TAKEN FOR GRANTED 

Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic 


During Chanukah we commemorate the victories of the Chashmonaim over their Syrian-Greek oppressors. The prayer of “Al Hanissim” added to the daily prayers of Chanukah was composed by Yochanan the High Priest in the year 3623, shortly after the second Holy Temple was dedicated. We also light the Chanukah lights during 8 days to commemorate the miracle of the small cruise of pure (not contaminated through contact with the dead) olive oil bearing the seal of the High Priest found buried underground—not within the Temple chamber of oils which the Greeks  had  all contaminated. As we light the Chanukah lights we recite the prayer “Haneiros Halalu” (these lights we light…). An obvious question arises as to the sequence in the text of this prayer. At the beginning of it we thank G-d for: (1) the salvations/victories (2) the wonders and (3) the miracles of Chanukah—in that order.  However, at the end we follow a different sequence: (1) the miracles (2) the wonders and (3) the salvations/victories. Why the change in the sequence of these three items? 


Let us first define these three terms: 

(1) Salvations/victories refer to battle victories involving two strong opponents, in which case victory can naturally go either way. 

(2) Wonders refers to situations which could be interpreted as natural and not necessarily miraculous, but which nonetheless do arouse a sense of wonder and wow! 

(3) Miracles are occurrences which are clearly supernatural. 

The opening section of Haneiros Halalu refers to the sequence of things as they occurred.  The story of Chanukah starts with the confrontation of the Greeks and the Chashmonaim in the small town of Modiin where Matisyahu and his family lived.  At this initial point the victory of the Chashmonaim was within natural confines, as the number of Greek soldiers in Modiin was not vast and the two sides were equally pitted one against the other. This was a victory within the natural order. Later on the Greeks regiments sent to Israel vastly outnumbered the Chashmonaim, so those later victories were definitely miraculous.  Finally, finding the cruise of oil, though not miraculous, was nonetheless wondrous, as explained above. 

The end of Haneiros Halalu, however, deals within the context of the various degrees of thankfulness we must express.  Therefore, the sequence is changed: First and foremost, we thank G-d for the great supernatural miracles we witnessed then, similar to the 10 plagues in Egypt. Secondly, we also thank Him for the wondrous occurrences, such as finding this special oil, though not miraculous, but still out of the ordinary natural process (it became miraculous only later, when lit).  And then, finally, we thank G-d for all the natural victories and processes which we never took for granted. We indeed know that, in truth, all natural processes are directed by G-d.  The only reason why we tend to take the natural process for granted is because of its repetitive nature.  The Baal Shem Tov once said that the difference between the natural and the wondrous is only from the 2nd time and up.  The first time around, at the beginning of Creation, everything is obviously miraculous---the very change from non-existence to the created existential state through G-dly Will and Power. 


One thing that the current pandemic of Covid-19 still making its rounds, drove home is that relying thoroughly on the natural process without acknowledging the Divine Power directing it--- is a gross mistake.  This was the mistake of Pharoh is this week’s Sidra of Mikeitz: Egypt is constantly irrigated by the Nile River even when it does not rain, so why not rely thoroughly on the natural process and take it for granted. 

This was so much taken for granted that the Egyptian sages and magicians could not even fathom 

an interpretation of possible hunger to plague Egypt for 7 years!  We have to get used to be thankful to G-d for every little thing within our life pattern and certainly never take anything for granted! 

Based on Likutey Sichos vol. 15, pp.366-371 

In honor of these birthdays: 

Yom Holedes of Esther Hadassah bas Chaya Feiga Rayzel on Kislev 28 

Yom Holedes of Yossef Yitzchak ben Perel Leah on Teves 2