Chanukah and Christmas are both beautiful holidays and messages. The truth, however, is that they are radically different messages.
Christmas is about peace, love and goodwill on earth. Hallelujah, that is a message we should all get behind. That is the message of many Jewish holidays, not the least of which is Shabbat, a holy day that happens every seven days not just once a year. It’s not, however, the message of Chanukah.
Often we tell the pediatric version of Chanukah, the cute story about happy little Maccabee soldiers, the reclaimed Temple, the canister of oil that lasted for not one but “eight crazy nights”. It’s a sweet story. It’s important to tell our children this version because the real R-rated version would send them to therapy (sooner rather than later).
The real story, and frankly the true miracle, has nothing to do with the oil, the Temple or eight nights. Rather, it’s a violent story about how the Greeks eroded the Jewish people’s religious freedoms, banned their rituals, forced them into hiding and finally attempted to pummel them into submission through murder, rape, torture and destruction. It’s yet another terrifying tale in a long litany of tales of the Jewish people being persecuted and then slaughtered for one reason – because they were Jews.
The real miracle of Chanukah is that a band of brothers, the Maccabees, in the first recorded account of guerrilla style warfare, stood up to the mighty Greek empire, fought back and held out, at least long enough to reclaim the Temple and send a message to our enemies then and now.
You may be bigger than us.
You may be stronger than us.
You most definitely hate us and want us dead.
However, make no mistake about it – we will not sit in silence, not sit idly by and not simply pray for miracles.
Rather, we will make our own miracles.
We will resist you in mind, spirit and, if need be, with our bodies – ready to take up arms to defend ourselves, our families, our people, and our homeland even if it means sacrificing our lives.
We are the sons and daughters of Maccabees.
We are Warrior Jews.
This is the message of Chanukah.
This is the inspiration of the Maccabees.
This is the miracle – that we Jews have survived and Am Yisrael Chai – we will continue to thrive as a people across the world and within the Jewish homeland in Eretz Yisrael.
Rabbi Baruch HaLevi
Rabbi B is co-author of the new book: Revolution of the Jewish Spirit: How to Revive Ruakh in Your Spiritual Life, Transform Your Synagogue & Inspire Your Jewish Community [Paperback & Kindle] Rabbi Baruch HaLevi and Ellen Frankel, Jewish Lights Publishing (September 30, 2012)
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