If the most important aspect of the Chanukah neis is the oil lasting for eight days and not the winning of the war, then why don’t we mention the miracle of the candles in al hanisim?
I’ll tell you a little anecdote that was said over by the Alter of Slabodka. It says in the Torah: זכור את היום הזה אשר יצאתם ממצרים – Remember this day when you went out of Mitzrayim … היום אתם יוצאים בחודש האביב – it was a spring day when you left Mitzrayim. Hakodosh Boruch Hu told the Jewish people to remember that they were taken out Mitzrayim during the month of spring. The Alter said that we see that Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants to remind us that it was nice weather when we went out of Mitzrayim.
So here you have a people who were enslaved for so many years בחומר ובלבנים, with mortar and bricks and עבודת פרך, backbreaking labor. For two hundred and ten years they couldn’t leave Mitzrayim; and finally the time comes to go out – so let’s say it was a blizzard. So what?! They would walk out of Mitzrayim singing in the blizzard! So you’re going to stop and take note of the fact that it was a beautiful spring day as well?!
So the Alter said, yes. Even in a mountain of kindliness that someone is giving you, you shouldn’t overlook even one grain of kindliness. And the fact that the geulah from Mitzrayim took place on a beautiful spring day – they were walking out and singing, and then they sang אז ישיר – and it was beautiful all around. Nature was blooming. It was Nissan. And that helped too. Yes, that was part of the enjoyment.
And therefore, although the neis of Chanukah was nothing but the oil that lasted for eight days, but it was still a lot of fun beating the enemy. It was a lot of fun when a handful of men under Yehuda Hamacabi rushed forward with swords and hacked down an army that was far more superior to them. And they left a field that was full of dead bodies. It was a lot of fun! It was an enjoyment. And therefore we don’t neglect that. We speak about it and we thank Hakodosh Boruch Hu for that as well.
But because we want to be sure to emphasize the real neis, so we don’t mix the neis of the oil into it. We only hint at it: והדליקו נרות בחצרות קדשיך – They kindled neiros too. But we don’t want to speak about it at length in al hanisim because then it would lose its character as being most important. We defeated the enemy and we also had a miracle of the menorah?! No, no. That would be belittling the neis of the oil.
So the neis of the Chanukah is played out by itself in our homes. Every night it’s a ceremony that stands out on its own and nothing but the oil is commemorated at that ceremony. Only that in shemonah esrei we can afford to mention the other things too. But we don’t mix them because then you’d be making a mistake about what Chanukah is really about.
TAPE # 148 (December 1976)