Spiritual Survival

The Message of Chanukah

Chanukah is unlike other Jewish holidays because it’s not they tried to destroy us, God saved us, let’s eat. It’s, they tried to destroy our way of life, God saved us, let’s eat (latkes and donuts.) On Chanukah we celebrate not physical but spiritual survival. The Greeks wanted us to worship multiple gods and prioritize beauty, sport, and physical pleasure as they did. They had no problem with Jews, as long as we stopped being Jewish. The brave band of Maccabees fought and defeated the mighty Syrian Greeks for the right to continue practicing Judaism. The eight-day miracle of the oil enabled us to re-sanctify our Holy Temple and return to our sacrificial worship.
Interestingly, Chanukah is today the most-celebrated Jewish holiday. At a time of rampant assimilation, lighting the menorah is the only ritual many Jews practice. Some consider it a sad irony that the anti-assimilation holiday has become the “Jewish Xmas” so our kids don’t feel left out at gift-giving time. Has Judaism become irrelevant in a culture that, like ancient Greece, venerates beauty, sport, and physical pleasure? Did the Greeks win after all??

In our view, it isn’t ironic that assimilated Jews celebrate Jewish pride every December, it’s entirely appropriate! The message of Chanukah is more relevant today than ever before, and each year at this time we get a new opportunity to defeat the Greeks by embracing our own unique and ancient heritage. Light your menorah, spin your dreidel, and enjoy your greasy food with pride! Happy Chanukah!

Image: “The Triumph of Judas Maccabeus”(detail) by Peter Paul Rubens, 1635

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