December 16, 2022

“Do you believe in miracles?” So many of us remember Al Michaels’ famous call as the clock wound down in the 1980 Olympic Hockey semifinal as the US beat the Soviet Union. (Ok so I was too young to remember it live, but I have seen replays of the event countless times.) Well, if you plan to celebrate Hanukkah beginning Sunday, of course you believe in miracles and the story of a miracle more ancient than the arguably the greatest upset in hockey history. Maybe the Maccabees pulled off the greatest upset in military history, who knows. It also begs the question, what was the greater miracle, the Maccabees defeating the Assyrian-Greeks and King Antiochus, or the oil found in the Temple lasting for eight days? Let the debate begin!

This debate is captured when you sing the two famous Hanukkah songs Mi Yimalel and Maoz Tzur. At the heart of Mi Yimalel, we find praise of the Maccabees and a call to rise up, harness the might of Judah Maccabee and his brothers, and redeem the people. In Maoz Tzur, we sing praises to God who will reestablish the Temple and who will rise up over the enemy. The text of Maoz Tzur likely dates to the 12th or 13th century whereas Mi Yimalel is more modern dating back to the last century and is a rewording of Psalm 106:2, which speaks of God’s mighty deeds. As you can see, the debate is not new.

So how might we find the answer in the 21st century? I suppose I turn to my own theology, which is deeply grounded in divine providence and might, and also reflects the personal strength each of us might bring to a situation. The source of our strength or resilience may come from an unknown place and that place, in my own theology, is the divine spark that lies within. It echoes the notion in our prayerbook when we read:

Prayer may not bring water to parched fields,

nor mend a broken bridge,

nor rebuild a ruined city.

But prayer can water in arid soul,

mend a broken heart,

rebuild a weakened will.

(Mishkan Tefillah, adapted from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel)

We pray to mend the tattered nature of our souls so that we have the will to move forward and use our hands to do the work that helps build bridges, plant seeds, and repair the brokenness in our world. In challenging moments, we need both, prayer, and deed. We need to pray to repair the brokenness of our souls and we need to work to repair the brokenness in our world.

As darkness falls on Sunday evening, we will light the Hanukkiah (Hanukkah Menorah). We hope you will join us at Dublin’s Bridge Park to light the Menorah together and to light up the Bridge which will be lit up for Hanukkah for the first few days of the holiday. You can also join a communal Hanukkah lighting with the JCC at Franklin Park Conservatory on Monday evening. As we behold the miracles of daily life, let us remember: there are many miracles we have the potential to create with our own hands that bring healing, light, and hope to so many in our world today.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah,