Behind the Headlines the Message of Chanukah is Timeless
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Behind the Headlines the Message of Chanukah is Timeless

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This was the week of Chanukah, and in the old tradition, runners carried torches from the Maccabean birthplace, Modiin, to the four corners of the land. Their message was timeless–victory of freedom over tyranny and repression. But the Chanukah torches also symbolized the continuity of Jewish history in the land of Israel.

How remarkable is the similarity between our generation and that of the Maccabees. Both represented the struggle of the few against the many Both generations were called upon to restore the sovereignty of Israel. The Maccabeans were, worried about the soul. Jews were prohibited from exercising their religious rites and customs, and since there can be no soul without a physical existence, the task of the Maccabees was to free the sovereign state from its occupiers so that Jews could continue to live according to their laws.

Our generation fought for the establishment of the State first and foremost to assure the continued physical survival of the Jewish nation. After the holocaust there was an urgent need to find a haven for the remnant of European Jews and for Jews in the Oriental countries who lived in constant fear of extermination.


It is interesting that Chanukah, in the form that it has been kept throughout the generations, is centered on a rather marginal event–the miracle of the cruse of oil that burned unreplenished in the Temple for eight days. The Talmud has a great deal to say about the High Holy Days and the great festivals of pilgrimage–Succoth, Passover and Shavuot. But it mentions Chanukah only in passing. When it speaks of lighting the Sabbath candles it states that the Chanukah candles should be kindled before those of the Sabbath. Thus it seems to stress that the battles waged by the Hasmoneans had more religious than political implications.

In our own times, it is easier to see the parallel between the victories of the Hasmoneans and those of modern Israel. The Hasmoneans were the spearhead of the movement in the ancient world to shake off the rule of the declining Greek empire. The Israelis of today can be regarded as the spearhead of the Western world trying to shake off the new menace of Arab oil imperialism which threatens Europe and in fact all of Western civilization.

Watching the runners carrying the torches from Modiin to Jerusalem, to the Golan Heights, to Sinai, Kiryat Shemona and Beersheba, can only encourage Israelis and Jews all over to believe in the victory of the few over the many. Even though it may be isolated from the rest of the world, Israel’s sovereignty is here to stay and can stand up against all odds, including the terrorists who, even during the week of Chanukah violated the sovereignty of Israel. That is the message of the Chanukah torches.

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