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It is said that every Jewish Holiday is the same: "they tried to destroy us; we won; let’s eat!" -- and like all humor, there’s a certain amount of truth to this.
Like every Jewish Holiday, Chanukah has its heroes and villains. The villains of Chanukah -- the Hellenists -- sought the spiritual destruction of the Jewish people. They outlawed observance of Sabbath and Holidays, forbade circumcision, and placed an idol in the Holy Temple.
Throughout Jewish History, G-d has always intervened to save us -- whether from our enemies or from ourselves. What makes Chanukah different?
What makes Chanukah different is not the villains or the triumph but rather the heroes of the story. The Maccabees -- a family of Priests -- were the generals in the war against the Greek Hellenists. This family of Priests -- brothers who had been groomed for the Divine Service since birth -- took up arms and lead a rebellion against the Hellenist oppression.
As Jews, we are often uncomfortable with our own strength; we find it much easier to be the underdog "David" than the warrior heroes. We identify more easily the the oppressed Jews of Egypt, miraculously redeemed by open miracles performed at the hand of Moses and Aaron; or with the condemned Jews of Shushan, miraculously rescued by the pleas of Queen Esther and her prophetic uncle Mordechai.
But on Chanukah, the heroes are the Maccabees -- warriors through and through. From the Maccabees, we learned that we not only could take up arms in defense of life on the Sabbath but that it was a mitzvah -- Divine Commandment -- to do so. From the Maccabees, we learned that Divine Service includes not only Temple Rites but Human Rights -- the right to worship our G-d. From the Macabees, we learned that in the face of oppression, keeping and bearing arms is the sacred responsibility of a civilization, that shirking such responsibility means giving up all that we hold dear.
During these eight days of Chanukah, may the light of the candles fill your home with joy. May we remember the Maccabees’ spiritual strength in standing up to the mightiest army in the world to fight for what they knew to be true. And may we be blessed with the Divine Protection that has guided the Jewish people through history.
Rabbi Dovid Bendory
Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership
Rabbi Bendory is an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor.
The Rabbi's Archive page.
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