Chanukah commemorates the revolt of the Maccabees, (possibly the first ever Israel Defense Forces in history!) against the wicked king Antiochus. It wasn’t enough for Antiochus to simply control the land and people of Israel – he wanted to control their SOULS!
Make no mistake, unlike Haman, Hitler, Torquemada, and Hamas, Antiochus had no specific interest in killing any Jews, he simply wanted the Jews to convert. He wanted them to abandon their religion, their principles and their beliefs. He wanted the Jewish people to quickly assimilate into the Greek culture, accepting their lifestyle and embracing their Gods.
To this end, Antiochus outlawed Jewish observance, including a ban on circumcision, Sabbath observance, and of course, Torah study, all on penalty of death. Unfortunately, there were many Jews who went along with it. They figured, “Why fight city hall? What do we need problems for? Let’s just do what Antiochus says and life will be great. We will become one super-nation and empire.”
The Maccabees knew that this was the wrong attitude and they would have none of it. Matityahu and his son Judah led the Maccabean brigade and rebelled against Antiochus and his decrees. It was the few against the many. The Maccabees were severely outnumbered but God performed what was nothing short of an open miracle. A small group of militarily untrained Jews were victorious over the Syrian-Greek army with all the advanced training and weaponry.
As a part of their victory the Maccabees re-dedicated the Holy Temple which had been defiled in the interim by the Greeks. As part of this re-dedication procedure it was imperative that the Menorah, the Holy Candelabra, be lit. The problem, however, was that there was no pure untainted oil to be found to light the Menorah. But here again God worked His miraculous ways and a single flask of oil was found. The Maccabees lit the Menorah but the flames that were expected to last only several hours remained alight for eight days! That’s right! A single flask of oil that was expected to last no more than a single day lasted eight.
The festival of Chanukah is not simply an ancient battle of the Jewish people – it is the battle of all mankind across the globe. It is the battle of religious freedom. It is the battle of right over wrong. It is the fight for what’s right. From ancient history to the 1948 war until today – and everything in between – God is there to help those who stand up for what’s right.
When you light your Menorah this Chanukah, remember that the Chanukah candles are not there for their beauty or enjoyment – they’re there for inspiration! May the inspiration of the Maccabees ignite ours souls with sparks of beauty each night of Chanukah and keep that fire burning in our souls throughout the entire year.
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