Chanukah Miracles by Aviva Meshwork


Aviva Meshwork is an educator, writer, and Trip Director for the JWRP. Originally from Toronto, she now lives in Israel with her husband and 4 children.

I’m no journalist, but I imagine that if there were newspapers during the times that the Chanukah story took place, the headlines would have read a little something like this; “The Few Against the Many! The Miracle of the Defeat of the Syrian Greeks."

And the article following could have been something like this: 

After long-standing abuse and ideological persecution of the Jews by the Syrian-Greeks, and followed by a long waged war in an effort to end said situation, the small Jewish army (the Maccabees) have miraculously come out triumphant! After several years of guerilla warfare together with complete perserverance and dedication to sanctifying the name of G-d, the rag-tag Jewish army, at its peak numbering no more than 12,000 men, have toppled the Syrian-Greek empire’s army of roughly 40,000 soldiers. What we have seen here, in addition to a strong sense of idealism and moral fortitude, is a military defeat that cannot easily be explained. Some may even call it a ‘miraculous’ victory. The Maccabees, originally formed by idealist Mattisyahu and his five sons (including Judah who later became the General before he fell in battle) had a specific mandate – to rid the land of Israel of her enemies, and bring back the awareness of G-d’s glory to the world. After a nearly 25-year war they accomplished this, albeit with great loss to their own.  Nonetheless, they were able to drive out the mighty and well-equipped invading army from their land and regain the ability to serve G-d in freedom from ideological coercion and religious oppression.

Not bad for a wanna be journalist from ancient times!

I am confidant that most ‘newspapers’ of that time would have reported on the improbable outcome that was. Forty thousand battle tested soldiers against twelve thousand laymen? Well-trained combatants on elephants (the battle tanks of the time) willing to die for the glory of their Empire, fighting against poorly equipped, idealistic guerillas fed up with the corruption and moral/ethical down turn that pervaded? While this certainly was a brutal war to the bitter end with many battles fought and tens of thousands of casualties, any honest reporter would have been remiss had they not written about the many unnatural occurrences that took place in order to have contributed to such a defeat.

Now, let’s fast forward and take a look at current events.

It is hard to resist drawing parallels between the plight of the Maccabees and the miraculous events that have taken place in recent battles fought by the modern state of Israel. Since the creation of the modern Jewish state, we have seen a continued effort by other armies to conquer the land and defeat the Jewish army in battle. In modern times, this battle has even extended to other forums including social media, the UN, mainstream media and more.  

A quick look at today’s news reveals the onslaught of terrorism that Israelis have been dealing with for months now – a seeming continuation of the war that was fought two summers ago between Hamas and Israel. Our many enemies around the world choose to use weapons including rockets, knives and cars to kill us directly, in addition to ‘soft tactics’ like BDS/boycotts, lies and slander.

Much like the twenty-five year war the Maccabees fought and won, this long war will too eventually be won. Just as there was miracles then that helped us defeat our enemies, so too there are undeniable miracles happening today. For those with eyes open, the ‘Hand” of G-d is once again supporting the Jewish people in battle as we engage our enemies in a war for our survival.  

The headlines say it all.

“Iron Dome Operator: G-d Moved Missile we couldn’t Hit” and, “A Week of Intifada Miracles in the State of Israel” are just a few of the amazing stories that have been told of Divine intervention in our modern day battles. The following quote is from a once non-practicing Jew who had the merit of witnessing a real life miracle:

"A missile was fired from Gaza. Iron Dome precisely calculated [its trajectory]. We know where these missiles are going to land down to a radius of 200 meters. This particular missile was going to hit either the Azrieli Towers, the Kirya (Israel’s equivalent of the Pentagon) or [a central Tel Aviv railway station]. Hundreds could have died. We fired the first [interceptor]. It missed. Second [interceptor]. It missed. This is very rare. I was in shock. At this point we had just four seconds until the missile lands. We had already notified emergency services to converge on the target location and had warned of a mass-casualty incident. Suddenly, Iron Dome (which calculates wind speeds, among other things) shows a major wind coming from the east, a strong wind that…sends the missile into the sea. We were all stunned. I stood up and shouted, ‘There is a God! ‘I witnessed this miracle with my own eyes. It was not told or reported to me. I saw the hand of G-d send that missile into the sea.” Israel Today, Sunday August 3, 2014

But what exactly is a miracle? In Hebrew, the word for miracle is נס (ness), which means something that is raised or elevated, like a flagpole.  So therefore a miracle is an elevated event – an occurrence that is above the ordinary type, something supernatural.  Since G-d is the Creator of all things, including the natural order of the world, it is only G-d who can act above it, making a natural experience become supernatural.

It is important to state that Judaism is not a miracles based religion but rather it is based upon what G-d has commanded us in the Torah. To clarify, we do believe in miracles, but we don’t believe and therefore do what G-d has told us to just because of them. While we do believe in miracles, we don’t use them as proof of anything. Being a Jew is not contingent on miracles and one should never think that one deserves a miracle just because they exist. 

A reading of older headlines from other wars including the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War document countless other miraculous events that ultimately led us to victory. A testament to this is that several of Israel’s wars are excluded from the military teaching curriculum at America’s West Point Military Academy because they simply don’t make sense and follow no known military or tactical logic.

I can’t tell you why these wars have taken place, nor why we continue to have to fight them today. That answer is far too big for my shoulders. However, I can confidently say this – miracles are happening all around us every day, all the time. You don’t need to look hard for them, you just need to tune in to the right frequency and they will become self-evident. Chanukah was a documented event of open miracles, of the Divine ‘Hand’ of G-d saving the Jewish people and we are seeing the same thing again today. May we continue to merit to see G-d's greatness in the future!

Happy Chanukah!

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