Ask any five year old to tell you about Yehuda Hamacabi, and you’re likely to get an earful about how Matisyahu and his five sons led the Jews into battle, with the relatively small Jewish army emerging victorious over the massive Greek forces. It’s one of the many miracles of the story of Chanukah that comes to mind every year as we pull out the menorah. And as I write these words, I find myself wishing that this year could be like any other year, but sadly, it just isn’t.
It’s not like this is the first time that Jews have been targeted repeatedly for the simple fact that we are who we are. We have all learned about bloody pogroms that spanned hundreds of years, and the horrors of the Holocaust are still fresh in our minds. But we always figured that those acts of bloodshed were the stuff of history books, not current events. It’s not like we didn’t know that the world is filled with anti-Semites, but to see the mass murder taking place in front of our eyes was something we hoped never to see in our lifetimes.
In the blink of an eye we went from celebrating Simchas Torah to an existence punctuated with air raid sirens, explosions and gunfire. Anyone who initially thought that the situation was confined only to Israel was in for a rude awakening, with virulent anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head all over the world in the days and weeks that followed. In a way, what is happening today reminds me of the early days of COVID, where we had to come to terms with the fact that there was literally no place in the world where you could escape the madness.
Just like Matisyahu and his sons, we are at war, facing off against a much larger enemy, one whose goal is to wipe us off the face of the map. The battles are being fought on various fronts – in Gaza, up north, on social media, on college campuses and on the streets of cities all over the world. Like it or not, each one of us is a warrior of sorts, even if we aren’t wearing official army uniforms. The words mi l’Hashem elai are resonating once again, and it is heartwarming to see how Klal Yisroel has responded to that call. Amudim was honored to join with El Al and multiple other partners in sending planeloads of supplies in Israel, just one of the countless examples of how we as a nation have stepped up to the plate in incredibly meaningful ways. The achdus we have seen in recent weeks isn’t just a bright spot in a very, very dark time, it is also a vivid reminder of how much we can accomplish if we all stick together.
It comes as no surprise that the mental health aspect of the October 7th terror attack is enormous. Our phones have been ringing steadily with calls from people who need help for issues stemming from the war and the alarming surge in anti-Semitic attacks. And let’s face it – even those of us who aren’t experiencing actual trauma are still having a tough time coping with todays’ realities which are frightening, to say the least.
It isn’t lost on any of us that Chanukah is the season of miracles and that even as we do our hishtadlus, we need to trust that Hashem is on our side, just as the Macabim did as they went to war against the Greeks. As we daven to Hashem for a modern day Chanukah miracle that will put this nightmare behind us, we all need to do our part to keep the achdus that came out of this war burning brightly in our hearts.
Looking at the calls that come into our office, I can tell you that there are people in your community, in your circles, who are desperately in need of your help. We’ve seen over the past few weeks just how good we are at being there for each other during an emergency. Our job now is to keep that wave of unity going and continue being the nation that rises to the occasion, each one of us using our own talents and abilities on the front lines, helping individuals in crisis win their personal battles.