A MESSAGE FROM THE SHLICHAH
By Karni Goldshmid-Lahav
When the question is asked, "Why do we light
eight candles on Hanukkah?" The standard answer
is "Because when the Hasmoneans entered the Holy
Temple, they found only one small urn of oil that had
not been defiled by the Greeks and this small amount
lasted, miraculously, for eight days."
However, if we look into the Book of First Maccabees,
which is the earliest source from which we learn about
the meaning of the holiday, we would not find a single
reference to the Talmudic story of the miracle
of the oil.
In Rabbinic literature there are various traditions,
here and there, about Mattathias and his sons, and their
main concern is the halachic questions concerning
the use of the Hanukkah candles, such as whether
one may use their light for other purposes or from what
kinds of oil may one perform the mitzvah, etc.
From even the first glance at the principal Talmudic
reference, Shabbat 21b, it is clear that the
Sages are not dealing with the historical significance
of the Maccabees and their revolt against Antiochus.
On the contrary, it seems that they are attempting
to push aside altogether the political significance
of the events from the Jewish national consciousness.
Instead of highlighting the successful Hasmonean war,
the Sages seem to be bent on educating the Jewish People
not to attempt such actions against the nations of the
world but, rather, to acquiesce quietly to the divine
punishment of exile following the destruction of the
Second Temple and to wait fervently for the messianic
However, this process of political acquiescence ended
with the success of the Zionist Movement and the new
Hebrew literature. Finally, Hanukkah, in all
its original meaning, was brought back to life as the
holiday celebrating the people's struggle to maintain
a distinctive Jewish national identity. It was Zionism
that reawakened, and gave voice to, the historical national
importance of the Hasmonean's Hanukkah.
While the idea of struggle to preserve our national
identity has had meaning since the First Zionist Congress,
which was held in 1897, its significance has never been
more evident than over the past fifteen months. While
Jews may have years ago come to the conclusion that
this struggle can be left in the hands of others, particularly
the IDF, to defend us, the on-going Palestinian terror
has demonstrated to all that our national identity is
still not secure and must therefore still be defended
by all able-bodied Jews.
At this Hanukkah, I call on all to unite together
the two main themes of the holiday, the national struggle
and the miraculous deliverance, just as in the Prayer
for the State of Israel which we recite every Shabbat,
we pray for divine providence for the land of Israel
and victory for her flesh-and-blood defenders.
We hope that you and your community will join our international
effort and be part of this show of unity. While we are
instructed not to rely solely on miracles, we do hope
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