Here And There: A Great Miracle that Happened
By Miriam Spitz Kahan
“Miriam, the dreidel landed on Shin! You have to add one Chanukah Gelt to the pot!”
Every year as a child when Chanukah was approaching, my teachers brought out the Chanukah materials so that we could learn about the resistance and the triumph of the Maccabees. Trying to explain to children that one small vial of oil lasted 8 glorious days instead of just 1, seemed a miracle in itself!
But as kids, we just looked forward to the dreidel game that somehow, always had me landing on the Shin. When I complained to my mother about the Shin, my mother always responded with optimism. "Look at the greater picture. You could have landed on the Nun."
A few years later, I remember learning the exact meaning of these letters and the phrase:
Nes Gadol Haya Sham, A Great Miracle Happened There.
There, of course was the Land of Israel, the land of Yehuda HaMakabi, ‘Judah the Hammer’, the homeland of the Jewish people, my people, the land of miracles.
My teacher then explained that kids in Israel also play with dreidels, which in Hebrew is called Sivivon, סביבון. Only, their dreidels do not have a Shin (ש), but a Peh (פ).
Instead of what we know in the Diaspora, that ‘A Great Miracle Happened There - Nes Gadol Haya Sham', in Israel the phrase is, ‘A Great Miracle Happened Here - Nes Gadol Haya Poh’.
Many years later, after making Aliyah, I was ecstatic to throw my first Chanukah party as an Israeli citizen. In keeping with the Chanukah spirit, my friend brought Chanukah gelt, latkes and of course a dreidel.
We were just about to start spinning the dreidel so I could feel like a kid again and win some of the delicious chocolate gelt, when I looked down at the dreidel and I saw the Hebrew letter Peh (פ).
This one change meant more to me than I ever thought. This difference of one letter, one word – it strengthened the entire meaning of Chanukah for me. It was something so small, but so very meaningful.
I, Miriam, was finally living HERE in the Land of Israel, the land of Yehuda HaMakabi, ‘Judah the Hammer’, the homeland of the Jewish people, my people, the land of miracles. I have always felt connected, but this was something different. Something powerful. Something beautiful.
No matter where we are in the world, Chanukah gives us an incredible opportunity not only to gather together with our family and friends to celebrate this beautiful festival of lights, but also to appreciate all of the wondrous things that have happened to the Jewish people AND the Jewish land to which our ancestors were so intricately bound.
In our hearts and in our homes, Here and There are the same place - Israel.