“And [we thank You] for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time...” Excerpt from Al Hanissim, the special Prayer of Gratitude recited by Jews during Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights
It is with infinite Gratitude that I bow to the Almighty to write the following text. I thank Him for all His Light and His Miracles, for me and my family. I pray to Him intensely to shed His Light, His Blessings, and His Miracles, for my people and the peoples of good will in this world. With Grace, Eliana Benador
By Eliana Benador
“And they established these eight days of Chanukah to give thanks and praise to Your great name.”
- from the Al Hanisim prayer
This, is the love story between a people, the Jews, and the Creator of the Universe, to whom we have been connected even before we existed.
The Torah, our miraculous book, where Jews affirm the Word of God is written, is the innate source for the eternal wisdom of our sages. Everything under the sky appears mentioned there. Thousands of years ago, names of countries were mentioned in it before they even existed, France, Germany, Spain, and many others.
Incredulous may dismiss it, but the Torah is the ultimate book of wisdom and of learning there is. And, Jews, dutifully read it every week as we gather to read the portion of the week, undisturbingly, quietly, in our own spaces, the synagogues around the world.
The miracle of Hanukkah occurred approximately two thousand years ago. When the Greek Empire ruled over Israel. Governor Antiochus, decreed that no Jew was going to be allowed to practice the Mitzvot or commandments that appear in our Holy Book, the Torah.
The decree meant that Jews would not be able to keep Shabbat, eat kosher, circumcise their children, or celebrate any of our holidays as Pesach, Sukkot, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur,etc. Antiochus wanted the complete spiritual annihilation of the Jews.
The Hashmonaim, a family of Kohanim, the Jewish priests following in the footsteps of Moses brother, Aaron, served in our Temple in Jerusalem at that time. But, after Antiochus decrees, they were not able to perform the sacred duties required. The duty to light the “Eternal Light” – the Ner Tamid was one of these, since the oil used to light the Ner Tamid had to have the seal of the High Priest and could not be touched by strangers.
On the 25th day of Kislev 3591 (this is our year 5774,) the Hashmonaim with the help of the Almighty, overthrew the Greeks. They reconquered the Holy Temple and found pure oil to burn but it was not enough, not even for one full day.
Miraculously though, it lasted for eight days, until the Kohanim were able to procure more “pure oil”. The miracle of the oil and the successful military triumph over the Greek empire remain as testimony of the ever-lasting pact that exists between God and the Children of Israel. They restored their freedom to practice anew the Torah and their sacred religion.
They rededicated the Temple and renewed Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel. Once again the spiritual and physical survival of the Jews was assured for eternity.
Jewish sages recognized the importance of this miracle and declared the eight days of Hanukkah as “Days of Praise and Thanksgiving to the Almighty,” and instituted that every Jewish household must celebrate Hanukkah by the lighting of the Hanukkiah (or Menorah) for eight days, symbolizing the eight days during which the oil burned miraculously.
Celebrating Hanukkah in Geneva, Switzerland
During the eight days of Hanukkah, Jews in the homeland Israel, and throughout the world, follow the tradition of lighting their Hanukkah menorahs at the windows of their homes.
And in many other cities as well, on this occasion, Jews gather to publicly on one day of Hanukkah, to light those miraculous lights that tell their traditions and their love of God.
While there are detractors and enemies, we live are thankful for and respectful of those populations that welcome us in their midst. For, we survive and are here with a multi-millennia old history, not because we are physically strong, but because our strength comes from God Himself. We believe in God. We know God. And our only strength is God, the Doer and Giver of our miracles.
So it was also last night in Geneva, where the Jewish community at large was fully packed around our beautiful Hanukkiah, and, together, watched movingly as it was being lit.
The event, sponsored by Chabad Geneva, was magnificent. The hundreds of Jews who came from all corners, could listen to the words of wisdom of the spiritual leader of Beit Chabad, Rabbi Mendel Pevzner, speaking of harmony with and our thankfulness to the city and country that have welcomed the Jewish community of Geneva, for hundreds of years. Many chimed in to the tunes of Maoz Tzur, the thankful remembrance of God’s Miracles that have saved us into survival, millennia after millennia.
Rav Pevzner’s words: “Ensemble, illuminons le monde...” “Together, let’s light the world.”
The blessing that we recite while lighting the Hanukkah lights: "…Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to light the flame of Hanukkah." And, it is followed by “Al Hanissim”, with which we, again, give Thanks to God.
And, as tonight we begin our last day of Hanukkah, we, Jews, pray that the Light of God continue shining brightly over the peoples of good will around the world, from Hanukkah to Hanukkah.
Copyright ©Eliana Benador
Eliana Benador is a global strategist, a political operative and a human rights activist. She has been the founder of Benador Associates. She has represented dissidents abroad from Iraq, Iran, the Copts and others. Her blog isEliana's Choice. You may follow her on Twitter, join her fan page on Facebook and you may find her also on LinkedIn.
First published on the Right Side News on 4 December 2013