You may remember the story.  The Maccabees finish fighting the Greek-Syrians and return to Jerusalem to find the Temple trashed.  They needed oil to light the Menorah with and were only able to find enough for one day.  The Maccabees go ahead and light what they have and the oil lasts eight days.

The miracle of the oil is an open and obvious miracle.  We can see it clearly.

The next type of miracle we see with the success of the Maccabees over the Greek-Syrian army.  We celebrate the victory of the few against the many.  If we think about it, it's not that big a deal.  We've seen small armies beat large armies before.  But then if we think further about it and add a few more details it becomes more interesting.  These "few" were made up of farmers, teachers and everyday people.  The "many" was made up of professional soldiers.  The equation has shifted.  The miracle is made more clear.  Using the events at hand, G-d took the "few" and made them mighty enough to get the job done.

We're always on the lookout for the obvious miracles.  We want to see the sea split, see the lion lie down with the lamb, and have G-d speak to us personally.

What we don't notice are those not so obvious miracles that happen all the time.  We just have to notice them.  We also should appreciate them.

Think back over your day, or your week.  I think back even further a few winters ago when I spun out on the highway, doing a 180 and ending up on the side of the road facing into traffic.  When breaking the situation down, there are many parts to be thankful for.  First of all, that I didn't hit anyone else as I spun around across the other lanes.  Second, that I wasn't hurt in that accident.  Third, that my car wasn't damaged in any way and I was able to finish my drive home.

That spin out is not an "obvious" sort of miracle.  We could look at that and say what a lucky coincidence it all was.  I would say that it's important to recognize this for what it is... a tremendous non-obvious miracle.

Instead of looking for the in-your-face miracles, we should begin training ourselves to look for G-d in the smaller things that are always happening.  Hopefully not only during emergencies and difficult times, but also when things are going well.  Feeling good, appreciating what you have, and even those parking spots that open up for you right when you need them.

Miracles are something to be noticed.  Which means it's also possible to miss them too.  Chanukah is about miracles, both types.  Take a moment to think about the miracles that happen in your life.  If you can't think of any off the top of your head - start taking notice now, using Chanukah as a starting point.

Chag Sameach!  Enjoy!