Dovid Vigler

Modern-Day Maccabees

Image source: Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Forget the Deer. Be the Lion. Attack your Fear.

Jews are feeling ever more isolated. It seems like the patients are running the asylum.

Respectable nations of the world are unilaterally gifting Hamas its own country—an unequivocal message to terrorists everywhere that if their evil acts are savage enough, they too might get their independence.

How do we find the strength to carry on under these conditions?

The good news is that we’ve done it before. Many times. And we received an amazing reminder of that yesterday when IDF soldiers discovered a 2000-year-old Menorah etching on a home near Chevron, in Judea and Samaria. The Menorah was the symbol of Jewish defiance and survival despite the October 7th-style attack on our homeland by the Greeks, with far more devastating and lasting impact than Hamas had.

IDF Lieutenant Colonel Maoz Schwartz, Commander of Battalion 7007, points at the 2000 year old Menorah etchings that his unit discovered yesterday in Kafr Sa’ir near Chevron. This village bears the same name—Tzior—mentioned in the book of Joshua as a Jewish village in that area. IDF historian Ze’ev (Jabo) Ehrlich confirmed the authenticity of the find.

The courage to rise from the ashes is such a vital theme for us Jews that we have a holiday that’s dedicated to it—it’s called Lag B’omer and takes place this coming Sunday. Two thousand years ago a great sage by the name of Rabbi Akiva had succeeded in establishing his Yeshiva as the foremost center of Torah Study of his generation. With twenty-four thousand students, Torah study was flourishing in the Holy Land. It all ended suddenly when a mysterious epidemic spread amongst the students, killing all 24,000 students in just 32 days. That computes to 750 students dying each day. The torturous suffering ended on Lag B’Omer.

Rabbi Akiva was now 104 years old. Instead of throwing in the towel and giving up like many others would have wanted to, he mustered the courage to start all over again. When Torah study was all but gone, he taught five new students, who became the torch bearers of Torah for generations to come.

For where did he draw the strength to carry on?

Rabbi Akiva was no stranger to trauma. He had personally seen the destruction of the Temple by the Romans and the subsequent humiliation of our People under their rule. Yet instead of cursing his luck, he chose to view all the bad things that happened to him with the most refreshing and uplifting spin.

He would refer to the destruction with the prophecy of Uriah the prophet:
“Therefore, because of you, Zion (Jerusalem) shall be plowed as a field.” (Micha 3:12)

The significance of employing the plow metaphor is profound: When a field is plowed, only a simple person would think it’s being destroyed. A wise person understands that the seeming destruction is, rather, a vital step in the growth process. Planting without prior plowing is futile. The plowing is a vital step toward fulfilling the purpose of the field. The deeper the furrow, the better the subsequent growth. As in the construction of a new home, it’s the destruction of the old that makes way for the construction of the new.

The humble Menorah which remained hidden from sight for 2000 years reminds us that the Jewish People will outlive all their tormentors—its fearless light overpowering the overwhelming forces of darkness.

In the days of the Greek invasion of the Land of Israel, the overwhelming majority of Jews had jumped ship, seduced by the lure of Hellenic culture and the promise of pleasures and privileges to all of its adherents. Just a small group of Jews—known as the Maccabees—remained loyal to their values and their faith.. The Menorah is the symbol of Jewish defiance when all hope was lost.<

How ironic it is that this Menorah is actual proof of Jewish autonomy in the Land of Israel, a full five hundred years before the birth of Islam! Though the facts hold little water in the court of public opinion, this Menorah’s light, hidden from view for so long, has never stopped shining, leading us forward through the darkest of times.

And just as then, we saw miracles of Divine intervention that led to our unlikely victory over the Greeks, today we’ll see miracles too! What are the odds of a president of a country falling out of the sky to his death? Chance? Perhaps, Divine intervention? Quite likely.

You can’t discover new oceans unless you dare to lose sight of the shore. Let us embrace the eternal light of the Menorah, finding the strength, like Rabbi Akiva did, from within our own faith, to overcome the most impossible of obstacles. The other option is to stand idly by and be relegated to the dustbin of history. As in the striking image of the ancient menorah uncovered by the modern IDF soldier, this is our moment; now is our time to rise and be the modern-day Maccabees.

Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens

6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418  | 561.624.2223

Instagram @JewishGardens

About the Author
Raised in South Africa, Rabbi Dovid Vigler is the founder and spiritual leader of Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens in Florida. As a gifted orator and creative thinker, he strives to share the beauty and depth of Jewish Mysticism in a clear, conversational and down-to-earth manner. Whether in his popular in-person and written sermons or in his thought provoking Torah classes on social media, he raises his students to new heights by transforming ancient pearls of wisdom into modern solutions to timeless quandaries His weekly Radio Show—The Schmooze—was internationally broadcast on six stations, reaching nearly one hundred thousand listeners weekly for almost a decade. His most recent book, “If G-d is Good, Why Can Life Be So Bad?” is renowned for its unprecedented approach to making timeless Jewish mysticism understandable and relatable even to most uninitiated readers. It is available on Amazon. His inspirational books, seminars, essays and uplifting messages can be found on Follow his daily teachings at
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