RABBI MICHAEL GOTLIEB
Do you believe in miracles? Do you pray for them, live your life based on them? When you think about it, believing in miracles should be second nature to us Jews. That we have existed and thrived for as long as we have indicates to me at least, miracles exist. Or, better yet, the fact we Jews continue to exist, and continue to contribute to the welfare of the world, might actually be a proof for God’s existence.
All that aside, if we hold to the biblical description that human beings are made in God’s image then all of us have the potential to become God’s partner in bringing about miracles. Furthermore, if we believe we can bring about miracles—the invention of human flight; the discovery of antibiotics; the pursuit of cures for dreaded diseases; music; math; technology; literature and so forth, then, by logical extension, we should not depend solely on God’s grace.
How we choose to engage, how we allocate our resources, and the choices we make are all-important factors in our lives and the lives around us. The operative word is engage. We need to engage in the effort, along with God, to bring about miracles. A joke is told of a person who constantly prays to God to win the lottery. After months of wishing and praying, God finally appears to the person and says, “I understand you want to win the lottery, but don’t you first have to buy a ticket?”
The historic holiday of Hanukkah, at its core, is an example of the divine [miraculous] partnership between God and us. After the Maccabees’ military victory, the defiled Temple in Jerusalem was restored to its original sacred glory. The rededication of the Temple, along with the miracle that has come to define Hanukkah (the rabbinic story of a container of oil lasting eight days) would have been impossible had it not been for the unrelenting determination of a handful of Jews who simply engaged.
So important was their engagement, had they not engaged, the Hellenists would have prevailed. The upshot? No resistance to the Greek-Syrians, no reestablishment of the Temple, no Judaism and Jewish People—no miracle. So, as we light our Hanukkah candelabras this month, let their fiery glow remind and inspire us to engage in God’s world. By doing so, we reconfirm our partnership with the divine, a partnership that supports and encourages us to bring about miracles on our own.