Don’t Let the Light Go Out

“The missionaries of Christianity had said in effect: You have no right to live among us as Jews. The secular rulers who followed had proclaimed: You have no right to live among us. The German Nazis at last decreed: You have no right to live.” — Raul Hilberg in The Destruction of the European Jews, page 9.

Just the other night, as I spent my last few minutes by the window, staring at the candles, there was a singular thought going through my head on repeat:

The flame of the Jewish people is eternal.

The flame of the Jewish people is eternal.

The flame of the Jewish people is eternal.

I couldn’t get it out of my head. Over and over again, the same phrase was glaring at me through the fire, as the wax was quickly dripping on the foil. Why?

Let’s travel back through Jewish history. During the time of Chanukah, we were told not to exist as Jews. During the time of Purim, we were told not to exist. In retrospect, the battle of Chanukah may have seemed “easier”, but that’s what made it the hardest. We were not fighting for our lives; we were fighting for our existential identity. It was not a fear of immediate death; it was a fear of our long term existence.

Fast forward to more recent Jewish history. During the Spanish Inquisition, we were told, “Don’t be Jews. Convert!” But during the Holocaust, it didn’t matter if you converted. To the Nazis, Judaism was a race which must be exterminated. With all of the political correctness in today’s world, you would never get away with mimicking any of Hitler’s words or by forcing someone to convert. That’s what makes this battle the hardest — because it is discreet. Passive aggressive. Systemic, if you will.

So, what battle are we fighting, exactly?

We’re not fighting for our lives, for the most part. Judaism has become a well established religion, and the Jewish people are generally acknowledged as a nation. I think we all can agree that our identity isn’t as strong as it used to be. Assimilation rates have risen. It’s become much easier for people to close the door on their Judaism and frumkeit, even in Israel. But contrasting from Chanukah, people are leaving their Jewish identities behind for an alternative reason: People just don’t care. We’re fighting apathy. As a teenager on the battlefront of my apathetic generation, I have witnessed this lack of Jewish pride firsthand.

How do we fix it?

Obviously this cannot be answered by one word, one sentence, or even one article. But the solution can be contemplated by one luminous event: Chanukah. The flame of the Jewish people is indeed eternal. In order to sustain that flame, we need to hold fast to the doctrine which has been sustaining us for years: don’t give up on something without giving it the proper chance it deserves. What was the point of the Cohanim searching for oil in a trashed, ruined establishment? Because we have hope. We’ve always had it. אַנַחְנוּ מַאמִינִים בְּנֵי מַאמִינִים.

It may sound naive, but the rational approach agrees as well: before making any kind of decision, one must investigate all of the variables involved, not just those which may seem more available and reasonable to look for.

עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ,
הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם.

So, as we bid farewell to Chanukah, I ask of you one request: Don’t let the light go out.

About the Author
Tzivia Appleman is a junior at NYU, majoring in Politics with a minor in Philosophy. She is Vice President of the Orthodox Jewish club at NYU, is a member of NYU Student Government, and interns for New York state and federal elected officials. She also spent 1.5 years at MMY immersing herself in Talmud Torah and engaging with the Mesorah in Israel.
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