We must start over every day, and sometimes many times each day.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
Chanukah, which comes from the Hebrew word for “dedication,” is a beautiful holiday of lights. During winter, the darkest time of the year, we light up the nights in remembrance of days long ago.
Chanukah was a time of miracles, but we must not forget that the Chanukah of the present can be another time for miracles. While we sing our songs, light the candles, and share the story of the nes, the miracle, that occurred over the course of these eight days, we must remember that such a miracle is possible again, even in these times, if only we rededicate ourselves to avodat Hashem, Divine service.
On this night we recite the immortal words:
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.
In those days, at this time? This would appear to be a contradiction. I have not studied the commentaries on this particular bracha (blessing), so I cannot say that I understand these words correctly, but when I read them, it seems to me that we are saying that the same God who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days can also perform miracles at this time. Not just in those days long ago, but in our time. Right now.
The word for miracle, nes, is related to the Hebrew word nesayon, test (or trial). We all undergo many trials and tribulations in this world. Each of us has many burdens to bear. We contend with adverse circumstances, we have emotional struggles, we are battered by traumas and pain. Yet it is through these trials that we may truly know ourselves and, by that extension, God. By facing challenges, by rising to the occasion, we uncover hidden reserves of strength and come face to face with our truest selves, with our souls. And coming to know our souls, which are a piece of God Himself, enable us to cleave closer to Him. We are made in His image; in other words, the truest characteristics of our souls are actually an image of God Himself.
By coming closer to God, we are opening a door for unprecedented miracles in our lives. When we cleave to God, when we strive to invite Him in, not only do we become more aware of the miracles which are already in our lives, but we will invite more and more in.
So we get up every night, we light the candles, we sing about the miracles of days long ago, and we do this every night for eight nights. We do this without fully grasping that we can – and already do, on a daily basis – achieve miracles right now. We fail to see that the struggles in our lives are simply doorways to miracles.
Nevertheless, we must, without fail, get up and start over every day – and sometimes many times each day. We must try, every single day, to rededicate ourselves to God. We must strive with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our means to bring the light into the world, no matter how dark it may be. Even if we’ve fallen a hundred times that day, we must always rededicate ourselves to truth, to light, to God. We may grow frustrated, we may feel disconnected, and we may stop seeing the miracles in our life. But nevertheless, we continue. Regardless of the depth of the fall, we must rise and banish the darkness, and rededicate ourselves to our God. For it is in rededication, no matter how destroyed our Temple or our lives are, that we will see miracles.