Chanuka is a Holiday of Thanksgiving Every Year

This year, everyone is getting excited about Thanksgivuka, the fact that Chanuka and Thanksgiving fall out on the same day. After examining the sources we will find that Chanukah is actually a holiday of thanksgiving every year.


In the First Book of Maccabees 4:39-59 we read:


Yehuda and his brothers said: “Our enemies have been defeated, let us go up to Jerusalem to cleanse the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) and to rededicate it.” They found the Beit HaMikdash in ruin, the altar profaned, the gates burnt down, the courts overgrown and the rooms of the Kohanim in shambles… They purified the Beit HaMikdash, removing the stones which cluttered it…they took unhewn stones as the law commands and built a new altar on the model of the previous one. They rebuilt the Beit HaMikdash and restored its interior and courts. They fixed the sacred vessels and the Menorah to shine within the Beit HaMikdash. When they had the Lechem HaPanim (Shew Bread) on the table and hung the curtains, all their work was completed. Then, early on the 25th day of the 9th month, the month of Kislev…it was rededicated with Psalms of thanksgiving (Hallel), to the music of harps and lutes and cymbals…then Yehuda and the whole congregation of Israel decreed that the rededication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness at the same season each year, for eight days.


After rededicating the Beit HaMikdash, the Maccabees sang Hallel. They praised God for both the military victory as well as for the opportunity to rededicate the Beit HaMikdash. Each day of Chanuka we too sing the Hallel prayer (Psalms of thanksgiving) to thank God for the miracles that took place.


In addition to reciting Hallel each morning of Chanuka, we also say the Al HaNisim  (For the Miracles) Prayer immediately following Modim (Thanksgiving Prayer) each time that we recite the Shmoneh Esrai (Silent Devotion) as well as during Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals). This prayer as well thanks God for the miracles that took place.


For the miracles and for the salvation and for the mighty deeds and for the victories and for the battles which You performed for our forefathers in these days, at this time:


In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanan, the Kohel Gadol, the Chashmonai and his sons- when the wicked Greek kingdom rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and compel them to stray from the statutes of Your Will- You in Your great mercy stood up for them in the time of distress. You took up their grievance, judged their claim and avenged their wrong. You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous and the wanton into the hands of the diligent students of Your Torah. For Yourself, You made a great and holy Name in Your world and for Your people Israel you worked a great victory and salvation as this very day. Thereafter, Your children came to the Holy of Holies of Your House, cleansed it, purified the site of Your Holiness and kindled lights in the courtyard of Your Sanctuary; and they established these eight days of Chanuka to express thanks and praise to Your great Name.


When we recite Al HaNisim, we are showing appreciation for the past victories as well as for the victories that are still taking place.


Although we don’t have the Beit HaMikdash today (the Second Temple was destroyed in 70CE, 235 years after the Chanuka story took place) we have seen many miracles in our time.


The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was a modern miracle and the fact that Israel continues to exist today is also a miracle. Against all odds, the Jewish people are back in the Land of Israel living in Tel Aviv and Haifa, in the ancient cities of Jerusalem and Modiin as well as in modern cities named after the family of Yehuda Maccabee, Chashmonaim and Maccabim. Can anyone think of a better reason to be thankful and celebrate?


May we celebrate next year in the Third Beit HaMikdash in Jerusalem.