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Heroes of Today: A Chanukah Lesson

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein


Library » Holidays » Chanukah » About | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Trying to encourage the young boy to work harder and achieve more, the father sternly told his son, “Do you know that when George Washington was your age he was already…"

The sharp youngster was not taken aback. “When George Washington was your age,” he calmly responded, “he was president of the United States of America.”

* * *

Have you ever listened to the candles? They don’t really talk, do they? My wife once saw a candle that plays music when lit. But I don’t really think it was the beeswax singing; I would quicker put my money on the energizer bunny.

This year, however, I was determined to hear what the candles have to say, and I was patient enough to listen. So I sat there paying close attention and suddenly realized that although candles can’t make you hear, they can defiantly make you see; and isn’t a picture worth more than a thousand words!

So here are some of the thoughts the candles illuminated within me.

Coming back to the present, I realized that I might still be in the past
Looking at the Menorah, I began to think. I allowed my mind to travel back many years, into dark times. Then coming back to the future, our present, I realized that I might still be in the past.

Let me explain.

The circumstances preceding and ultimately causing the holiday of Chanukah began with the unwanted Greek entry into Israel. This invasion was terrible because not only would the Hellenists not be leaving Israel, neither would they be leaving Israel alone. 

They introduced a whole new culture to the people of the land, and successfully managed to seduce a large part of the population to this new way of life. The face of the land went through a total makeover by the ancient Greek stylists.

Stadiums were erected adjacent to synagogues and gladiator face-offs replaced Talmudic dialogues. No longer was the Holy Temple a sanctuary for divine service; it served instead as a mountain resort dedicated to worshiping man’s pleasures.

Victory, and thus celebration, came only after the Hellenistic immorality was driven not only from the land, but also from the heart. Until that time, there was moral chaos and much difficulty fulfilling G-d’s will.

That was then. But isn’t that also now? Thanks to a long history of exile, whether in the form of deadly poison or sweet candies; the persecutions of anti-Semites or the temptation of the “golden land,” many a Jew doesn’t even know that he or she is Jewish.

Warped in this time journey, not being able to distinguish between the end of the past and the beginning of the present, I sat there wondering why we should celebrate. Plenty of immorality still lurks about.

Whispering ever so quietly, the candles looked right at me and said: “You don’t light us because of what happened; you light us in order to make us happen. You are the hero. You bring the victory.”


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An eight day mid-winter holiday marking: 1) The miraculous defeat of the mighty Syrian-Greek armies by the undermanned Maccabis in the year 140 BCE. 2) Upon their victory, the oil in the Menorah, sufficient fuel for one night only, burned for eight days and nights.
Candelabra. Usually a reference to the nine-branched candelabra kindled on the holiday of Chanukah.
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
The Maccabees (Hebrew: Makabim) were a Jewish family who fought against the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty in the story of Chanukah. The Maccabees founded the Hasmonean royal line and established Jewish independence in the land of Israel for about 100 years.