ועל נסיך…ועל נפלאותיך
…and for Your miracles … and for Your wonders…
In Modim, we say “ועל נסיך…ועל נפלאותיך–v’al nisecha…v’al nifl’osecha.” “Al nisecha” refers to the “hidden miracles” that we do know about, while “nifl’osecha” refers to the miracles that we are not even aware of [based on one explanation in Siach Yitzchak and part of Rav Schwab on Prayer].
The Ramban writes in the end of Parshas Bo that recognizing the hidden miracles of our lives is the “y’sod kol HaTorah kulah” – the foundation of all of Torah. What are “hidden miracles”? Hidden miracles are those daily “ordinary” events in our lives that most of the world attributes either to “nature” or to their own talents and successes. We, however, know that all of “nature” is really Hashem, and all talents and successes are gifts from Hashem. In other words, all that happens to us from the day we are born to the day we die, every specific and minute detail, is all decreed by Hashem. Nature, people, events are all Hashem’s messengers. One source for this is the Gemara that teaches us (Chulin 7b): “A person does not stub his toe below unless it is first decreed upon him from Above.” Another source in the Gemara relates that if a person sticks his hand in his pocket to retrieve three coins and only pulls out two, that is yisurin, suffering, decreed by Hashem for our benefit.
The Rambam (Sh’monah P’rakim, perek 5) writes that all that a person does should be with one purpose in mind. That purpose is to “know Hashem.” The Rambam then quotes his source. The source he quotes actually teaches us what “knowing Hashem” means. His source is the first pasuk in the first paragraph of the Shema: “ואהבת את ה’ א-להיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך ובכל מאדך–V’ahavta eis Hashem Elokecha b’chol l’vavcha u’v’chol nafsh’cha u’v’chol m’odecha (You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources).” The Rambam concludes that all we do with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our resources should be with one purpose in mind. That purpose is to love Hashem. The Rambam is telling us that “knowing Hashem” means to come to love Hashem. We find other sources in the Rishonim that also translate “knowing” as chibah (love), kirvah (closeness), and d’veikus (cleaving/attaching).
The essence of Chanukah is, as Chazal tell us, in the Al HaNisim tefilah that we recite in the Shemoneh Esrei and the Birkas HaMazon, as well as in the HaNeiros Halalu that we recite immediately after lighting. Chanukah is all about “l’hodos u’l’hallel.” Based on a piece from HaRav Yitzchak Hutner, Rav Cohen explains that the word “hodaah” has two meanings, but they connect with each other. The first meaning is to admit. The second is to thank. While the world says “thank you,” sometimes sincerely and often perfunctorily, we say “hakaras ha’tov.” We place the emphasis on first recognizing and appreciating the good performed on our behalf; only after that we offer an expression of thanks. L’hodos u’l’hallel means we recognize and appreciate Hashem’s open and hidden miracles, and we thank and praise Him for them. The real first step is to admit and recognize that whatever happens to us is totally from Hashem for our benefit, through His messengers. Then we thank and praise Him with feelings of appreciation, and feeling His love, behind all He does for us. That finally culminates with increasing our “knowledge” of Hashem, which means, our love for Him.
This is why the Ramban said that the hidden miracles or signs in our lives are the foundation of all of Torah. Searching for Hashem’s Hand in our daily ordinary lives leads us to the ultimate purpose of life as expressed by the Rambam.
Baruch Hashem, we hear and read about many fascinating hashgachah pratis stories that happened to others. That is beautiful and gives us a shot in the arm. However, working on noticing Hashem’s hashgachah in our own personal lives can be so much more powerful.
When we are looking for a parking spot and we find that one spot on the block, or someone right in front of us pulls out, that is a kiss from Hashem that can lead us to thanking Him, feeling His presence continuously, and increasing our knowledge and love for Him. We all have many such opportunities daily in our own lives. We just need to open our minds, hearts, and eyes to Hashem’s constant lovingkindness.
The truth is, just being alive, breathing, having functional body parts, and so on, should also be recognized and appreciated greatly. A parking spot, even when there are many spots, should also be appreciated. But it is much more difficult for us to generate feelings of appreciation and love from these constant kindnesses that most other people enjoy, as well. Let us therefore at least look out for the daily instances where we feel Hashem’s Hand to a greater extent, though it still would not qualify for a published hashgachah pratis story. Use these daily precious opportunities to get to “know” Hashem more, to feel His love more, to love Him more, and to express our appreciation and love for Him. May all have a lichtige, enlightening Chanukah where we learn to shine the light on Hashem’s constant kindness and love in our own daily lives, causing the flame of our neshamah to rise higher and higher, b’ezras Hashem.