The Hachamim established these eight days for reciting the Hallel and giving thanks to Hashem (Shabbat 22a). We can understand that these days are special for Hallel, praising Hashem; but why are they special for hodaa, thanksgiving? Do we not thank Hashem every day in our prayers and berachot?
When Leah Imenu was given her fourth son she named him Yehuda saying, "Now this time I will thank Hashem." Rashi explained "now that I have four sons, more than my share, I have reason to thank Hashem." Hazal praised Leah, stating that from the time of creation until the time Yehuda was born no one had ever thanked Hashem.
Is it possible that Adam, Noah, Shem and the Avot never thanked Hashem?
It goes without saying that all the Sadikim praise and thank Hashem every day – for their lives, for their health, indeed for everything they have: "for every breath one takes praise Hashem" (Beresheet Rabah14). But there is another special level of thanking Hashem. Sometimes a person receives a gift that is far beyond what he perceives that he deserves. The special feeling of thankfulness upon receiving something that one did not expect – and the recognition that it was from Hashem – this is what Leah brought into this world.
The Chashmonaim risked their lives to fight a battle that seemed so obviously hopeless. They won their wars in a manner that defied all reason, which was beyond expectation or explanation. But after all, they fought for the sake of an ideal not for territories or independence or nationalistic pride. They were fighting for the Torah, for Hashem's honor and glory. That being the case, we might say they 'deserved' their victory.
Not so, Hazal taught us. The wars of the Maccabees could have ended up as a holocaust, one more terrible than the Jewish nation has ever known, chas ve'shalom. Hashem could have had us wait many years before we could start picking up the pieces and rebuilding our nation.
He could have done that, but instead Hashem granted us the victories that enabled us to march forward into the era of the Tannaim, which ensured the perpetuity of the Torah for all ages. The miracle of the oil symbolizes the exceptional Siyata dishmaya. This additional miracle was not something that was vitally necessary at the time – lighting the Menorah could have waited another week.
Like the miracle of the oil, the miracle of the wars were a special gift, beyond what we deserved. Thus, Hazal instituted eight of thanksgiving.
Hanukah gives us a special opportunity for thanks. Today as we look around us and see the continued growth and the flourishing of Torah and Misvah observance despite so many daunting obstacles, we owe Hashem a unique measure of thanks. In the words of our mother Leah, "This time I will give thank