Chaim Y. Botwinick

The Lights of Chanukah and the Spirit of Achdut


Since the horrific massacre of October 7th, our brothers and sisters in Israel and throughout diaspora Jewish communities have experienced a level of achdut (unity), determination and resilience unsurpassed in recent history.

As we anxiously wait to hear about the status of kidnapped hostages, our hearts are aching with unimaginable pain and anticipation. These feelings and experiences are taking place while war rages on between Israel and Hamas and as we witness a daunting and unimaginable explosion of antisemitism throughout the world.

Over the past several years, I have read and written numerous blogs, papers and articles regarding topics relating to achdut. But, today, it is different; very different.

Today, we are experiencing an existential battle between good and evil; between civility and barbarism and between light and darkness. These harsh realities have not only galvanized our Jewish communities, but have stimulated and catalyzed a level of internal unity, communal shalom bayit, and a sense of belonging and oneness which only close family members and achienu b’nai yisrael can truly feel and experience.

Throughout Jewish history, we have faced many existential wars  – from our battle with Amalek  as we sojourned through the desert to the land of Eretz Yisrael; to the fierce 1948  War of Independence; from the Yom Kippur War to today’s war with Hamas – we stand unified, ready and steadfast to achieve victory. We have no choice, we have no option; we have no alternative. We must be successful in uprooting this evil so that the atrocities of October 7th will never ever happen again.

The war now being fought in Gaza is a war of existential magnitude. It is a gruesome and difficult battle for Israel’s future security and survival, and a war against the very evil, reprehensible and wicked which society and civilizations have battled against for decades.

As we celebrate Chag Chanukah this week, we are reminded of how the brave and heroic Maccabees were successful in defeating our enemies and how this defeat enabled our Jewish people to rededicate our Holy Temple – the Beit HaMikdash . This was an event of profound significance. It was not only a turning point in our history, but it also reminds all of us that miracles do happen……as it validates the deep felt conviction and belief that HaShem Imachem – GD continues to watch over us and protect us; and is always present throughout all of our existential challenges.

This incredibly close relationship between our Jewish people and HaShem during times of trouble and danger has and always will remain deeply and profoundly embedded in our character and DNA. It is a relationship anchored in our faith and belief like no other.

Today’s level of achdut should never ever be viewed as an one-off outcome of our  frailty, weakness or fear…..but,  rather the result of an unswerving commitment for achienu bnai yisroel to come together as bothers and sisters ….and, as a unified people with a common goal and destiny.

During the first several days of Chanukah, it was so incredibly moving, heartwarming and inspiring to see the videos of our IDF chayalim (soldiers) lighting chanukiyot from their battle field locations in Southern Israel and in Gaza. Hearing our brothers reciting the brachot (blessings) over the Chanukah candles through military loud speakers and IDF radio transmissions, followed by a collective response of “Amen” from thousands of troops was truly a sight and a sound that was a defining moment for all of us. I will never forget it. To be sure, it is emblematic of true achdut, complemented by a profound level of emunah and bitachon in HaShem.

As we reflect on this holiday of Chanuka, against a backdrop of a very difficult and challenging war, let us be reminded of the words “Hashem Imachem, G-D is eternally and forever with you; and he is with us.

As the war in Gaza rages on with uncertainty, may our brothers and sisters in Israel be blessed with bracha and hatzlacha; may the kidnapped hostages be granted freedom in good health; may we all merit to engage in true achdut; and, may we continue to illuminate darkness with the  bright and shining lights of Chanuka for future generations

Chag Chanukah Same’ach and  B’sorot Tovot

About the Author
Dr. Chaim Botwinick is a senior executive coach and an organizational consultant . He served as president and CEO of the central agency for Jewish education in Baltimore and in Miami; in addition to head of school and principal for several Jewish day schools and yeshivot. He has published and lectured extensively on topics relating to education, resource development, strategic planing and leadership development. Dr. Botwinick is Author of “Think Excellence: Harnessing Your Power to Succeed Beyond Greatness”, Brown Books, 2011
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