The Y-Studs, the Yeshiva University A Capella group, released a song for Chanukah called: “Rise Up.” The video starts off with a Yeshiva student eagerly handing out an invitation to the Chanukah Party and the student, too busy in her phone, angrily storms off. However, a few minutes later, the Yeshiva student is seen being tormented by pedestrians. His Kippah is thrown to the ground and flyers are stomped on. The Yeshiva student goes back to his room, only to find a red swastika painted on the front of his door. Meanwhile, for the girl, she finds time for the Chanukah Party and helps the Yeshiva student realize that although hatred occurs, there are ways to combat it, and continue on.
This video, although published last year, tragically points at what has become “too normal” in our society today. We witnessed the largest Synagouge Massacre, as 11 people were murdered and 8 injured, while davening at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. Students at Columbia University in New York found anti-semetic messages written on a Sukkah, and just recently, a professor at the Teachers College of Columbia had her office vandalized for one reason: being Jewish.
For many, the answer to all these problems has been to hide their Judaism. They will only be Jewish when they have to be, and it raises the question: At what times are those? The answer, of course, would be all the time, yet fear has driven a concern into practicing the way they choose to do. But, when it comes to fear, it is the text we turn to, to see if there is a possible solution.
This coming Sunday evening, we will come together to officially begin celebrating the holiday of Chanukah. The Talmud tells us that in regard to lighting Chanukah Candles: “The house of Shammai says: “On the first day you light eight, and from here and on continue to subtract [one light each day]. The House of Hillel says, On the first day you light one, and from here and on continue to add [one light each day].’ The House of Shammai reasons that the Chanukah lights are like the bulls of the holiday [of Sukkot—on the first day of Sukkot, 13 bulls were offered; on the second, 12 etc.). The House of Hillel holds that, on the contrary, we go up in Holiness, not down.”
First, we must ask: what do the lights of Chanukah have to do with the bulls of sukkot? If it were not for the notion of increasing in Holiness and not decreasing, then the House of Hillel would agree with Shammai.
But, the text challenges us to ask again: What does the light of Chanukah even have to do with Sukkot? It seems strange to being comparing the two, for it’s taught that lighting the Menorah was a more sacred task than bringing offerings to be sacrificed on the Alter.
However, it’s written in the book of Maccabeats: “They celebrated it for eight days with gladness like Sukkot and recalled how a little while before, during Sukkot they had been wandering in the mountains and caverns like wild animals. So carrying lulavs [palm branches waved on Sukkot]…they offered hymns of praise (perhaps, the Hallel prayer) to God who had brought to pass the purification of his own place” (II Maccabees 10:6-7).
In the end, we learn that Sukkot was the holiday that was about to take place when the Temple got destroyed. The Jewish people were cognisant that they missed the holiday, and therefore, when the Temple was rededicated, took the chance to celebrate and rejoice.
Like the Jewish people in the time of the Maccabees, we cannot give up the opportunity to celebrate Shabbat and holidays when hatred rises. We have to rise up and continue to spread light to each individual and help make the world a more beautiful place to live!
May the lights of our Chanukah Menorot turn the darkness of the exile to light in a way that darkness itself begins to shine, and one day, through our rising up, Baruch Hashem, usher in the coming of Moshiach!
Chag Urim Sameach, a joyous and happy Chanukah from my family to yours!