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Chanukah has come and gone, and so have the donuts, the latkes and the celebration of the two amazing miracles that took place at that time. The first, of course, was the successful revolt of a ragtag group of religious Jews against the physical and spiritual presence of the Hellenist Greeks in the land of Israel. The second was the lasting of one day’s supply of oil in the Temple for eight days.
These miracles are not something to think about for just one week during the year. They should be on our minds daily, for they offer a life-enhancing lesson that we should take to heart.
This lesson is simple. Do not let the facts on the ground ever deter you from trying to reach a goal.
It might be amusing for some to discover (like I did) that this message of trying, despite the “facts” staring at you, was often brought forth in the popular science-fiction series, “Star Trek.” It would seem that in just about every episode, the chief engineer of the spaceship exploring the galaxy would be ordered by the captain “to get us out of here.” The spaceship would be in imminent danger of being destroyed by an exploding asteroid, swallowed up by a space monster the size of a planet or trapped forever in another dimension – unless it quickly went to warp speed and zoomed away.
Often the captain would tell the chief engineer that he had about three minutes to repair the warp drive. And the chief engineer, in a reproachful voice, would tell the captain that he needed at least 30 minutes and that he “couldn’t change the laws of physics.” But he would always try, and he always succeeded.
Of course this was television, and a happy ending was necessary for the show to continue. But the lesson here is the one we can glean by examining the Chanukah miracles that describe two situations that, on paper, seemed hopeless and thus not worth trying to do something about.
The first revolved around a group of outnumbered Jews fighting to oust their enemy. The Greek army had a large, well-oiled fighting machine. It’s likely Matityahu, the leader of the Jewish freedom fighters, must have repeatedly been warned not to even think about fighting the Greeks.
Similarly when it came time to light the menorah in the Holy Temple and there was only enough oil for one day, the opinion of most might have been, “don’t bother, the flame is not going to last – so why waste what you have?”
However, like the fictional chief engineer on the spaceship, Matityahu did not let logic or the laws of nature stop him from trying. He did not let the extreme odds against success hold him back from “going for it.”
And neither should we. The road of life is full of potholes and seeming dead-ends. Faced with these damaging bumps in the road, or barriers and obstacles indicating that the journey is over – and that any attempt to continue is futile – there is the temptation to just accept the yoke of the status quo. The lesson of Chanukah, however, is clear. Do not give up; do not let the “facts” stop you from trying to change what seems to be cut in stone.
Many years ago, while flipping through a newspaper looking for the comics, I came across the obit page. Most were a few lines, so when I saw a rather lengthy piece, I glanced at it out of curiosity. It started with the words, “eighteen years after being given six months to live, the family sadly announces the passing of…” It went on to say how this man in his upper 40’s, having far exceeded medical expectations, had outlived some of his doctors. Obviously, this man did not allow the “experts” dictate to him what his future would be. Despite the “facts on the ground” he fought – just like the Maccabees.
So, too, must we not let “reality” stop us from trying to attain our heartfelt goals. There are many individuals who have been told that they are terminally ill, will never have children, will never walk again, or that their child will never be functional. Yet they or their loved one are alive and well, having achieved the supposedly impossible.
The act of trying is itself a kiddush Hashem – an act of extreme faith. When attempting the seemingly impossible, you are expressing your belief that there is a Master of the Universe, who is above the laws of physics, nature, biology, etc. Hence, He can execute miracles. All He requires is that you take the first step.
At the end of the day, since all is in Hashem’s wise hands, the true measure of your success will not be in the attaining, but in the trying.