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Kavvanah and prayer for Zōt Ḥanukkah, the last night and day of Ḥanukkah 5784, by Rabbi David Seidenberg (neohasid.org)

https://opensiddur.org/?p=53636 Kavvanah and prayer for Zōt Ḥanukkah, the last night and day of Ḥanukkah 5784, by Rabbi David Seidenberg (neohasid.org) 2023-12-13 22:11:55 Four things to pray and learn for the last night and day of Ḥanukkah. Text the Open Siddur Project David Seidenberg David Seidenberg neohasid.org https://opensiddur.org/copyright-policy/ David Seidenberg https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/ Ḥanukkah זאת חנוכה Zot Ḥanukkah 21st century C.E. 58th century A.M. כוונות kavvanot English vernacular prayer 2023 Israel–Hamas war
Here is a midrash that is heartbreakingly relevant to our times, followed by a kavvanah.

There is a midrash that says the people Israel[1] ”the people Israel” = the whole Jewish people, not the state  are like an olive tree: to get the pure oil that gives light, the olives need to be crushed, raḥmanah lits’lan (God save us). Many of us have never experienced a time as crushing as right now. And even as that is true, it is both an act of sanity and an affirmation of truth’s complexity to remember: the Palestinian people are also compared to an olive tree, and they are also being crushed. May we find the seeds of light that will enable us and all the world to overcome the hatred and violence that is gripping our societies. May there be light and justice and peace for all of Israel/Palestine, for all her inhabitants and peoples, from the river to the sea, speedily in our days.


Here is a long kavvanah about the menorah
for saying before or after lighting
on the eighth night.
On this holiday,
we remember the Maccabees’ victory in the war against the Syriac Greek empire,
and we celebrate the rededication of the holy altar and its consuming fire,
and the rekindling of the holy menorah and its gentle light.
And though both were holy,
the sages taught us
to celebrate the glowing light of the menorah,
the light that came from the oil that lasted eight days,
while the Maccabees taught us
to celebrate the consuming fire that flared on the altar,[2] As found in 2 Maccabees 1:18-22. For this passage and other sections of the books of Maccabees visit here
fire that descended from fire that fell from heaven.[3] ”the Maccabees taught us to celebrate the fire”: The second book of Maccabees (which is not in our Bible but was preserved by the church) tells us there’s a lot more going on with fire on Ḥanukkah. It calls Ḥanukkah the festival of fire, explaining that when the first Temple was destroyed, the priests who were sent into exile hid fire from the altar in a cave and sealed it off. When the exiles came back from Babylonia 70 years later, Nehemiah sent the descendants of those priests to find the fire that was hidden years before. They found the cave, and inside they found a thick liquid, which they spread on the altar on the 25th of Kislev. When the sun came out, the liquid ignited. That was the miracle, says 2 Maccabees, rather than an eight-day long burn of one-day’s oil. And not only that: 2 Maccabees also says we are commemorating the fire that came down from heaven when Solomon inaugurated the altar of the first Temple, which happened over the eight days of Sukkot and Sh’mini Atseret, the eighth day when fire fell from heaven, hundreds of years before. That fire was the same passed down by the priests through the generations and then hidden. Learn more about this here
In the time of that war,
which could have extinguished both the flame and the light of Judaism,
the Maccabees had to choose fighting
over celebrating the seven plus one days of Sukkot and Shemini Atseret,
so they hid in caves and struck the enemy from their places of hiding,
instead of dwelling in the open field, as Sukkot teaches us to do.
And they did this
so that there could be celebrations of Sukkot in the future.
So when the war ended,
after the Temple had been defiled —
and with it the altar and the menorah,
the consuming fire and the gentle light —
the Maccabees didn’t just rededicate the altar and relight the menorah,
but they also celebrated a make-up Sukkot, a do-over, for eight days.
And it was after the time of the olive pressing,
in the darkest point of the year,
around the time
when the new oil manufactured
from the olives gathered after Sukkot
could first be used,
but the olives gathered were few because of the war,
and the oil produced was precious and rare.
So the whole people celebrated
the light and the flame,
and the oil that can give both.
But in the stories from those times that were left to us,
the sages of the Talmud taught us
to celebrate the light, not the fire,
but the books of the Maccabees taught us
to celebrate the fire, not the light.
And the fire that the Maccabees celebrated
was the flame of the altar,
the flame that consumed the all-burnt Olah offering,
called the Holocaust in the old English Bible.
And we repurposed that name
for the fire of a war and a hatred
that consumed and burned up most of European Jewry,
along with many other Jews besides.
And that same quality of all-burning hatred
is something so many Jewish people felt
from the attacks carried out by Hamas this year on October 7,
on the day that completes Sukkot,
called in our holy calendar Shemini Atseret,
the eighth day that assembles the whole people.
And we have vowed about that hatred,
never again to us.
But we also vowed,
never again to anyone,
and now the enemy that is so full of hatred
has made their dwelling like a wolf among the lambs,
and now Israel’s army is killing the lambs by the ten thousands
in order to kill the wolf by the hundreds.
We vowed never again to anyone
and never again to us,
and our vows
which might have seemed like one vow
have become two, divided from each other,
and the Jewish people also has become two,
divided between those who pursue the first vow,
and others who pursue the second vow,
just as Jacob became two camps in last week’s Torah portion.
At this moment,
it is not easy to see
how both vows can be fulfilled
at the same time.
But maybe that is because
we are looking through the flames of conflagration,
of the burnt offering on the altar,
and not through the light of the menorah,
where many flames
light many people
without burning anyone.
And the sages told us
to celebrate the light, not the fire,
and the Maccabees told us
to celebrate the fire, not the light.
And now we live in a moment
when we cannot choose both vows
unless we choose both peoples, the Jews and the Palestinians,
unless we choose the light over the fire.
And so we must choose
between the Maccabees and the sages,
between fire and ceasefire,
between conflagration and illumination,
between more life and snuffing out more life.
And on this eighth night of Ḥanukkah,
we continue to remember (as if we could ever forget),
the eighth night of Sukkot, the Shemini Atseret
that Israelis now call Shabbat Sh’ḥorah, the Black Sabbath,
when Hamas ravaged and committed a pogrom
of rape and murder and torture and kidnapping
against Israeli civilians.
We affirm and call on the whole world to affirm:
no resistance to military occupation can justify such war crimes.
But if we see the world illuminated by the light of the menorah,
we must also find in our hearts this additional fact:
the intensity of our reaction to those war crimes
cannot be used to justify other crimes
against other civilians.
And the sages taught us
to remember and see by the light of the menorah,
even though the Maccabees looked at their world
through the light of the consuming fire that burned on the altar.
And now we come to this eighth night of Ḥanukkah
to light the menorah one last time, in this crushing year.
We know that it may be many years
before we can think of Shemini Atseret, the eighth day of Assembly,
separately from the massacre that broke forth from Gaza,
the conflagration that must never again flame forth.
It is too much meaning
and too much heartache
for one candle
or even eight candles
to bear.
And yet this is how it is:
they must indeed bear this weight,
as we must.
So let us call on each other
to see by the light of the menorah,
even though we cannot look away from the consuming fire.
May this become true:
may these eight small flames,
and this eighth night,
begin planting the seeds of light
that will ultimately help us heal
the wound of that day
that is burned into our hearts.
May the light of the menorah
shine through both this eighth day and our hearts.
May it become manifest in the divine will
and in our own will,
that we yet find a path toward peace.
May we and all humanity turn towards a future
that will be full of light for all the peoples
that dwell in the lands of God’s choosing,
for all the peoples and species
that dwell in all the lands of the world,
in a world free from genocide and rampage,
from war and hatred and extinction.
Then we will know what it means
to thank the One who brings peace for the miracles,
and the mighty acts,
and the salvation,
and the comforting.[4] ”the comforting/al haneḥamot”: this is the Sefardic version of the prayer we say for Ḥanukkah, rather than the Ashkenazi version, which thanks God for “the wars that You carried out for our ancestors” 
May the crushing weight
of those attacks
and of this war
and of all these atrocities
be lifted,
and may a world of peace
see the light of dawn,
and the glow of night.
Al hanisim   עַל הַנִּסִּים
v’al hag’vurot   וְעַל הַגְּבוּרוֹת
v’al hat’shu’ot   וְעַל הַתְּשׁוּעוֹת
v’al haneḥamot   וְעַל הַנֶּחָמוֹת
sheta’aseh lanu   שֶׁתַּעֲשֶׂה לָנוּ
bayamim haba’im   בַּיָּמִים הַבָּאִים
baz’man hazeh   בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה
ken y’hi ratson   כֵּן יְהִי רָצוֹן
amen v’amen   אָמֵן וְאָמֵן
For the miracles,
and the mighty acts,
and the salvation,
and the comforting
that the One will do for us
in days to come,
in this season,
may it be so,
amen, amen.
TABLE HELP

Souce (Hebrew)Translation (English)
Some verses you could recite for the 8th night (from Psalms 33, Psalms 118 and Zechariah 4:6),
after the above kavvanah, or on their own:
יְהוָה הֵפִיר עֲצַת גּוֹיִם
הֵנִיא מַחְשְׁבוֹת עַמִּים
מִמֶּנּוּ יָגוּרוּ
כָּל־יֹשְׁבֵי תֵבֵל
כָל־מַעֲשֵׂהוּ בֶּאֱמוּנָה
אֹהֵב צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט
 
חֶסֶד יְהוָה מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ
אֵין נוֹשָׁע בְּרָב־חָיִל
לֹא בְחַיִל וְלֹא בְכֹחַ כִּי אִם־בְּרוּחִי (זכריה ד:ו)
Hashem-YHVH, nullify the plan of the nations,
Frustrate the machinations and conspiracies of the peoples.
For the One can inspire the shock of fear
among all those dwelling on the planet,
But all of God’s acts are acts of faith and trust.
The One loves righteousness and justice above all
(and above any one people),
And Hashem-YHVH fills the Earth with lovingkindness.
No salvation will ever come just through great warrior-might!
“Not by might and not by power but only by My Spirit!” (Zechariah 4:6)
I propose that we use the Simḥat Torah nusaḥ
for “Ana Hashem hoshi’ah na, Ana Hashem hatsliḥah na” in Hallel,
as a way to imagine reclaiming our holiday
from the deathgrip of what Hamas did on that day,
yirḳav sheimam.
אָנָּא יְהוָה הוֹשִׁיעָה נָא
אָנָּא יְהוָה הַצְלִיחָה נָא
הַצִּיל מִמָּוֶת נַפְשֵׁנוּ לְחַיּוֹתָם
Please, Hashem-YHVH, save us;
please, Hashem-YHVH, sustain us.
Rescue our souls from death, to give them life.
יְהִי חַסְדֵךְ יְהוָה עָלֵינוּ
כַּאֲשֶׁר יִחַלְנוּ לָךְ
May your lovingkindness rest upon us, Hashem-YHVH
For we have waited so long for You.

 

Notes

Notes
1”the people Israel” = the whole Jewish people, not the state
2As found in 2 Maccabees 1:18-22. For this passage and other sections of the books of Maccabees visit here.
3”the Maccabees taught us to celebrate the fire”: The second book of Maccabees (which is not in our Bible but was preserved by the church) tells us there’s a lot more going on with fire on Ḥanukkah. It calls Ḥanukkah the festival of fire, explaining that when the first Temple was destroyed, the priests who were sent into exile hid fire from the altar in a cave and sealed it off. When the exiles came back from Babylonia 70 years later, Nehemiah sent the descendants of those priests to find the fire that was hidden years before. They found the cave, and inside they found a thick liquid, which they spread on the altar on the 25th of Kislev. When the sun came out, the liquid ignited. That was the miracle, says 2 Maccabees, rather than an eight-day long burn of one-day’s oil. And not only that: 2 Maccabees also says we are commemorating the fire that came down from heaven when Solomon inaugurated the altar of the first Temple, which happened over the eight days of Sukkot and Sh’mini Atseret, the eighth day when fire fell from heaven, hundreds of years before. That fire was the same passed down by the priests through the generations and then hidden. Learn more about this here.
4”the comforting/al haneḥamot”: this is the Sefardic version of the prayer we say for Ḥanukkah, rather than the Ashkenazi version, which thanks God for “the wars that You carried out for our ancestors”

 

 

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