Chanukah: When the Lights Go Out.
Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17 )
I wish the Chanukah lights will leave an imprint on the mind, heart and soul. I wish they could linger like the flash-bulb of a high-end camera that inevitably leaves some dizzying impression on one's eyes. But barring a miracle, the lights will not be there to greet me in the morning. The leftover wicks will be. The Chanukah decorations will be (until they are stored away 'til next year). Don't get me wrong. There's still plenty of Chanukah left. But how can we hold onto the Chanukah inspiration after the holiday is over?
Perhaps one approach can be found in five words which we utter every single morning, afternoon and evening towards the end of our Shemoneh Esrei. "And for Your miracles that are with us every day." Perhaps this commonly-overlooked phrase can serve as a suitable "spiritual suitcase" to store away the inspiration from Chanukah.
Though we are rarely (if ever) privy to open, super-natural, sea-splitting-esque miracles, we are frequently (if not constantly) privy to closed, behind-the-scenes, easy-to-overlook miracles. Health. Wealth. Peace. The precision of the sun. Babies being born. And somehow there are enough eggs on the planet to feed 7.6 billion people. Miracles? Yes. Anyone really excited about them? Few and far between.
Chanukah teaches us to see the hand of God in the unfolding of "everyday life." We all have that one gadget (or two) that is really so unpredictable that we invariably find ourselves uttering some personal plea to Hashem. "Please, help the car start." "Please help this phone charge" as we try to tilt the phone left, right and center so it aligns with the plug. That pen that's almost out of ink. That printer that's on its last legs. Are we going to institute an 8-day Yom Tov over any of these seemingly mundane events - for sure not. Could one find Hashem in them, however? You betcha.
I'll leave you with one Chanukah "miracle." There is a certain young Torah scholar who generously gives of his time and wisdom week-in and week-out to help me understand concepts in the Talmud. As a (very small) token of appreciation, I intended to give him a couple of bucks accompanied with an elaborate and meaningful written expression of thanks. Alas, (perhaps you can relate), I never got around to inking the note but when I saw him in the yeshiva parking lot I gave him a few bills and wished him a Freilichin Chanukah.
A few days later I saw him again and he asked, "How did you know?" "How did I know what?" I responded. "Well, my wife had driven up to yeshiva because she needed cash for the baby sitter. She didn't have any cash on her and figured that I did. I also didn't have any money on me at the time. Lo and behold, while we were figuring out what to do, you came along out of the clear blue sky and shoved some money into my hands. It's unbelievable."
The amount was not substantial. It wouldn't cover his water bill nor a new tire on the well-traveled family mini-van. But if one wanted to, it wouldn't be too difficult to find the Hand of God in the equation. Now, was it that big a deal? Is there world peace? No. Is the rent covered? Probably not. Is the babysitter paid? Whew. Thank God.
May we all merit to find whatever frequency possible to capture as much of the Chanukah miracle as possible and download it in such a fashion that we can re-capture it as the post-Chanukah chapters unfold. If one wishes to see nature, happenstance and coincidence, there is no shortage of opportunities. However, for the one who strives to see - and thank - Hashem "for Your miracles that are with us every day" the lights of Chanukah will never be extinguished.