Hanukkah is a great time to talk about miracles. A miracle, by definition, is something that according to the laws of nature isn’t supposed to happen. So for example, if at the end of the eight days of Hanukkah I’ve only gained two pounds or less, that can certainly qualify as a miracle.
A Matter of Perception
But more seriously, how do you define something as “defying the laws of nature?” And if something defies the laws of nature, is it only defying the laws of the nature that we know, or the laws of all of nature? Because if it did, then what law caused that miracle to happen? If you showed a person living in the 18th century that you can touch a tiny switch on the wall, and the whole room becomes illuminated by a device that by all accounts is disconnected from the switch, that would easily qualify as a miracle. But we all know it isn’t.
So a miracle is an event that defies the laws of nature that we know. That is, if we learn new laws, perhaps what seems miraculous today will seem obvious tomorrow.
The world as we know it operates according to a very simple law: the stronger one wins and the weaker one loses. On all levels of nature, balance is kept by the fact that the stronger ones take only what they need for their sustenance. But on the human level, people take what they need in order to satisfy their need for superiority. The result is an unchecked war among people, fear, alienation, exploitation of people and the environment, and if we don’t stop, the eventual collapse of human society and the entire ecosystem that supports it.
Harmony Provides the Key to Our Sustainability
Today we already know that life on Earth would not have evolved had it not cultivated balance and harmony among the elements that comprise its ecosystems. But for some reason, despite our awareness of this fact, we cannot implement it on ourselves. Although we know we aren’t, we act as though we’re not subject to the laws of nature. We are behaving as if we may take what we want simply because we can. And we not only treat nature this way; this is also how we treat each other.
Definition of a Miracle
So a miracle today would be if we could work not for ourselves, but in favor, or at least in balance with the society we live in.
Most Untapped Jewish Resource
This is where we, Jews, come into the picture. I’d like to suggest a fresh viewpoint on the war between the Maccabees and the Greeks. The real miracle of the Maccabees was not that a tin contained enough oil to light the menorah for eight days, but that the Maccabees were able to find the strength within them to unite and fight off the Hellenistic culture of self-indulgence.
Of course, in the long run, the Greeks won. Today we’re all hedonistic to the core. But are we happy? It seems that the element of unity, of social cohesion, is the missing element in our lives. That is, we have enough to live on, but not enough to live for. Because if we’re only living for ourselves, then who do we share it with? And then, what fun is our hedonistic victory?
Unity Sustained Us
Prior to the ruin of the Temple, the Jews had the gift of mutual guarantee and unity. That unity sustained us and enabled us to keep strong. Once we lost it, we lost the land of Israel, as well. Today we need unity not as a means for reestablishing sovereignty over a piece of land; we need it in order to survive! In fact, the whole world needs it in order to survive. If we maintain our hedonistic attitude toward life, we are damning ourselves to Hell on Earth. But if we embrace unity instead, there is plenty for all of us.
Jews Hold the Key
Only we, Jews, have the key to this kind of unity, because only we had ever experienced it. Back in the days of the Maccabees, we were a society based on mutual guarantee that was formed at the foot of Mt. Sinai, and that mutual guarantee was reinforced after each feud. Now we must rekindle it and share it with the world. The world will not find it until we reawaken it and pass it on. This is what it means to be “a light unto nations,” and no time is better to start giving the light of unity than the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah.
May We Unite
So Happy Hanukkah, and may we all unite and share our unity with the entire world.