During the holiday of Chanukah, we commemorate the two prominent miracles that G-d manifested: the military victory, where the Maccabees defeated the large Greek army, and the miracle of the oil, which lasted for eight nights instead of one.
There is a fascinating question that commentators ask regarding the miracle of the oil. For eight nights when we light the Chanukiah, we recite the blessing, “She-asah nissim la-avoteinu”- “[Hashem] who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors.” However, in terms of the miracle of the oil, what was the miracle of the first night? If the miracle was that the oil lasted for eight days instead of one, wouldn’t that mean there is only a miraculous aspect to nights 2 to 8, not night one? Therefore, why do we still recite the bracha of “She-asah nissim?” What was the miracle?
Rabbi Lord Jonathon Sacks (Z”L) delivers a suggestion. He states that perhaps the miracle was the mere fact that the Maccabees found a pure cruse of oil that still had its seal intact. The whole temple was destroyed, and there was no reason to believe that anything would have survived the wreckage. Why, then, did the Jewish people even attempt to look for a surviving remnant?
The answer to this question is faith. The Maccabees had faith that amid a horrendous tragedy, something would survive. The miracle of the first night is that of faith itself.
Throughout Jewish history, there have been numerous times where any other people would have given up in despair: after the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, the massacres of the crusaders, the Holocaust, the pogroms and many more. However, somehow, Jews did not sit and weep. As Rabbi Sacks wrote, “We gathered what remained, rebuilt our people and lit a light like no other in history, a light that tells us and the world of the human spirit to overcome every tragedy and refuse to accept defeat.”
This teaches us that as long as we put in the effort and have faith in Hashem, Hashem will never leave our side. Judaism is humanity’s Ner Tamid, the everlasting light that no power on earth can extinguish.