The very surface meaning of Chanukah arouses in our hearts an eager response. For this festival commemorates the struggle of a small people in behalf of its freedom and independence. A small people, for centuries dominated by foreign rulers, at last decides to become master in its own house, enters a desperate conflict which rages for more than three years against the powerful Graeco-Syrian empire, and after many bloody encounters and in the face of overwhelming odds wins through to victory.
In this day of encircling hate and of seeming helplessness in the face of mounting persecution, it is good to have this festival of Chanukah recall to us that once upon a time we were a valorous and courageous people, ready at the point of death to defend its national sanctities, and unwilling to be the shuttlecock of destiny, passive and helpless in the hands of tyrants and oppressors. There is an epic and heroic quality to Jewish history which is frequently forgotten by the bookish spokesmen of our people for whom Jewish history is bracketed between code and commentary. No history records as many uprisings against tyranny and oppression within and without as does the history of Israel—from the first revolution against Egyptian slavery, through the revolution of the Maccabees, until the last revolution of Bar Kochba which could be crushed only after the most desperate resistance and by the overwhelming force of the iron legions of imperial Rome.
Chanukah is one of the happiest manifestations of the unsubdued courage and the sacrificial loyalty of which our people is capable when the great hour of testing comes.
The will to live was always strong among us. This, of course, is the prime reason for our survival. We always wanted to live, and to live our own lives. We resolutely defended the kernel of our inner being, our soul’s inviolability, our spiritual autonomy when the sword was struck from our hands and we could no longer defend ourselves by physical prowess. We continued to wage war against all the threatening and the disintegrating forces about us with spiritual arms, with resolution and firmness and stubbornness and martyrdom. Everywhere we built impregnable citadels and fortresses, not of masonry and stone, but mightier ones by far, and irreducible—synagogues, schools and Jewish homes—where in the pristine life and spirit of our people continued fresh and vigorous and unabated.
The Jew has a voracious, an insatiable hunger for life. His God is a God "who desireth life." Behold the amazing tidal energy with which Israel is setting itself today to the task of rebuilding its national life anew in its ancient homeland. See the overflowing and on-rushing will to live which the chalutzim are manifesting today—those true heirs of the Maccabees of old.
Only unquenchable youth, filled with the love of life and moved by its glorious urgency, can set about "rebuilding the old, waste places." Only vision and hope and courage can build upon ruins. We have always known how to build upon ruins. We knew how to borrow the flame from our soul’s inner sanctuary and kindle lights in the darkness—Chanukah lights, lights of rededication.
The grandeur of Chanukah increases from year to year as the people which once, in blood and battle, achieved the victory which made Chanukah possible is again vindicating itself through struggle and sacrifice making possible a new "Chanukat ha-Bayit"—a rededication of the Temple of Israel’s life in the land whose youth is being renewed by a faith which never knew age.