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Hanukkah Is About Fortifying the Family

(Credit Photo: The National Guard via https://flic.kr/p/BBXA4R)

Hanukkah, also known as the “Festival of Lights,” is a Jewish holiday that celebrates how the Jews were saved from the Greeks and the miracle of the oil in the Menorah lasting for eight days instead of just one.

An interesting take on the upcoming holiday was shared today at Magen David Sephardic Congregation by guest speaker, Rabbi Yonatan Halevy. Whereas most people think of Hanukkah as our prevailing over an external enemy, Rabbi Halevy emphasized the battle to root out Hellenization from our own Jewish institutions.

Back in the days of the Maccabees, devoted, faithful Jews rejected this corruption. And so Matisyahu HaCohen cried out and said:

Who is for the Lord – join me (Mi lashem elai)?

He and his children, including the famous leader Judah Maccabee, fortified by their undying faith, led a grassroots revolt against not only the Greeks but also the Hellenized Jews to reclaim Jerusalem and rededicate the holy Temple.

However, in my opinion, clearly today we can’t just leave our brothers and sisters by the wayside. And so we face a daunting challenge. The Jewish community worldwide is very diverse and is dealing with rampant assimilation on the one hand and internal intolerance on the other. Further, no matter how we believe or practice our faith, or even if we are not religious at all, we are living in the midst of growing anti-Semitism from all directions.

In addition, too often our Jewish institutions are caught up in scandal after scandal. Yet we cannot just cut them loose because they are vital to our cultural and religious survival.

To cope with this multiplicity of issues, the Rabbi’s approach is nevertheless spot on. Each Jewish family should view itself as a unique “Mikdash Me’at” (a small temple). Accordingly, each of us takes responsibility for studying our faith and acting properly. This knowledge arms us to recognize when things are going wrong in the larger Jewish community.

Modern Hellenism is when Judaism becomes less and less Jewish and more and more like another “value system” that is “politically correct” or “in style.”

To be clear, not every Jew is going to be “religious” in the same way, but still, each of us can contribute to the welfare of the whole. The point of Hanukkah is that Torah-true Judaism exists, even if we as individuals struggle to fulfill it. The task at hand is for each family and each of us to model proper behavior (thought, word, and deed) and to educate our children in the same so that the Greeks of our time do not win.

About the Author
Andy Blumenthal is a dynamic, award-winning leader who writes frequently about Jewish life, culture, and security. All opinions are his own.
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