Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The month of Kislev has rolled around again, which means that most people are starting to think about Chanukah. It is usually correct to assume that the holiday of the month should teach us the lessons we need to ingrain during this period of time. While this concept may be difficult when it comes to Chanukah (as the holiday straddles two months), let’s see if we can’t pull out a meaningful Kislev-related Chanukah lesson which can help us come closer to Hashem. Come; we have a way to go.

Chanukah is a difficult holiday to understand. We all know the story of the fierce war the Chashmonaim waged against the Syrian-Greeks in order to protect the Jewish way of life. We all know that following immense victories against all odds, the rededicated Temple menorah burned miraculously for eight days. But the part that is strange is the fact that we make such a big deal over the miracle of the flame. Granted, it was a supernatural feat beyond the capabilities of anyone other than Hashem. But aren’t we Jews already accustomed to miracles?


We saw the 10 plagues decimate Egypt. We saw the Red Sea part. We saw the heavens open up at Mt. Sinai and reveal the Creator Himself. We traveled with the Clouds of Glory, ate the mon, and watched the walls of Jericho fall at the sound of the shofar. We saw the sun and moon stand still at Givon and Ayalon. We saw ten daily miracles in the Beis Hamikdash. So why are we making a holiday over the fact that the flame did not burn out? What is so special about this relatively minor miracle?

In order to address this question, let’s take a detour and ask another question. Where has G-d gone? Now, before you stone me for my heretical question, let me explain. It is impossible to lose omnipotence. A human can gain power and lose power. But if one is all-powerful then it is absolutely impossible to lose any of that power. This is because weakening is something that only occurs as a result of some sort of deficiency. So where has G-d been for the past 2,000 years? We have the unbroken transmission from our fathers that G-d indeed made all the above miracles and many more. We saw His omnipotence and we therefore know that He still is omnipotent. So if He can’t get old then why haven’t we seen any open miracles since the story of Chanukah? Does Hashem no longer care for His people?

This question can be answered by gaining an understanding of the eras and phases we went through as a nation. We used to be a nation of prophets. The Jewish People were on a very high level. We were learned in the ways of holiness and were able to access the world of spirituality. However, Hashem always wants us to be challenged in this world, so the same ability to reach prophecy came along with the yetzer hara for idolatry. Great and holy people succumbed to a temptation we can’t even begin to understand – the desire to bow to idols.

Time went on and our level sank. The Sages saw that we could no longer stand up to the urge for idolatry so they prayed for that craving to be taken from us. They were successful, but the price we payed was that we no longer would be able to see Hashem with a clear revelation. No longer would the world of spirituality be readily accessible to us. The world which presented the urge to serve idols would be distanced, at the expense of prophecy and open miracles.

Now perhaps we can answer our questions. Of course Hashem still cares for His people and can still perform miracles. But until the Messianic Era we remain in the Era of Concealment where Hashem hides behind nature. This was the greatness of the Chanukah miracle. It is true that we have seen many great miracles throughout our history and perhaps they were indeed more dramatic than the Chanukah miracle. But they were during the Era of Miracles. By the time the Chashmonaim rededicated the Temple, the curtain had just been closed on prophecy and open miracles. The fact that there was an open and supernatural miracle during the Era of Concealment is definitely a reason to celebrate.

However, although we may have answered our questions, our work is still not done. Why did Hashem have to break the rules and make an open miracle in the Era of Concealment? What does Hashem want us to gain from this exceptional circumstance? Let’s take a look at the Ramban at the end of Bo where he discusses the purpose of open miracles. “[Hashem sometimes makes open miracles because] as a result of [seeing] the open miracles a person will come to [recognize and] admit to the hidden miracles… for a person must believe that all that occurs is miraculous. There is no [such thing as] Nature!” The Ramban is saying that we are supposed to use open miracles as the proof that Hashem is in complete control of the world.

I would like to suggest one more step. One might have thought that Hashem watched over us only back when we were worthy. But who says Hashem hasn’t turned us over to the natural laws of the world now that we live in the Era of Concealment? To discredit that thought, Hashem made an exception to the rule and performed one single supernatural miracle shortly after the Era of Concealment began. Hashem set the tone and informed us that even now He is in complete and total control. We are expected to use that one open miracle as a symbol by which we view every occurrence in our lives.

Now let’s turn back to Kislev. The mazel of Kislev is Keshes, which in English is called Sagittarius – the Archer. In what way is the Archer connected to the miracle of Chanukah and its attendant lessons?

Let’s turn to the Gemara (Bava Kamma 22a) which discusses who is obligated to pay for damages. The Gemara always takes in to account who owns the damager, who caused the damage, and how directly the damage was caused. The Gemara debates if a fire that somebody lit is merely called “his money” or perhaps is also considered “his arrows.” The underlying logic of the latter option is that in spite of the fact that the fire damages at a distance from the place it was released (as does an arrow), the action was still engendered by the one who lit it (as was the shooting of the arrow by the archer).

Now perhaps we can understand the significance of the flame-miracle that took place in Kislev. The Gemara said that a flame is an arrow. Just as an arrow must have been shot by an archer, the flame of Chanukah could not have burned for eight days without having been lit by the omnipotent Creator. Kislev is the time when we focus on the Archer until we recognize that everything in this world, indeed, comes from His hand. Have a meaningful Kislev.


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Shaya Winiarz is a student of the Rabbinical Seminary of America (a.k.a. Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim). He is also a lecturer, columnist, and freelance writer. He can be reached for speaking engagements or freelance writing at [email protected].