Friday, November 29, 2013

And in Our Days, Too

Everyone loves a lesson about Hebrew grammar.  I know I do.  But grammar lessons where the grammar can be a little wrong, or at least clunky, but the message be of powerful importance to how we believe - that sounds like one I might give a second to.
So in brief, here it is.  There is a dispute as to the correct wording of the second blessing for the Hanukkah lights (which we started lighting Wednesday night) – that is the she-asa nisim blessng – and this is it.  There are two alternatives for its wording: “שעשה נסים לאבותנו בימים ההם בזמן הזה” or “ובזמן הזה”. The first refers to God’s miracles performed “for our ancestors in those days at this time”, whereas the second speaks of miracles “for our ancestors in those days and at this time”.
Now some say it should be "and at this time" because God has and continues to make miracles for us and we should be considerate and thankful for all of them as a part of Hanukkah celebrations.  The ones God performed for the Maccabees are important, but so too are the ones he does for us today.
Others say that using this wording makes no grammatical sense as it would suggest that the miracles God is doing today were for our ancestors back then.  
But I think that may be true (though I don't say the blessing in that way, but that's another story - the way you learn the prayers is the way you learn the prayers).  I think it is true that we should be thankful to God for miracles God did for our ancestors as well as for us.  
AND we should also believe that miracles performed today are for the benefit of our ancestors.  If we believe in a measure of eternal life for everyone, then in some mystical way miracles for us are of benefit to them.  But even more and greater than that - their story becomes all the more powerful, all the more meaningful, all the more richer and fuller, if our story which began with and depends on what they did becomes one of great religious, moral, spiritual growth and success.  Think about it - Steve Jobs' tinkering in the garage bore impressive fruit with the Apple II - but how much more impressive did his earlier accomplishments become when we saw that they led to the iPhone?  The Maccabees story becomes all the greater the greater a legacy we build upon it.
So maybe it's not so terrible to say the prayer acknowledging those days and ours as well.
Happy Hanukkah and Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Benson

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