Shoshana Goldstein-Nissenbaum

In Those Days At This Time

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Oct 7 plunged us into a modern-day Hanukkah – a threat to our very existence from within our own borders

Am Yisroel has had four exiles; Bavel, Persia, Greece, and our current galus, Rome or Edom. But the Greek galus stands apart as the only one that took place in Eretz Israel. This was a foreign nation that invaded our very borders. They physically entered and violated our spiritual home, our holy Beit Hamikdash, smashing and burning anything they could get their hands on. They contaminated the pure olive oil and brought in treif animals for their idol worship.

And this year, in our time, on Oct 7, our enemies again breached our borders. They plowed through the fences and swooped down in hang gliders. The terrorists stormed our homeland and unleashed destruction on our neighborhoods, our homes and violated our very lives. They violated our nation. We’ve experienced it first hand, heard the horrible stories, seen the gut wrenching pictures.

Both our historical adversary and our contemporary enemy have one understanding in common. They were and are keenly aware that engaging in a psychological war against Am Yisroel has the potential to penetrate the very core of our nation as a whole and impact each individual within it, by weakening our convictions.

In the time preceding Hanukka, the Yavanim (Greeks) imposed decrees on us, designed to wipe out our Jewish identity. Learning Torah, observing Shabbos, declaring Rosh Chodesh, even brit milah were all outlawed. Parents were forced to write on their baby’s bottles, “We have no portion in the G-d of Israel.” Before any Jewish women got married, she had to spend a night with the Greek governor of the area. They understood that by destroying the sanctity of the Jewish home they would have a better chance of wiping out the Jewish nation.

The effects of the psychological warfare waged by the Greeks were widespread. The decrees, the desecration of the Temple, their assaults gave over the message that, “The Jewish nation is nothing special. You are an unworthy people and you will only be worthy if you adapt to our morals and standards, and ideas of justice and righteousness.”  And we know that it worked. The majority of Klal Yisroel succumbed to the pressure and bought into the poison they’d been sold. They had fallen into living a Hellenistic life. That’s why there were so few Maccabees to revolt against the spiritual takeover.

Hamas launched their psychological warfare by filming the physical atrocities they committed in real time, posting them across social media platforms. We reeled from the images, from the knowledge of what they had done. They kidnapped our people and are holding them hostage, breaking agreed timelines for releasing them. Hamas has taken a page from the Greek’s playbook in trying to destroy our families. They’ve kept fathers in captivity, released children without their mothers, violated young women. They’ve broken the ceasefires and lied about casualties. Furthermore, our enemies flood the international media with false information, fueling the negative opinion the world has about Israel and the Jewish people.

We know from our own experiences in the last two months that when psychological assault takes place it becomes extremely challenging to hold onto hope. To keep our collective and individual psyches focused on the truth. To trust in our ability to defeat our enemies and preserve our values. But, with great danger comes the possibility for real miracles.

Psychological warfare penetrates the deepest part of a human being and could have devastating results. So winning this kind of war is perhaps the greatest miracle. Every day one gets up to fight ‘the good fight’, is a miracle. Holding onto hope, courage and faith in the face of what the Jewish people are experiencing right now, is a miracle. To be able to hang on and continue to seek the truth, is a miracle.

The miracle of Hanukka was that, in spite of the decrees, the Hashonaim were unwavering in their convictions and commitment to Jewish life. So, even though they were few in number they chose to rise up against a great army. We celebrate their victory and the fact that the small measure of pure oil they found in the ruins of the temple, burned for eight days.

And what about today? Well, we have already begun to see the beginnings of miracles. This current war, unprecedented in our modern history, has inspired us to show up for each other in ways none of us could have imagined before Oct 7th. We’re supporting one another, regardless of our differences. We’re sharing resources, purchasing and delivering equipment to our chayalim, distributing clothing and food to displaced families, and providing emotional support to those in need. Tehillim are being said constantly. Social media has been flooded with davening lists of names of injured soldiers and captives still being held hostage. We have created a sense of community and shared responsibility, turning solidarity into a powerful force that has uplifted us all.

The Gemara in Perek Ba’meh Madlikin (Shabbos 21b) states: The mitzvah of Hanukka is ner ish u’beito (one candle for each man and his household). Why do we call the gathering we have when we move into a new home, a chanukas ha bayis, a dedication of the house? Because each one of our individual homes is like the house of Hashem, a holy temple. We have our kitchen stove which is like the misbayach (the altar), the menorah, our shabbos lights, our challah (like the showbreads), all the things that were in the Beis Hamikdash. Everything in the Beis Hamikdash is reflected in the Jewish home. And just as the Shechina dwells in the Beis Hamikdash, It dwells in each of our houses.

May we continue to build our unity from within. May our individual houses and our collective home, Eretz Yisroel, stand before the world as a testament to our values. The Almighty made miracles for the Chashmonaim in their time. May He make miracles for us now.

About the Author
Wife, mother, grandmother and Toenet Rabbanit (a legal advocate) and licensed mediator, Shoshie is one of only a handful of chareidi women who represents clients exclusively before the rabbinic courts in Israel. To reach out for a free consultation - or
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