Miracles. That is what the holiday of Chanukah is all about. The triumph of
the weak over the strong. One day's worth of oil lasting for eight days.
Miracles are events out of the normal course of everyday life. The B'nai
Yisaschar's explanation of the nature of miracles illuminates the
of our holiday celebration.
The Hebrew word for miracles is "Nes." The B'nai Yisaschar defines a "nes"
an action, from G-d, that is supernatural. The word "nes" also means the
sail of a boat. The sail of a boat towers over the boat from above. The
enables the boat to move along, to travel in a path. A miracle is an
display of G-d's divine providence. G-d's providence directs the movement
our lives, and keeps us on the paths we have chosen. When one looks up at
billowing sail of a boat, one can see that there is a force controlling
way the boat is traveling. When a person experiences a miracle, it becomes
clear that there is a force controlling the direction of his life. The
of the word "nes" to encapsulate the meaning behind a supernatural
occurrence should not be lost on us.
The word "nes" is a short one. It is composed of two letters: "nun" and
"samech." The Talmud (Berachos 4b) writes : Rav Yochanan says: Why is
no "nun" in Ashrei (Psalm 145, which is arranged alphabetically, except
the verse beginning with the letter "nun" is missing)? Because the fall of
Israel's enemies (euphemistic for Israel) begins with it, for it is written
(Amos 5:2): Fallen (which in Hebrew begins with "nun") is the virgin of
Israel, she shall rise no more. . . .Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak says: Even
David refers to it by divine inspiration and promises them an uplifting,
it is written (Psalms 145:14): Hashem supports (which in Hebrew, begins
"samech") all the fallen ones.
The letter "nun," as the Talmud states, represents downfall, suffering, and
misfortune. The letter "samech," which in the alphabet, and in the word
"nes," follows "nun," represents uplifting, salvation, and redemption. A
miracle, a "nes," is the combination of these two elements: we are faced
trials and tribulations, and our situation is perilous. Yet, through divine
providence, a supernatural occurrence rescues us and provides us with
salvation. The word "nes" is a reminder of the ups and downs in life and
role that G-d has in our lives.
Chanukah, as the prayer Al HaNissim recites, celebrates the delivery of
strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, . .
. the wicked into the hands of the righteous. This victory sent a message
that resonates until this day: our victories and successes in life, while
brought to fruition through our efforts, are truly a result of divine
providence. When the odds are against us, we can still prevail. When we
have reached a point from where we believe we can go no lower, when our
situation is dire, we should not despair. Salvation can come. A one-day
supply of oil can last for eight days. Small bands of ordinary people can
defeat trained warriors in battle. Miracles can happen. It is up to us to
recognize them and appreciate them. Merely reflecting on the meaning of
word for miracle can enhance that appreciation.