In a time of increasing anti-Semitism, it may feel difficult to be proud to be Jewish or to find the strength to speak up and fight back. The story of Hanukkah is an inspirational reminder of the strength and resilience of our people despite the challenges we may face.
The hardships the Jewish people endured at the hands of the tyrannical Antiochus, ruler of the Greeks, could have instilled defeated complacency. This evil leader sought to eradicate Judaism and the Jewish people in a few ways. He murdered their leaders, destroyed the Temple, outlawed the celebration of Shabbat and holidays, forced them to consume forbidden foods, and many more heinous acts.
Despite each challenge, the Jews fought back. Not only did they fight for their physical freedom, they also worked to regain their religious freedom. They took back the Temple, and even the lack of suitable oil proved no match for their resiliency as they miraculously lit the Menorah for eight days until new oil could be refined.
More than any other trait, resiliency has defined the Jewish people and will continue to ensure our survival and existence. It is this trait that we celebrate on Hanukkah—our ability to rise to any test and overcome hate.
Every year Maccabi Tzair, our sister movement in Israel, demonstrates this resiliency with a Hanukkah torch relay. All across Israel, from Modiin to Be’er Sheva, teens carry these torches in the very footsteps of the ancient Maccabees and bring a little of that light into their own lives and the lives of others. The message of this tradition is so beautiful and pertinent to our lives—whether we are carrying a torch, lighting a Hanukkah candle, or simply eating a donut, the light and celebration of Hanukkah reminds us of our everlasting endurance and resiliency.
From the current Grand Aleph Shaliach and International Sh'licha.
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