Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal’s Chanukah Message for 2023

Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal’s Chanukah Message for 2023

For our annual Chanukah issue, we asked members of our community to share their responses.

Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal serves Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Buckhead.

Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal
Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal

Since October 7, each day has felt anxious as we wait learn of the developments in Israel. With the recent hostage releases and scheduled pause of the operation in Gaza, which starting on a Friday, it’s been another Shabbat of anxiety, waiting to see what news we will learn Saturday night, while trying to focus on the sanctity and celebration of Shabbat. It’s hard not to feel the spiritual and emotional connections between the world we are living in now and the struggle of our ancestors during Hanukah. There is an important lesson which resonates as we wait for our News app to load on our phones or the News agency to get to the top story.

Each night of Hanukah, we recite the same two blessings. The second blessing addresses the miracle that occurred for our ancestors. Regardless of which miracle this second blessing is addressing, either the military victory over the ancient Greeks or the oil that lasted eight days, it’s not clear if there was really a miracle on all eight of these days. If the miracle is for the military victory and re-dedication of the Temple, that took place on one day – the 25th of Kislev. So why recite for the remaining seven days? If the miracle is for the oil, enough found for one day but lasted eight, then why recite on the first night. Either way, we shouldn’t need to recite the blessing for all eight days.

This is the truth about miracles. Each time I open my news app in the morning, it’s OK to be a realist, knowing that war is brutal and painful. However, every day brings an equal chance of a miracle. Peace can come and human lives that we thought lost can be rescued and redeemed. We must be willing to mark the miracles even on days when we don’t think they can happen. Every day has a chance of being miraculous.

Laurence Rosenthal serves as the senior rabbi of Ahavath Achim Synagogue.

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