As the rains that started during Cheshvan continue to nourish the land of Israel, the temperatures begin to drop. Daylight hours dwindle away and the long, dark nights of Kislev begin. One cannot help but naturally feel slightly melancholy and glum during the winter seasons. Thankfully, God has given us many reasons to rejoice during this season.
On the 25th of Kislev, the anniversary of the rededication of the Temple is celebrated for eight days. This festival is customarily known as Hanukkah. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have remembered the miracles God performed for the Maccabees. They were not only able to stand up to the persecution of the Syrian-Greeks, but were also able to rededicate the defiled Temple. A frequent phrase heard during this season is "nes gadol hayah sham," a great miracle happened there.
Though this has been a time-honored celebration by the Jewish people, the earliest attestation to the celebration of Hanukkah is not from Josephus or the Mishnah, but the Gospel of John. In John 10:22-42, the Master was present at Temple in Jerusalem during Hanukkah. Just like his previous visit during Sukkot, the crowds were eager for him to announce his kingship as the Messiah. "If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly" (John 10:24).
Relating to the story of Hanukkah, the Master points out that he had already told them, "the works that I do in my Father's name, these testify of me" (10:25). For both the Maccabees and the Master, the presence of God's miracles signified his approval of their efforts. Both sought to uphold the true standard of Torah in the face of opposition. For the Maccabees, Hellenist Jews and Syrian-Greek persecutors opposed them. For the Master, unbelieving Pharisees and Sadducees challenged his teaching of Torah and the Kingdom of God.
In both situations, the miracles were present for all to see. Unfortunately, miracles do not produce faith; they sustain faith already existent. In the days of the Maccabees, the Hellenists refused to remain true to Torah. In the days of the Master, the unbelievers refused to believe in the One sent from the Father.
The same is true in our day. Miracles are there if one chooses to recognize them. The Amidah prayer expresses it this way: God's miracles are "with us every day" and his wonders and favors are "in every season." Yet, many ignore the miracles that sustain us day in, day out. It takes great faith to acknowledge miracles.
This year Hanukkah comes quite early. The holiday is celebrated for eight days, with candles being lit every evening before the next day, until all nine candles of the Hanukkiah menorah is lit on the final day.
May your Hanukkah be filled with the remembrance of the miracles in the lives of our forefathers, the miracles present in our daily lives, and most of all, the miracle of salvation made available through the Messiah!